readings

Women Who Run With the Wolves

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

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

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

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

–Clarissa Pinkola Estes

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

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

I am wild.

Wild Woman.

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

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

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

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

I also love this quote about doors:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: books, quotes, readings, womanspirit | 4 Comments

Book Review: Naming the Goddess

namingthegoddess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 2014 136

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

Cave (prayer and meditation)

“Only in the deepest silence of night

the stars smile and whisper among themselves.”

–Rabindranath Tagore (quoted in Dear Heart, Come Home page 52)

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Nearly full-moon over model Stonehenge last night.

I know it is summertime and that we’ve just passed the summer solstice. It is also the full moon—bright, full of promise, energy, and enthusiasm. The time for descent, and retreat, and rest, and cocooning is not yet upon us. Regardless, I remain in the mood to wrap up, wind down, finish up. I’m having a new baby in October and I feel a powerful, powerful call to finish all kinds of things so I can fully greet him. One of my projects is evaluating and reducing my book collection. As I do so, I find odds and ends I’d marked to write about or remember. Rather than storing the whole book, it makes sense to me to save the one or two pages I’d marked instead. So, despite the incongruency with the time of year, I’d like to share this prayer and meditation exercise I saved from the book Dear Heart, Come Home: The Path of Midlife Spirituality by Joyce Rupp (now up for grabs in my giveaway box if anyone local wants it for free!). I think it would be a perfect reading and brief meditation to use during a late fall or winter ceremony…

A Prayer for the Cave Time

Guardian of my soul, thank you,

for guiding me in the dark places,

for reaching me through the people of my life,

for drawing near to love me when I feel unlovable,

for teaching me how to tend my wounds,

for guarding me with words of truth

and moments of empowerment,

for allowing my pain and struggle

so that I can come to greater wholeness.

Guardian of my soul,

you are my Coach in the Cave,

my Voice in the Fog

my Midwife of Wisdom.

I place my trust in you

as I give myself to the process

of learning from my darkness.

–Joyce Rupp (page 53, Dear Heart, Come Home)

Because I’m feeling on the lazy side, I did not transcribe the meditation, I took a picture of the page instead (page 183).

cave meditation

There are some associated journaling and discussion questions about the cave of darkness in your own life as well (slightly modified/edited from page 51-52):

  1. Have you experienced a significant time of darkness? What was it like for you?
  2. What do you most resist about the cave of darkness?
  3. Do you care for yourself when you are in darkness? (If so, how?)
  4. What gives you the courage to go on?
  5. How has darkness been a teacher for you?

For more about endarkenment see my previous essay here:

…In fact, what if the Goddess Herself is found in the dark? Judith Laura writing about dark matter in the cosmos writes, “might we call this ‘unseen force’ Goddess? Dark matter could be identified with the womb of the Mother, continually gestating particles, suns, galaxies, which flow from her in a continual stream…Dark matter might also be represented as the Crone aspect of the Goddess—dark and powerful…”

via Endarkenment

Remember to listen to the night wind woman and her talkative silence: June 2014 017

Listen to what is walking here
tiptoeing through your dreams
knocking at the door of your unconscious mind
whispering from shadows
calling from the full moon
twinkling in the stars
carried by the night wind woman
rising at sunset
peeking out
in tentative
yet persistent purpose.

Listen to the call
trust the talkative silence…

via Womanrunes: The Crescent Moon | WoodsPriestess.

 

Categories: books, endarkenment, GGG, nature, night, prayers, readings, resources, retreat, ritual, seasons, spirituality, thealogy, theapoetics, womanspirit | Leave a comment

Book Review: Goddess Calling

 goddesscalling“Any woman who has birthed or raised a child, had a book published, started an organization, manifested a temple – they all know the strength, courage and determination women possess…”

–Karen Tate, Goddess Calling

I’ve been a huge fan of Karen Tate’s radio show Voices of the Sacred Feminine for several years. The voice of Karen and her versatile, diverse, talented, inspirational guests keep me company every week on my commute to teach at a military base.

