priestess

What is the difference between a ritual and a ceremony?

January 2016 035In the course of my dissertation research, the subject of the differences between ritual and ceremony arose as one of the spontaneous questions under consideration. There are many ways to use the words and people tend to gravitate towards one over the other. I realized in our conversation, that I perceive a distinction between the two words and use them in slightly different contexts, but it is difficult to pinpoint the exact difference. Is it just personal preference? Is it tradition or habit? How do you use the two words?

I find that for myself personally I have increasingly begun using the word “ceremony,” because to me it denotes something dynamic and alive. Ritual sometimes implies repetition or roteness. Ceremony implies living, changing, evolving, as well as celebration. I think ceremony is about a sacred approach to the world. However, both can be a collection of actions, a sacred container for experiencing and shared experience, and a process of honoring and celebrating. I also use the terms somewhat interchangeably–i.e. “a women’s ritual” or a “ceremony for my pregnant friend.” I’ve still been trying to puzzle out the distinction between when and how I use the words. We have “full moon rituals” and seasonal rituals and then I have “ceremonies” for specific occasions–like a maiden ceremony or a baby naming ceremony. I’ve also noticed that ceremony feels like a “safer” and more expansive word to me when describing what I do, because ritual might sometimes be associated with “ritualistic” which can have negative, “occult,” or abuse-associated connotations for some people.

I recently finished a book that has been waiting on my shelf for a long time, In the Shadow of the Shaman, by Amber Wolfe and she notes the same: “the very words ceremony and ritual have so many different interpretations that we may become confused and frustrated.”

She offers three basic approaches to the concepts:

Native American. Ritual has to do with acts of Nature energies, primarily shamanic. Ceremonies have to do with set forms of spiritual connections.

Western Occult. Ritual has to do with energies of soul or spiritual levels, set form. Ceremonies have to do with Nature or elemental energies, some set form.

Aquarian Format. Ritual is set form; specific words are used, although you may construct these beforehand from your own blend of traditions. Once ritual is begun, it follows a set format, regardless. This can be most important for acts of active magick when the energies become intensely focused and specific. Ceremony is free-flowing. Emerging energies are incorporated in the basic format. Some traditional ritual formats are used in ceremony to being and to end the events.”

In this context, Wolfe primarily identifies ritual as set or fixed and ceremony as free-flowing, spontaneous, or co-creative. Living ceremony.

The dictionary also seems to overlap the two without clear distinction, describing ceremony in terms of ritual:

  • a formal act or series of acts prescribed by ritual, protocol, or convention <the marriage ceremony>

And, ritual in terms of ceremony:

  • done as part of a ceremony or ritual

Both words get the mark of perhaps connoting meaninglessness or roteness:

  • For ceremony: 2 a :  a conventional act of politeness or etiquette <the ceremony of introduction> b :  an action performed only formally with no deep significance c :  a routine action performed with elaborate pomp. prescribed procedures :  usages <the ceremony attending an inauguration> b :  observance of an established code of civility or politeness

  • For ritual: always done in a particular situation and in the same way each time. Done in accordance with social custom or normal protocol <ritual handshakes> <ritual background checks>

In my research group, the women turned the question over, with one reversing my own use of the terms (ritual = more habitual, scripted, and formulaic and ceremony = living, evolving, active, and embodied) explaining that in her experience: Although ritual can involve ceremony to a lesser or greater degree – the ceremonial aspects are simply trappings. They are the outward visible signs of an inward reality – the embodiment of the ritual enactment within the participants.

On the one hand, “doing ceremony” can be seen as trivializing ritual, the ritual process, the ritual prayer. It is an outward sign. How many times have we experienced ritual – liturgy – perhaps in a traditional church setting, and known that the presider is simply going through the motions. The presider is “doing ceremony” or “saying the mass” — there is no determinable connection with those present. If one acknowledges such things, Spirit is lacking, although many in attendance will contest that observation. However, and I have experienced this myself, when the presider truly connects Higher Power and with those in attendance — truly becomes that vessel of connection — is embodied, then ritual is transformative.

In the book Sacred Ceremony by Steven Farmer, he differentiates the two based on how they change or not. Ritual, to him, is something that doesn’t change–it is always done the same way. Ceremony, to him, is alive and evolves, adapts, and changes.

Another participant pointed out that ritual is the way of enacting ceremony. The two cannot be separated—ceremony is used as a noun and ritual is used as an adjective (though this isn’t actually the case in common use, in which ritual is often used as a noun).

As I’ve typed, I realize that I may personally be more likely to use “ritual” in terms of holidays/calendar-associated events and ceremony with regard to life passages, rites of passage and celebration. I also notice I have a blog category for ritual, but not for ceremony, which indicates that my personal semantics have evolved since I began this blog.

I would love to continue to expand this section. What are the differences in the words to you? Which do you prefer using? Do you use both, but in different contexts or purposes? Is one an inner experience and one an outer one? Is one solitary and one communal? Does your choice of word depend on your “audience”?

IMG_0172Speaking of ritual and ceremony, I’m almost finished with our free Brigid’s Day ceremony kit! And, for a very reasonable price, we’ve also developed a digital version of our Mother Blessing Facilitator Kit.

motherblessing

 

Categories: 30daysofdissertation, ceremony, practices, priestess, ritual, spirituality, women's circle | Leave a comment

Priestess Year in Review (2015)

IMG_7758“… Every day, we witness the positive, transformative effects of, ‘restoring women to ceremony’…another reason it is vital that we continue our work…”

–D’vorah Grenn (Stepping into Ourselves, p. 56)

“The Goddess is not only for the temple, she must be carried out into the world to wherever she is needed…” –Vivianne Crowley (in Voices of the Goddess edited by Caitlin Matthews)

When I became ordained as a priestess with Global Goddess in July of 2012, one of the commitments I made as part November 2015 050of ordination was to be of service in some way to the organization and to document my service to my community through the year. So, in keeping with that commitment, I made a year-end summary post at the end of 2012 and at the end of 2013 and 2014. It is helpful to me personally to see everything grouped together in one post and see that I’m truly doing this work. I enjoy sharing my post each year with the rest of the GG community in hopes of encouraging others to keep a record of their own. To continue this commitment, I again kept a list during 2015 and here it is!