Goddess Calling sounds just like Karen. I could hear her voice in my head throughout the many essays compiled in this book. Readers familiar with her radio show will recognize content, themes, and quotes as they appear sprinkled through the text.

There are two features that set this book apart from many of its other modern counterparts: first, the explicit recognition and discussion of the connection between the personal and political. Goddess is more than a nice idea or a friendly, beautiful archetype, she can transform the world. Second, the third section of the book contains a nice selection of guided meditation exercises, perfect for use with groups. So, Goddess Calling is beneficial both to the solitary Goddess woman, helping to contextualize their personal, private experiences with cultural, political, and social realities, and for the ritual priestess as she seeks to plan services, retreats, or programs for members of the community.

But I’m not just talking about politics. I’m talking about stretching ourselves, challenging ourselves, trying to accomplish things we might feel are a bit beyond us. It is a journey of becoming and of growing we all must take, and we cannot be afraid of the journey. It’s the journey that steels us. It is the trying,the praying, the stumbling and picking yourself back up, the seeking, the very act of doing that staves off fear and fills us with hope. The destination doesn’t necessarily hold the reward. The reward comes from that which has been gleaned from the journey. The destination is just where you take a deep breath,reflect and relax after the journey has molded you. It’s where we take a respite before beginning again to meet the next challenge or climb the next mountain.

–Karen Tate (Goddess Calling, p. 109)

Goddess Calling is available from Karen’s website, from Changemakers Books, by request from your local bookstore, and from Amazon.

Related posts:

Top Thirteen Most Influential People in Goddess Spirituality

She did what she could….

Do Women’s Circles Actually Matter?

Disclosure: I received a complimentary pdf version of the book for review purposes.

 

Categories: books, feminist thealogy, Goddess, readings, reviews, spirituality, thealogy | 2 Comments

International Women’s Day: Re-storying the world

I remain firmly convinced of the power of story. Story shapes our world. And, reality is socially constructed in an active process of storying and re-storying.

 “The universe of made of stories, not of atoms.” –Muriel Rukeyser

“Power consists to a large extent in deciding what stories will be told.” –Carolyn Heilbrun

Last spring, I wrote a poem called Body Prayer and was very pleased when Trista Hendren, author of the children’s book The Girl God, wrote to ask permission to reprint it in her new book: Mother Earth. I received my copy of the book last month and wanted to offer a mini-review of it today, International Women’s Day, because as Trista says, it is “a beautiful tribute to the world’s first ‘woman.’” Mother Earth is theoretically a children’s book, but it offers an important message and call to action to all world citizens. Along the top of the pages is a story, written as a narrative experience between Trista and her daughter Helani, about the (human) mother’s need to rest. The story evolves into a message about the Earth and the care and rest she is crying out for. Each page features a large illustration and below the illustration is a relevant spiritual quote, poem, prayer, or message.

…Breathing deep
stretching out
opening wide.
My body is my altar
my body is my temple
my living presence on this earth my prayer.
Thank you. –Woodspriestess: Body Prayer

International Women’s Day is a political event, not just another Hallmark holiday.

International Women’s Day is not about Hallmark. It’s not about chocolate. (Thought I know many women who won’t turn those down.) It’s about politics, institutions, economics, racism…. As is the case with Mother’s Day and many other holidays, today we are presented with a sanitized, deodorized, nationalized, commoditized version of what were initially radical holidays to emphasize social justice. Initially, International Women’s Day was called International Working Women’s Day. Yes, every woman is a working woman. Yes, there is no task harder perhaps than raising a child, for a father and a mother. But let us remember that the initial impetus of this International Working Women’s Day was to address the institutional, systematic, political, and economic obstacles that women faced in society. via How we miss the point of International Women’s Day–and how to get it right. | What Would Muhammad Do?.

Now is the time to focus on a new story for women.

While the matriarchal myth has been critiqued and attacked from an anthropological and sociological perspective, I think it has important value—it doesn’t have to be true or verifiable to have a potent impact on society. The very fact that people feel that the matriarchal story is a myth that needs to be “debunked” to me is proof of the mythic power of our old, patriarchal story on current culture. Earlier this year I finished reading Reid-Bown’s book Goddess as Nature and he says this: “What is significant, however, is that the matriarchy thesis has considerable mythopoetic value for the Goddess movement: it affirms that the world was not always distorted by patriarchy, it contributes moral meaning to the state of the world today, and it aids in an imaginative revisioning of a better goddess-centred future” (p. 18). The power of the matriarchal story—myth or fact—is in the assertion that the world CAN be different. Patriarchy and war are not the “just way its always been,” or a “more evolved” society, or the only possibility for the future. The matriarchal myth opens up the door for a new FUTURE story, not just a revisionist look at the past. via Thursday Thealogy: Matriarchal Myth or a New Story? | WoodsPriestess.

As I’ve previously written, the primary function of value of a matriarchal myth is that patriarchy is no longer the only story we’ve known. An alternate past gives hope for an alternate future.

“Stories are medicine…They have such power; they do not require that we do, be, act anything—we need only listen. The remedies for repair or reclamation of any lost psychic drive are contained in stories.” –Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Stories ARE power and that is why a feminist, matristic, Goddess-oriented narrative has value, regardless of whether it is myth or fact. As we know too well, the victors write the history books—they get to tell the stories and those stories, logically, may involve significant distortion of the facts of the past.

In a quote from iconic author and physician Christiane Northrup, she addresses the subjugation of female power through body control: “…if you want to know where a woman’s true power lies, look to those primal experiences we’ve been taught to fear…the very same experiences the culture has taught us to distance ourselves from as much as possible, often by medicalizing them so that we are barely conscious of them anymore. Labor and birth rank right up there as experiences that put women in touch with their feminine power…” And, from Glenys Livingstone: “It is not female biology that has betrayed the female…it is the stories and myths we have come to believe about ourselves.” We also find a connection in Carol Christ’s explanation that: Women’s stories have not been told. And without stories there is no articulation of experience. Without stories a woman is lost when she comes to make the important decisions of her life. She does not learn to value her struggles, to celebrate her strengths, to comprehend her pain. Without stories she cannot understand herself. Without stories she is alienated from those deeper experiences of self and world that have been called spiritual or religious. She is closed in silence. The expression of women’s spiritual quest is integrally related to the telling of women’s stories. If women’s stories are not told, the depth of women’s souls will not be known” (p. 341. Emphasis mine).

“Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth–penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told.” ― Joseph Campbell

In The Chalice and the Blade Eisler explains, essentially, the re-storying of culture, society, and world and feminist spirituality and seeks to “re-story” dominant, patriarchal narratives into that which is woman-honoring and affirming. According to Eisler, the triumph of the dominator culture involved “fundamental changes in replicative information” (p. 83). In short, a complete cultural overhaul and literal “reprogramming” of culture and the human minds within it. This reprogramming involved coercion, destruction, forcefulness, and fear.

“The priests who now spread what they said was the divine Word—the Word of God that had magically been communicated to them—were backed up by armies, courts of law, and executioners. But their ultimate backup was not temporal, but spiritual. Their most powerful weapons were the ‘sacred’ stories, rituals, and priestly edicts through which they systematically inculcated in peoples’ minds the fear of terrible, remote, and ‘inscrutable’ deities. For people had to be taught to obey the deities…who now arbitrarily exercised powers of life and death in the most cruel, unjust, and capricious ways, to this day still often explained as ‘the will of God.’ Even today people still learn from ‘sacred’ stories what is good or evil, what should be imitated or abhorred, and what should be accepted as divinely ordained, not only by oneself but by all others. Through ceremonies and rituals, people also partake in these stories. As a result, the values there expressed penetrate into the deepest recesses of the mind, where, even in our time, they are guarded as hallowed and immutable truths” (p. 84).