January: family full moon ritual (1/5), beta test priestess class based on Stepping Into Ourselves (they also offer a free intro to priestessing course). Reprinted Womanrunes book with a few revisions and updates.

February: family Brigid Day/Imbolc + baby feet on ground ceremony (2/1. Post regarding is here) IMG_8126

March: full moon ritual (3/7), Sacred Year manifestation ritual (3/8). Family Spring ritual (3/14). Red Tent (3/21).

Also: published Restoring Women to Ceremony: The Red Tent Resource Kit

April: full moon ritual (4/5). Red Tent (4/17). Spring women’s retreat (4/25).

May: Family Beltane (5/3). Red Tent (5/15)

June: Red Tent

July: group summer ritual for whole families (7/1), New Moon ritual (7/15), Red Tent (7/17), Blue Moon ritual IMG_7770(7/31)

Also: Womanrunes Immersion ecourse began

August: Red Tent, Family abundance + gratitude + harvest + full moon ritual

Also: Red Tent Initiation began online

September: Red Tent (9/11). Interview during virtual Red Tent for Journey of Young Women twice. Interview on Goddess Alive radio. Autumn family drum circle. Mini full 11986976_1661342964077919_7888471579811176826_nmoon/eclipse ritual. Went to Gaea Goddess Gathering as vendor and participant.

Also:

October: Red Tent, mother blessing ceremony (10/22), Family Halloween ritual, family full moon ritual

Also:

November: Pink Tent ceremony for mothers and daughters (11/6). Family full moon ritual.

Also:

December: Family solstice (12/21), Family full moon (12/25), Yuletide ceremony (12/28)

Completely unanticipated for 2015 was my “raising” of my own tiny Goddess temple in the woods in which I have happily worked for the last two months and in which I plan to hold small rituals and celebrations throughout 2016.

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My tiny temple!

I wrote 179 posts here in 2015, which was a dramatic increase from previous years, primarily because I took four different 30 Days seasonal ecourses from Joanna Powell Colbert and posted almost every day during those courses.

We published two new books: The Red Tent Resource Kit and Earthprayer, Birthprayer as well as updated and made minor revisions to the Womanrunes book. We also put together a 340 page workbook for the Divination Practicum course. I sculpted six new designs for pewter pendants and 13 for resin goddess sculptures and created our line of beautiful ceremony kits and blessing pouches (and we fulfilled more than 1300 orders for these items, particularly our wildly popular goddess holiday ornaments!)

I continued to host a Priestess Path group on Facebook and began doing dissertation research in this group over the course of the entire year, eventually collecting more than 100 pages of original research thanks to the thoughtful and generous contributions of the practicing priestessing in the group. I started a new Facebook group for Brigid’s Grove: Creative Spirit Circle, as well as maintaining the Brigid’s Grove and Woodspriestess front-coverFacebook pages.

In keeping with the commitment I made upon my ordination, I contributed articles to 7 issues of The Oracle, the online journal of Global GoddessImbolcBeltane, Summer Solstice, First Harvest, Samhaim, Fall Equinox, Winter Solstice.

I wrote 6 posts for Feminism and Religion:

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

And, I wrote two articles for Motherhouse of the Goddess:IMG_7927

and for the Rhythms of the Goddess journal: Rhythms of the Goddess – Seasonal Journal | The Motherhouse of the Goddess

I moved some of my blog writing to Brigid’s Grove, creating 86 posts there in 2015, and I will continue to do more and more of this as I phase out some of my other blog commitments.

(I also wrote 100 posts at my birth/motherhood blog and taught ten college classes, but those don’t directly connect to my priestess year in review theme!)

One of my biggest goals for 2015 was to finish my last two D.Min classes (which I did) and my dissertation (which ISeptember 2015 0099 didn’t).

My relevant 2016 goals include:

  • Finish usable draft of dissertation by February
  • Continue hosting monthly Red Tent Circles
  • Continue having family full moon rituals
  • Have at least one community family ritual
  • Participate fully in the Lunar Priestess course I registered for at the beginning of this year
  • Hold a monthly study circle with a few friends12036397_1667128160166066_8284211676923229933_n
  • Finish writing practical priestessing manual and perhaps convert dissertation into a new book
  • Write the book for the Shekhinah Tarot project
  • Facilitate two new sections of the Red Tent Initiation course as well as the very new Womanspirit Initiation course as well as continue to offer the Divination Practicum and the Womanrunes Immersion
  • Gestate and birth and delight in a new Goddess Magic study circle online

As occurs each year, when I write my year-in-review post, when I read this over, it comes up for me to wonder if writing a post like this looks “smug” and self-congratulatory in some way. Am I too focused on numbers and hours and quantifying something instead of small logopresence? Too much do-ing and not enough be-ing? But, in truth, the intention with which each year’s list is created is simply as an accountability thing—both in terms of the vows I made to my community as well as to myself. It is so I can see, collected in one place, what I’ve offered as a priestess this year. It is to allow me a moment of pause, reflection, review, and a sensation of a job well done, rather than immediately rushing off to the next thing, as I tend to do. In reviewing the past year, I am able to see that yes, I am doing this work. I am not just talking about it or imagining it, I am walking the path. I also have to shake my head with some self-compassion and a smile when I recall all the times I worried that I haven’t been doing “enough” or everything that I’d like to do and offer to my community.