For me, Goddess religion and spirituality is as much about sociocultural valuation (or devaluation) of women and making a feminist political statement, as it is about lived experience. Both are very valuable to me. We need to hear women’s stories. We need to hear each other into speech. We need to witness and be witnessed. We need to be heard.

“…If all the women of the world February 2014 039 recorded their dreams for a single week and laid them all end to end, we would recover the last million years of women’s hymns and chants and dances, all of women’s art and stories, and medicines, all of women’s lost histories… ~ Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

“The one who tells the stories rules the world.” –Hopi Indian Proverb

“We feel nameless and empty when we forget our stories, leave our heroes unsung, and ignore the rites of our passage from one stage of life to another.” –Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox

 “As long as women are isolated one from the other, not allowed to offer other women the most personal accounts of their lives, they will not be part of any narratives of their own…women will be staving off destiny and not inviting or inventing or controlling it.” –Carolyn Heilbrun quoted in Sacred Circles

Telling our stories is one way we become more aware of just what ‘the river’ of our lives is. Listening to ourselves speak, without interruption, correction, or even flattering comments, we may truly hear, perhaps for the first time, some new meaning in a once painful, confusing situation. We may, quite suddenly, see how this even or relationship we are in relates to many others in our past. We may receive a flash of insight, a lesson long unlearned, a glimpse of understanding. And, as the quiet, focused compassion for us pervades the room, perhaps our own hearts open, even slightly, towards ourselves.

–Robin Deen Carnes & Sally Craig in Sacred Circles

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Categories: books, feminism, feminist thealogy, Goddess, poems, prayers, quotes, readings, spirituality, thealogy, womanspirit, women, writing | 3 Comments

Birth Spiral Chakra Blessing

Birth spiralFebruary 2014 015.
Energy
feel it spin throughout your body.
Beginning in your core,
unfolding, unfolding, spiraling upward into a peak
and release
Every part of you opening
making space
making room
for this new little one.
Calling the child forth into your waiting arms
your waiting family
your waiting heart.
Enlivened
alive
fully engaged and embodied
in the current of labor.
It builds
it pulses
it rolls
it rocks
it peaks
it crests.
These waves of power.
They are you.
You are doing it.
You ARE it.
This is energy, this power, this unfolding might of creation.
It’s you.
Your body
your power
your birth
your baby.

February 2014 003

Let the sparkles of these chakra colors remind you to bring your whole self to your labor. To walk the spiral path, to dive in, to embrace, to unfold, and to become: Mother.

Root (red):

Where baby came into being and now will be welcomed. Source of creation. Gateway for baby and life.

Sacrum (orange):

Where baby has sheltered within a cradle of bone. Pelvic bowl that rocks the child. Make way. February 2014 007

Solar Plexus (yellow):

Where you take deep breaths, carried on the waves, following your rhythm.

Heart (green):

Where your love bursts forth and you discover what it is like to be endless.

Throat (blue):

Where you roar your birth song. Welcome your baby with your voice, your cry of greeting. Your cry of triumph. Your cry of fulfillment.

 Brow (indigo):

Where you let your mind go, where you release, and give, and surrender to the creative, nameless, raw pulsing energy of birth.

Crown (violet):

Where you draw in the wisdom of the ancestors. The power of the Divine Feminine. The ocean of mother love that has gone before you and that surrounds you even now as you work.

Draw it in, draw it up, draw it down. And know, without a doubt, that you can do it. You can walk this path. You can rise to the occasion. You can respond with strength to whatever is asked of you. All the surprises, all the mystery, all the twists and turns and unexpected places. You carry the wisdom within you to let it flow.

February 2014 012

Crossposted at Talk Birth.