July 2015 103

It was a beautiful year! IMG_4933August 2015 089

Categories: nature, practices, priestess, programs, red tent, ritual, spirituality, womanspirit, women, women's circle, woodspriestess, writing | 7 Comments

Free Mini Course: Womanspirit Wisdom

I’ve developed three new free mini courses to offer this year. The first is ready to roll and begins on February 1!

Here are the details…

Womanspirit Wisdom

IMG_0173This three week ecourse is designed to offer you a gently nourishing daily “sacred pause.” Beginning February 1, each day for 21 days, take a moment and simply receive. There is nothing to do, just enjoy taking a daily minute to connect with yourself.

Includes:

Categories: blessings, practices, priestess, programs, quotes, readings, red tent, resources, sacred pause, self-care, spirituality, womanspirit, women, women's circle | Leave a comment

Day 22: Winds of change (#30daysofyule)

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We had a small Yuletide ritual last night with extended family, celebrating 2015 and welcoming 2016. We made our manifestation ornaments and walked a slightly belated solstice spiral together (I did the outdoor spiral with my husband and kids on Dec 21st, but this ceremony was planned to include my parents and my brother and sister-in-law who couldn’t come until this past weekend). We sang blessings together and upon leaving the spiral, each person got a little medicine bundle that I had made for them with some stones it in.

Outside is nice, but given recent torrential rains and flooding throughout Missouri, the floor works too!)

Outside is nice, but given recent torrential rains and flooding throughout Missouri, the floor works too!)

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Outdoor spiral on the 21st.

My own little bundle, randomly selected, surprised me with my second augur/omen like I included in my post yesterday. It is The Flying Woman again! In the close up, you can just spot her to the left in the carnelian stone, arms upraised in transformation. ❤️

IMG_0072This week I enjoyed a couple of posts I’d like to share:

First, a beautifully written, evocative blog post about the ongoing spiral of initiation in leadership…

What does it mean to be initiated? To go through a rite of passage? What does it mean to stand up, to be seen, to be a leader? What does it mean to have the Mysteries revealed to us?…

I believe at one point in the ritual, one of my mentors said something about how initiation and ordination is about becoming someone who can’t unsee your impact. That you can’t go back to the person who can pretend that you don’t have power, you can’t go back to pretending that what you do doesn’t matter…

Source: The Heaviness – Rites of Passage

Then, one about the liminal space of this week between holidays:

The most subversive thing is silence. In this odd interregnum, in the days caught between Christmas and new year, the world suddenly falls quiet. Unless you are determined to face dubious sales, there is nothing more to buy. Travel, especially if you use public transport, is curtailed. We are forced to look at ourselves, to our own company, and those nearest us.

Source: With Christmas gone and new year approaching, now is the time for silence | Philip Hoare | Opinion | The Guardian

And, another about the value of solitude for parents, reminding me of my thoughts about my room of my own:

Solitude is like punctuation. A paragraph without periods and commas would be exhausting to read. In the same way, conducting relationships without the respite of solitude can lessen the benefits of those relationships. Downtime is important for you and your kids. They benefit from solitude too. Taking care of your own solitude will not only help you restore yourself but also show your kids this positive model of self-nurturance

Source: Solitude is Going Extinct: The Stress of Modern Parenting

Here is a past post about Frau Holle as well, who was one of the topics of our day 22 lesson: Source: Goddess Wheel of the Year: Winter Solstice Ritual | WoodsPriestess

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Guardians of the gate.

Categories: #30daysofyule, blessings, family, holidays, practices, priestess, resources, ritual, sacred pause, seasons, self-care, spirituality | 3 Comments

Day 17: Holy darkness (#30daysofyule)

 

 I’ve been feeling rushed for several days so late yesterday afternoon I went and sat on the back porch with my two youngest kids and my drum. We admired the nearly full moon and my daughter said, “let’s make up a new goddess song.” So, we sang and drummed:

I see the goddess in the moon

I feel the goddess in the earth

I taste the goddess in the wind

I hear the goddess in my heart

I touch the goddess in your hand. 

We drew oracle cards and inked them on our wrists. Then, she went in and I took the baby down to the woods where we sang and drummed as the sun went down and darkness fell. We sang:

Moon wise woman*

Moon wise baby

We are moon wise

We are moon wise.

Yeah, yeah, yeah!

 

(*”Moon wise” from a new program being launched by a long distance priestess friend and for which I will be guest teaching in the spring.)

Categories: #30daysofyule, chants, drums, family, moon wisdom, nature, night, parenting, priestess, ritual, sacred pause, self-care, spirituality, womanspirit, woodspriestess | Leave a comment

Claypriestess (#30daysofdissertation)

12362679_1685790088299873_4037715236141904055_o“If there is one chant in the universe it is to create.”

–Chris Griscolm quoted in Nicole Christine, p. 25

If you have ever eavesdropped on a conversation between my husband and me around the clamor of our children’s voices, you will hear me making a tired lament: “All I want is a broad swath of uninterrupted time.” I am listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic, on audio book from the library right now and she mentions that many creative people lament not having long stretches of uninterrupted time available in which to work. She quotes a letter from Herman Melville to Nathaniel Hawthorne, lamenting his lack of time and how he is always pulled “hither and thither by circumstances.” Melville said that he longed for a wide-open stretch of time in which to write. She says he called it, “the calm, the coolness, the silent grass-growing mood in which a man ought always to compose.”

…I do not know of any artist (successful or unsuccessful, amateur or pro) who does not long for that kind of time. I do not know of any creative soul who does not dream of calm, cool, grass-growing days in which to work with- out interruption. Somehow, though, nobody ever seems to achieve it. Or if they do achieve it (through a grant, for in- stance, or a friend’s generosity, or an artist’s residency), that idyll is just temporary—and then life will inevitably rush back in. Even the most successful creative people I know complain that they never seem to get all the hours they need in order to engage in dreamy, pressure-free, creative exploration. Reality’s demands are constantly pounding on the door and disturbing them. On some other planet, in some other lifetime, perhaps that sort of peaceful Edenic work environment does exist, but it rarely exists here on earth. Melville never got that kind of environment, for instance. But he still somehow managed to write Moby-Dick, anyhow.

Source: Elizabeth Gilbert On Unlocking Creativity, Ideas As Viruses . News | OPB

My little temple space in which to create in uninterrupted time...

My little temple space in which to create in uninterrupted time…

Today I spent almost two hours working on my dissertation (does this take the place of the next several days of 15
minutes, I wonder?!). I decided to take a dramatic step and I opened a fresh document and started over. Well, not started over, exactly, but approached my material in a new way. I had been working within a 300+ page document that was very cumbersome to navigate. I also discovered a huge amount of repetition in the material, thanks to having copied and pasted the same sections into the document multiples times. This morning, while doing yoga, I suddenly realized that rather than try to mine through the 300 pages and delete repetition, I needed to start with a blank document and move relevant pieces from the 300 pages into it, therefore leaving behind that which is not needed, rather than trying to excavate it. So, after my two hours, I now have four documents: 108 pages of research results from my study group (originally 154), 21 pages of additional typed research notes from books I’ve read that haven’t been placed correctly within my dissertation, and 69 pages of “leftover” content from my original 300. That now leaves 113 pages in my “starter” dissertation. This was a difficult process. I got scared that I wasn’t going to have enough. I started to feel panicky that I don’t know what I’m doing and I have nothing good to say. I started to worry that I can’t do this. It became exceedingly clear that it is going to take me a long time to finish and I’m not sure how to put it all together. And, then…glimmers of something coming together. Section titles and opening stories to frame the sections started to come to me and I sense the shape of it emerging. Something worthwhile and valuable is there. I know it. Now, for that broad swath of uninterrupted time…

One of the things that caught my eye again today as I did all this rearranging was a section I typed from Priestess: Woman as Sacred Celebrant by Pamela Eakins about her past life memories of making clay goddess figures as a temple priestess

“…to me it brought a continuation of the energy of the sacred objects of the grandmothers. I contained 12310054_1685134281698787_1950735518948681440_othis energy in a new form in the dolls that would be placed upon the altars and in the graves of the daughters living now and the daughters to come…

I felt this process made my own clay stronger, too. Some of the pieces cracked in the fire because of the added ‘impurities’…but, in this case, I felt the impurities were the purest of pure and I worshipped each crack knowing the crack contained the wisdom of the priestesses who had occupied the doll-making table for more moons than I could even imagine. It contained too, the devotional energy of every grandmother who had held it in her hands or placed it on her altar. Sometimes ‘impurities’ sanctify further that which is holy to begin with.

My hands knew the mind of the clay before they touched it. My designs were fine. My fingers were nimble. I made the same figures over and over. I knew from the start, no matter what shell her outer form took, whether it was black or brown, gray or red, depending on the mix, that her essence was the same…

While I tend to have a knee-jerk skepticism about past-life memories, there is something in Eakins’ words that I know at a bone-deep level as I do my own work with goddesscraft: 12309972_1684185268460355_7337326396732314515_o

…Each goddess was imprinted with the sound of sacred life coursing through the Universe. I changed with the priestesses as the figures came through my hands. Each doll received the sacred vibration of life…For seventy-seven moons I made the dolls at the long table with the young Sisters of Nun. My hands were so fast. I made thousands of figures: beautiful little faces, etched collars of gold plates, pubic hair swirled into tiny rows of connecting spirals. They were so precious. At the end of the day, my baked clay shelves were covered with little women.

The clay goddesses healed…

This is how I apprenticed. I learned, in this manner, the art of healing. I learned that to heal means to make whole, and that becoming whole involves learning many levels of purification, balance, and reformation” (p. 32-33).

In Anne Key’s marvelous priestess memoir, Desert Priestess, she makes this important point: “It is of course no small wonder why graven images are so tightly controlled by religious traditions.” (p. 52) Sometimes I feel like this is what I’m tapping into when I make my own goddess sculptures—a resistance to tight control over graven images and over personalization of divinity as male.

And, I return to Gilbert’s thoughts on creative living as a life path:

Is this the ideal environment in which to create — having to make art out of “things residual” in stolen time? Not really. Or maybe it’s fine. Maybe it doesn’t matter, because that’s how things have always been made. Most individuals have never had enough time, and they’ve never had enough resources, and they’ve never had enough support or patronage or reward … and yet still they persist in creating. They persist because they care. They persist because they are called to be makers, by any means necessary…Which does not mean that creative living is always easy; it merely means that creative living is always possible.

Source: Elizabeth Gilbert On Unlocking Creativity, Ideas As Viruses . News | OPB

In my spare minutes of hither-and-thither creating, I did put together a mini-book of Seasonal Meditations as a solstice gift for newsletter subscribers. If you already subscribe to the Brigid’s Grove newsletter, make sure you’ve checked your email for your mini book. If you don’t you can do so now and it will be sent out again tonight. 🙂

December 2015 066

Categories: 30daysofdissertation, art, creativity, dissertation, Goddess, priestess, quotes, readings, sacred pause, sculpture, self-care, spirituality, woodspriestess, writing | Leave a comment

Day 7: St. Lucia’s Day (#30DaysofYule)

More than anything, I am the Lightbringer, who appears mysteriously out of the darkest night with hope and sustenance for all.
— Joanna Powell Colbert, A Crown of Candles: How to Throw a Fabulous Lucia Party

IMG_9838Simple rituals can be so powerful. Last night, the third candle on our advent Yule log was lit in honor of St. Lucia’s Day. We say a variation of the Buddhist metta prayer to go with our candle-lighting each Sunday. We followed this mini ceremony with slices of a Baumkuchen German cake from Aldi and mugs of mocha Teeccino (chicory “coffee”).