Categories: art, blessings, prayers, readings, theapoetics, womanspirit, woodspriestess | 3 Comments

Invocation to the forces of nature

East, power of air, we welcome you. First breath of the morning. Sweet breath of the baby. Deep breath of the soul. Welcome to our circle. January 2014 103Sweet breeze. Brave wind. Swirling. Stirring. Sweeping away and through. Breathing with us. Welcome air, welcome east.

South, power of fire, we welcome you. Fire of the sun. Fire of the heart. Fire of the spirit. Fire of connection and love. Welcome to our circle. Heat of transformation. Forging strength. Crucible of change. Burning in our hearts. Welcome fire, welcome south.

West, power of water, we welcome you. Sweet life’s ocean. Waves of change. Crests of power. Flowing. Growing. Changing. Healing. Welcome to our circle. Rivers. Oceans. Streams and lakes. Cool, comfort, soothing space. Blood flowing within us. Welcome water, welcome west.

North, power of earth, we welcome you. Solidness of body. Strength of bone. Height of mountains. Reach of trees. Heartbeat of Gaia. Welcome to our circle. Strengthening us. Holding our bodies. Stability. Rooted around and within us. We are people of the earth. Welcome, earth, welcome north.

I’m in the final phases of creating the Ritual Recipe Kit that we are going to be giving away with the official launch of Brigid’s Grove on February 1st (sign up for our newsletter and you’ll get the kit too!). As I’ve contacted authors to ask for permission to use several different pieces in the book, I had the sudden realization that almost everything I was asking permission to use was an invocation. The kit contains rituals for maiden, mother, and crone as well as some bonus rituals. For each ritual, I’d used an invocation written by someone else. My husband said, “instead of trying to get permission to use these, why don’t you just write one?” I thought about all the things I’ve written over the past year and while some are invocations of sorts (like my body prayer and this body blessing), I’ve never actually written a “traditional” invocation. I also thought about all the rituals I’ve done and all the coursework I’ve completed and realized I’ve never used an invocation of my own during any ritual or class. Ever. My first thought was, “no. I can’t do it, we’ll just wait to hear back about the permission.” Then…I thought…maybe I can do it?! Yesterday was a beautiful day and so I took my big old drum and headed to the woods. And, surprise! I had an invocation in me after all.  At first, it ended up being a little song again—weird because of my notable non-skills in singing—and I sang it out and then came back in to type it up like I do all of my poems. After looking at it for a while, I re-formed it out of the poetry and into the format you now see above. It isn’t perfect, but hey, it is my first time! 🙂

Categories: invocations, liturgy, prayers, priestess, readings, spirituality, theapoetics, woodspriestess, writing | 1 Comment

Celebration of a Maiden

Hope before her

love behind herJanuary 2014 102

empowerment around her

she is strong

she knows her own power

she is blessed.

You may have noticed that things have been a little quiet on this blog lately. There are a couple of reasons for my quietness. One, is that I’ve found that after the conclusion of my year in the woods, I need to re-evaluate my relationship to this blog—what is its purpose now? How much time do I spend on it? How much time to I spend on other projects? (several of which this blog directly contributed to birthing!) How do I focus the energy of my life? I also need to really DO what I’ve said I’m going to do: use my writing energy to focus on completing my thesis project, meaning thesis is first, rather than what I do with leftover time (and blog moves to the “leftover” time slot). And, finally, my reduced writing in this virtual space is because my husband and I have been very hard at work on our new, shared project: Brigid’s Grove! This site will be an “umbrella” to embrace all of our projects, particularly our shared endeavor of pewter-casting and jewelry-making. Brigid’s Grove will officially launch on February first and we’re working on some launch products for our etsy shop as well as a special site launch discount code AND a fun and useful freebie, which will be a collection of my ritual “recipes” (outlines for ceremonies, not food recipes!). You can sign up for our newsletter now and you will then get the ritual kit on our launch day. As I work on preparing this ritual kit, I remembered something that has been languishing in my drafts folder since the springtime when we held a maiden ceremony for a friend’s daughter during one of our women’s circle gatherings. I made her a braided cord of initiation and shared a photo and brief description of it in this past post. It was an initiation cord in four colors for the Maiden to step over as a symbolic threshold into womanhood. May 2013 008