My daughter made the candles on the log with the help of my mom. And, joining our Yule log centerpiece is this “opalite” goddess that Mark just cast last night. We created so many that were sent out all over the world during our Nov 1-Dec 1 goddess holiday ornament event, but we hadn’t yet made one to keep! She’s it!

IMG_9834The kids were especially delighted with the cake, which was a surprise. (Not a planned surprise–it happened not to fit in the in-laws Christmas box, which was its original destination!)

IMG_9837May I be happy
May I be healthy
May I be loved

May I safe
May I be free.

 

Categories: #30daysofyule, blessings, family, holidays, practices, prayers, priestess, ritual, sabbath, sacred pause, seasons, spirituality | Leave a comment

Day 6: Luminous Darkness (#30daysofyule)

IMG_9817Today, after feeling strained and rushed about a variety of things (health insurance! Dentist appointments! Car inspection! Property taxes! Mailing Christmas gifts!), I decided to give myself a little “retreat” during naptime. I wanted to do this new moon spread from Little Red Tarot: Creativity, courage, commitment: a tarot spread for the new moon in Sagittarius. As soon as I got settled, I immediately had a jumper from my Womanrunes deck. As soon as I inked it on my wrist (liquid eyeliner, ftw!), I felt such a sense of calm and peace. It is so easy to lose touch with nurturing self-care practices when life gets busy. Even this simple practice of putting the rune of the day on my wrist can get trimmed out of a busy morning and the impact of that deletion really ripples through the day. After I did this, I also had a “flash” of the rune journal I’d like to create for the coming year. I’ve really valued the daily journaling practice I included in our Divination Practicum (though even I haven’t managed to do it every day!) and I plan to broaden this into a different, even more useful tool for a wider audience in the coming year.

I combined The Gaian Tarot and Womanrunes for the new moon layout and was not surprised at all to  see the The Cauldron of Reflection, my “jumper” card from a few minutes before, turn up in the “Ground” position! All and all an illuminating and insightful spread to use at this time of year.

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  1. Fear. The Seeker reversed turned up here, indicating a longing to hit the road and escape (indeed, I have been feeling an urge to flee lately–mainly just out the door and a few feet away to my little temple space or down to the woods, but somewhere outside of the noise and clutter that seems so pervasive in the house right now). The Winged Heart from Womanrunes, rune of ecstasy made an appearance here too—perhaps afraid to let go and open up to ecstatic experience?
  2. Hope. The Guardian of Air made a bold appearance here, looking right into my eyes. Clarity. She sees straight to the core, cuts away that which is extraneous, and is skillful at communication. She was one of only two not-reversed cards in this layout. The rune here was, ahh, The Tool. Rune of labor and production. A longing for clarity in my work, to boil it down to the essentials and what I really want to do, not just what could be done.
  3. Transform. My other upright card, The Two of Fire makes a bold appearance here. This is a sexy and assertive card. It asks me to consider whether my fire warms me or burns me? I am lit up with a blazing energy (focusing that energy will allow the flame to stay lit). I am not surprised at all to see The Serpent show up here too, rune of awakening. This is a very fiery, transformative, potentially dangerous card as well. I always see it as exciting though and feel inspired by the energy of this card.
  4. Release. The Ace of Fire popped up here, reversed. It suggests a fear of change and the squelching of passionate energy. It asks me to find the courage to transform. With it, comes the rune of faith. I see it as asking for faith in myself and the direction I am going.
  5. Ground. The Ten of Air, reversed, showed up here in the position asking to “set your intention here.” This position asks for a commitment to yourself, to doing this work. I was really pleased and affirmed to see my jumper Cauldron of Reflection show up in this position. The reversed Ten of Air card is about surrendering to the natural flow and the “discovery of the treasures in the time of cold and dark,” which seems very appropriate for this month and time of year.
  6. Create. Finally, this position makes the intention real and solidifies my commitment. The Guardian of Earth, reversed, shows up here with the message to “ground and center and reconnect with the Earth.” Yes, definitely. Just what my Seeker from the beginning was wanting to flee and do! The rune here is the Spiral, another affirming rune for me personally, as it signifies initiation and rites of passage, both core themes of the programs and classes I’m offering in the coming year.

Takeaway message from the Gaian Tarot: Honor your fire. Have courage. Go with it. “I am empowered by my passion for life, love, and wildness.”

Takeaway message from Womanrunes (I love combining them into sentences!): Allow the ecstasy of your work to awaken faith in yourself. Grounding in solitude when needed allows for the creation of spiralling initiations and rites of passage…

Today is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which means our new little Black Madonnas are again very àpropos.

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I didn’t end up writing in response to the journal prompt about grief, but I did save this quote:

She invites us to enter into our grief and name it and be there to learn what suffering has to teach us. Creativity cannot happen, birthing cannot happen, unless the grieving heart is paid attention to. Only by passing through grief can creativity burst forth anew.

— Matthew Fox, “The Return of the Black Madonna” via 30 Days of Yule

Categories: #30daysofyule, divination, endarkenment, moon wisdom, night, practices, priestess, readings, retreat, ritual, sacred pause, self-care | Leave a comment

Resources for Writing Rituals (#30daysofdissertation)

IMG_9805Today, I finally got down to the nitty-gritty and tackled something that I’ve been having a lot of trouble with on this dissertation: cutting out content. I’ve noticed that my first response with my fifteen minutes each day is to add content and so far, that’s what I’ve done almost every day this month. However, since my 320 pages is mainly a compilation of all kinds of past writing, papers, and articles, there is quite a bit of repetition in it–quotes I’ve used in multiple articles, long sections of text from articles that either isn’t relevant or is simply too long of a quote, etc. So, today, I set my timer for fifteen minutes and cut out twenty pages of content. I then kept working and ended up posing a new demographic question in my research group (I suddenly realized I’d completely left out race) as well as making some edits and about five pages of deletions from my document of raw research results (the date/time stamps and disclaimer that carried over when I copied and pasted. Boring and tedious to do, but necessary. I finally had to stop myself, because I’m certain I’ll need something to do with my fifteen minutes tomorrow…)

In the course of my cutting down, my attention was drawn to several useful resources for creating rituals. The first is a very comprehensive look at the structure of creating a ritual. It has a lot of sub-pages and lots of detail: RITUAL: Purpose & Format of Ritual

The same website also has an index of ceremony outlines (they follow a more typically Wiccan outline than I personally connect with, but a useful resource nonetheless!): RITUAL: Index

I chopped out a bunch of saved stuff from a really wonderful article about using chants during rituals: Chants & Enchantment | M. Macha NightMare, Priestess & Witch. I’m saving this information for our personal study group rather than trying to include it in a dissertation format.

I followed a link from the two ritual pages to this interesting sounding book: The Ritual Magic Workbook: A Practical Course of Self-Initiation. I then ordered a copy, but I vow not to try to add anything from it into the dissertation. 😉

I also added some links to my own resources page: Ceremony Resources – Brigid’s Grove

Categories: 30daysofdissertation, chants, dissertation, priestess, resources, ritual, writing | 4 Comments

Day 4: Guardian of the Flame (#30daysofYule + #30daysofdissertation)

12341332_10208003037534503_6220261572783427640_nI recognize that I am feeling a little sad and wistful that this month feels so “sped up” to me. I welcome the hibernation and incubation of winter, but the to-dos keep on coming. On Wednesday night, I stayed up late “catching up.” Last night, I honored my need for rest and decided to just go to bed instead of starting the “second shift,” that the push-y part of myself always urges me to do. I remembered that fifteen minutes of dissertation work doesn’t have to be sitting at my computer, but instead I read part of Drawing Down the Moon, by Margot Adler (a book I’ve never read. <gasp> Surely I “should” have read it before now?!) and decided that would count for the day.

A little earlier that evening, we got the beautiful picture above from one of the first women to buy one of our priestess initiation robe blessing bundles. I looked at it and realized that it is was lovely match for Day 4’s photo prompt. I “pass the torch” and light the flame in many ways through my work and it is gratifying and humbling and beautiful and powerful. I am honored to bear witness.

I also recognized that my most recent Feminism and Religion post about family ritual is also about passing the flame and lighting the torch (especially if the torch in question is actually a leftover glow stick from Halloween!): All We Need to Make Magic

As a side note about the hibernation urge–I recall from many past turns of the wheel that this is my usual feeling in December: anticipatory of hibernation and “slowing down.” Longing for rest, contemplation, and restoration. But, then really, more to do than ever before. But, then in January and February is when the hibernation actually comes. I usually do a personal renewal retreat in the first week of February. The beginning of January feels open and full of promise. It usually snows and we quite literally can’t go anywhere and so the hibernation I keep craving is then an enforced-by-Nature one. In fact, I think I’m going to “officially” release the idea that I should be resting and reflecting right now and trust the memory of restoration and the promise of winter’s incubation which is still to come.

Categories: #30daysofyule, 30daysofdissertation, art, collaboration, dissertation, family, practices, priestess, retreat, sacred pause, seasons, self-care | Leave a comment

Day 2: Winter Withdrawal (#30daysofyule + #30daysofdissertation)

12362679_1685790088299873_4037715236141904055_oFinally comes the time of withdrawal, the hidden time.

It is as though the world sleeps under a gray cloak. Everything is still and silent. It is as though the world sleeps under a gray veil. . .

Life has moved to the center, to its hidden darkness. Bulbs rest, roots sleep, trees go dormant. Stillness settles over the world.

— Patricia Monaghan, “Winter,” Seasons of the Witch

The sculpture above was created in black by special request for someone who is in a Cerridwen priestess program. I find her to be a powerful evocation of the mood of this time of year as well.

As I noted yesterday, the twin pulls of withdrawal and community are strong for me at this time of year. I crave silence and time alone to work and think and be. I also am filled with ideas for celebrations and events and activities with friends and families. Creating my workspace in my clubhouse-turned-goddess-temple is one step that honors both needs: time apart and away to withdraw into myself and work, while at the same time holding the potential of being a gathering space for a (small) group.

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Inside my tiny temple space. Ahhh! Such peaceful quiet.

Today, I left the door open so that I could hear the birds and the breeze while I typed at my little desk. I had to prepare a final exam for my class and so the bulk of my alone time was spent on that project. But, I also managed to pull in some notes from a review of the book Portrait of a Priestess by Joan Connelly (reviewed in the Journal of Law and Religion). I didn’t really enjoy her book myself, it was dry and ponderous, and it was kind of nice to read about it through someone else’s perception–I feel like I may have gotten more useful nuggets from the review than from the book itself! I noticed throughout my coursework at OSC that the classes that focus on history were the least enjoyable to me. I don’t find that I personally need historical validation to “legitimize” my own life/path. Connelly’s book focuses in exhaustive, painstaking detail on the lives of priestesses in Greece. The subtext being, to me, that if we can prove that there were priestesses in Greece who were respected and had authority, independence, and agency then this justifies the existence of present day priestesses. I don’t find the justification particularly necessary, especially since data is slim and contextual and cultural factors have such an influence. (It isn’t that it isn’t valuable or relevant or good information to have, it is just that my personal need for this information as a form of justification, validation, affirmation, or legitimization feels low and I therefore have trouble feeling passionate about it!)

From the review:

The religious activities of priestesses listed in Chapter Six, for example, are organized in the following categories: procession (167), prayer (173), libation (176), sacrifice (179), ritual feasting (190) and benefactions (192).

These are interesting and relevant, but do not dictate present-day behaviors or roles, to my mind. I need to do some work and “unpacking” of how I will weave some priestess herstory into my dissertation (I do, in fact, usually specify that my research is on contemporary priestessing in the US. However, this doesn’t mean that I want to ignore looking at the ancient thread of lineage and purpose that connects us to priestesses of other times and places…).

Have I mentioned what a big project this is? Luckily, my 30 days and fifteen minutes plans both make it feel doable again instead of impossible!

Categories: #30daysofyule, 30daysofdissertation, art, dissertation, endarkenment, feminist thealogy, priestess, seasons | Leave a comment

Day 1: Stillness, Quiet (#30daysofyule, #30daysofdissertation)

IMG_968430 Days of Yule began today. I deeply connect with Joanna’s description of the twin moods of this season: “The deepest gifts of the midwinter holiday season are the twin companions of Solitude and Community. We need both.”

I feel these twin companion keenly at this time of year. My picture for today is also part of my 30 Days of Dissertation, because I’ve decided I’m raising a Goddess Temple here in the woods. For real! I’ve commandeered my children’s unused clubhouse (with their blessing/permission) and it is becoming beautiful, sacred space. I spent way more than 15 minutes yesterday working on the inside of it and I had such a wonderful time. I will write more about it soon.

Today, the day was actually anything but still and quiet. We went to St. Louis for a homeschool field trip to the history museum and were gone all day (I did manage to move some quotes from three different saved pdfs into my dissertation document). We were in need of a small adventure for our family after all of the busy-ness November held and so I have no regrets about being in the hustle and bustle of the city rather than the peace of the woods. However, I now seek the quiet of my bed, my thoughts, and the restoration of sleep…

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Carriage ride at the museum (with merry jingle bells on the large draft horses).

Categories: #30daysofyule, 30daysofdissertation, community, family, parenting, priestess, retreat, sacred pause, self-care, spirituality, woodspriestess | Leave a comment

Priestess Semantics (#30DaysofDissertation)

IMG_9643-1I revisited one of my first posts at SageWoman yesterday as I continued to type notes from Under Her Wings.

“The journey to become a priestess…(even of the urban variety) remains a grueling task, not something capable of being conferred by a few weekend workshops or sweat lodges. The glibness with which such terms are used can be infuriating…” –Vivienne Vernon-Jones in Voices of the Goddess by Caitlin Matthews

Source: Practical Priestessing: Who Does She Think SHE is?! – PaganSquare – PaganSquare – Join the conversation!

Nicole Christine also addresses the fear, the chastisement, of “who does she think she is?” as she describes working with her first group of initiates:

“This is when the priestess within came to life! Many wanted me to tell them how to be a priestess. Now, through direct communion with the Goddess and the priestess within, we were, each in our own time and own way, discovering what it means to be a priestess in these times.

Facilitating, rather than directing, I was in continual awe over what was seeking expression through us.”(p. 69)

She reached a conclusion with her group: “And we concurred that to be a priestess in these times was about inner mediation between the Goddess Within and our woman self, rather than serving as an intermediary between the Divine and humankind” (p . 68). But, she also acknowledges a shared fear that I find reassuring in my own work:  “A split in consciousness regarding use of the term priestess existed in the first circle of initiates. Most fear ridicule and/or misunderstanding if they openly identified as priestesses, and also felt somehow unworthy of such identification. But when time came for their ordinations, these women radiantly reclaimed their worthiness and courageously broke ground for new priestesses” (p. 81).

I marked one more quote on the topic of self-worth, since I struggle here a lot as well: “[a priestess in the initiation process] shared her inner pilgrimage process. ‘I kept trying to be a priestess and feeling more and more worthless because I wasn’t being what I thought a priestess should be. Finally, I realized that a priestess, more than anything, needs to be honest with her feelings—that is where the power and self-worth are” (p. 96).

Switching gears, I realized that in all of my 311 pages of typing so far (plus 154 pages of research participation questions, I’ve almost totally overlooked an entire element of The Priestess (as archetype) and that is the sexual priestess. I think my knee-jerk reaction is to completely dismiss “temple prostitute” type of verbiage in literature as an artifact of patriarchal conditioning/interpretation. i.e. I don’t know that I believe that the role of ancient temple priestesses actually had anything to do with sex per se, instead I think that later historians/archaeologists have trouble understanding that female religious leadership could be in a capacity other than sexual and so they dismiss priestess evidence as “temple prostitute” (much like dismissing all sculptures as “fertility icons” instead of goddesses). But, in that rejection of what I see as the temple prostitute “myth,” I am missing out on a whole category of responses or interpretations.

Nicole Christine actually addresses this subject in some depth in Under Her Wings:

“The author [of The Sacred Prostitute] affirmed my knowing that it is the sacred prostitute/sexual priestess who actively brings goddess love into the human realm” (p. 93).

(Though, I kind of scratch my head here. I recognize that I’m probably layering on some of my own culturally ingrained judgements/stereotypes/conceptions here, but to me, I see and experience many ways of bringing goddess love into the human realm that have nothing to do with being a sacred prostitute/sexual priestess…)

Actually, as I type now, I realize I didn’t completely overlook it, because I did read Aphrodite’s Priestess by Laurelei Black. I listened to several Voices of the Sacred Feminine shows that related to “sacred courtesanship” and I participate in enough women’s empowerment focused Facebook groups to know that some women embrace themselves as “dakini” or priestesses of the sexual arts. Though, it has also only very recently caught my attention that some people, other than those patriarchally blinded archaeologist types, actually perceive Priestess as a synonym for Prostitute! I mean more that I overlooked it as a serious area for further exploration and discussion. I also just found out about this book, but I don’t know that I have time to add another book to my pile!

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Categories: 30daysofdissertation, dissertation, feminist thealogy, practices, priestess, quotes, readings, resources, spirituality, women, woodspriestess | 2 Comments

Under Her Wings (#30daysofdissertation)

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“If there is one chant in the universe it is to create.”

–Chris Griscolm quoted in Christine, p. 25

Typing notes from Nicole Christine’s book Under Her Wings: The Making of a Magdalene was my 30 Days of Dissertation work today. Mark made this special clear Embrace Possibilities goddess for me as a reminder and encourager.

Christine touches on the “everyday priestess” topic of Day 1:

Priestess to the World. Now I understand that to be a priestess in these times was to uphold the sacred in daily life…in the world…with everyone, everywhere. The times of priestessing behind temple walls were past. The living Earth is the temple and everywhere is holy ground. (p. 31)

She also makes note of what I was just talking about yesterday (“feeling it” alone rather than in group contexts), while writing about attending a workshop by Riane Eisler:

“But my real priestessing took place apart from the conference structure. Each night, I climbed a back stairway to the hotel rooftop where, amidst treetops and beneath the stars, I invoked the Goddess and did the Dance of Creation that I had learned at the Earth Song Human Rainbow Celebration. The dance had become an integral part of my spiritual practice. As I prayerfully did the movements, I felt my mind, boy, and spirit unifying with all of creation and I knew I could energetically do more to close the gap when I focused inward than when I engaged in externally focused activities” (p. 55).

And, I appreciated her observations here:

“Journaling, alone or with others, was my most consistent means of accessing the vast pool of eternal wisdom. But, alone in Nature, where woman knows herself best, I attuned to subtler and subtler frequencies. I heard the Voice of the Goddess in the wind. Felt the Presence of the Grandmothers in the rocks. Touched the Mystery of Mother Earth in her rivers and streams. And, on moonlit nights, I knew the wonder of being woman with the rhythms of the Universe in her body…I took daily delight in being made in the Image and Likeness of the re-emerging Goddess” (p. 66).

My little one woke up from his nap almost immediately after falling asleep, so this was all the progress I made today (I did finish my FAR post this morning based on my earlier, “all we need to make magic,” post. It will be published on Wednesday).

Categories: 30daysofdissertation, dissertation, Goddess, practices, priestess, quotes, resources, woodspriestess | Leave a comment

Ritual energy (#30daysofdissertation)

November 2015 059“Personally, what I have noticed most often about the level of energy in the many rituals I have experienced has far more to do with my mood and personal energy level in solitary rites, and the personalities and personal connections of the people involved in the group rites I’ve experienced than with any external factor, from clothing or lack thereof, to male-female alternation around the circle, to tradition or jewelry or hairstyle, or whatever. Are the people happy to be there? Do they genuinely like each other? Do they believe in the work they’re doing? These are the things I’ve noticing affecting magic’s potency for me.” (Thuri Calafia, Dedicant, p. 159)

I didn’t feel like I had a lot of generative, creative energy for dissertation work today, so I decided to spend my fifteen minutes finishing typing up some quotes from the book Dedicant, by Thuri Calafia. It was a smart way to spend my time, made me think of a new question to pose in my Priestess Path study group, and “decluttered” my research desk by moving the book from the stack on the desk to back on the bookshelf!

This quote caught my eye because I’ve written before that I find it easier to have spiritual experiences on my own rather than in a group, even though I deeply value and enjoy working with groups. Working with groups of people has a lot of power by their own right, but for divine connection, give me solitude in the woods!

That reflection brought me to a quote I’d used in a past blog post:

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…

Source: Dance in a circle of women… | WoodsPriestess

And, considering the why of doing this 30 Days project now. Why expect this daily dissertation work during the holiday season, when business is booming, my kids need me, etc.? Can’t I just wait to work on the dissertation until January? Well…first of all, I said I’d do it this year and I feel like I’d like to honor myself by giving it the best effort I can during what is left of the year!  Second though, I realized with the “fifteen minutes” tip from my friend that I routinely spend way more than fifteen minutes scrolling through my instagram or facebook feeds, so it really isn’t too much to expect of myself to redirect that energy into #30daysofdissertation. So, appropriately, this afternoon I also typed this quote I’d marked down months ago from Dedicant: As it is with our gardens, so it is with life. We sometimes can have too many choices, too many things that pull us in too many directions. There comes a time when we must decide what we will keep putting our energy into, and what we will let go of, even if only for a while…Be gentle with yourself, as you need to nurture your own growth…” (Calafia, p. 202-203)

I don’t know that I’ll actually make a companion blog post each day, but so far I am enjoying the accountability factor in doing so.

Now to turn my attention back to my Feminism and Religion blog post!

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Categories: 30daysofdissertation, books, community, dissertation, Goddess, introversion, practices, priestess, quotes, resources, spirituality, woodspriestess, writing | Leave a comment

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