On that spring day, I took the cord to the woods with me and this is what I said:

Celebration of a Young Maiden

With the earth, trees, wind, and sky as my witnesses, I bless this cord of initiation for her. May it remind her of how she is interwoven with her ancestors, her own unique gifts, with the blood of her mothers, with the spirits of the women who surround her. She is so blessed. May she draw up great strength from the earth. May she engage in deep relationship with the world around her, including the animals and the plants, other women, men. May she know that she is loved. May she know that she is needed and may she know that her voice counts. May her eyes be blessed with clear vision, may her mind be blessed with clear thought. May her heart be open, may her hands be open, may her creative center be abundant, and may her legs carry her strongly on her own true path.

Let this cord remind her that she is so blessed, let it remind her that she is so loved, let it remind her that she is connected. Blessings of natural places and wild spaces, blessings of women and small girls, blessings of real life…

Categories: blessings, community, friends, liturgy, nature, prayers, priestess, readings, retreat, ritual, spirituality, womanspirit, women, women's circle, woodspriestess | 3 Comments

Gratitude’s Song

Thank you sacred one December 2013 026
thank you sacred ground
thank you Ancient Mother
thank you sacred womb

Thank you loving family
thank you sacred ground
thank you sacred body
thank you healing sound

Thank you sacred one
thank you sacred ground
thank you Ancient Mother
thank you sacred womb

Thank you loving family
thank you solid ground
thank you sacred body
thank you shining moon

Thank you solid stone December 2013 016
thank you sacred oak
thank you ancient wisdom
thank you sacred hope

Thank you ancient rhythm
thank you song of blood
thank you holy hour
thank you holy wood

Thank you sacred one
thank you sacred ground
thank you Ancient Mother
thank you the world around…

The day after Christmas I took some of the books I’d received as gifts down to the woods. I laid them out the rocks and felt so appreciative of having a family who cares about me and what I’m interested in. I got a selection of priestess books, other books from my Amazon wishlist, and the Amazing Year workbook from my friend. I felt so grateful to have a mom who looked at the picture of the pottery elemental altar I showed her in a magazine at some point this year and then worked and worked to make one for me as a surprise. I felt grateful that she comes to my rituals and reads my blog. I felt grateful for other family members and friends who read my blogs and cheer me on when I make new things and try new avenues. I felt grateful for parents who will hold candles in the darkness on solstice night with me, for a husband who will make a drum and cast pewter with me, for friends who support and encourage me and are able to accept when I need to make changes or let go of things. I felt grateful that I live in a beautiful place and that I have woods to go to and rocks to sit on. I felt grateful for the small adventures of the past year and even for the losses and the lessons of grief and change. Then, I picked up my drum and I sang a song. I feel like acknowledging that yes, I can see there are flaws in my lyrics in that they are perhaps roughly patterned and could be reworked into something smoother, but when I listened to the recording of it again I heard something authentic and something that worked for what it was, when it was. And, I decided I like it just the way it is.

And, then, just now as I type…I felt grateful for myself-–that I will sit in the woods with a drum and sing spontaneous things and write blog posts about it even though maybe I could be embarrassed or self-conscious instead and hide my song away instead of posting it for people to read and possibly feel critical and judgmental of, but I do it anyway and I own it and I keep trying…

(and that is a run-on sentence and I’m not going to edit it either)

Today, I hung up the new goddess-ful Good Karma flags that my mom gave me for Christmas. They’re gorgeous and I loves ’em!

December 2013 034 I’m working on making a “Temple” workspace for myself instead of just huddling in a corner with my computer…

December 2013 035

(my new little altar goes in front of the Cretan priestess figure here, but it is still on the living room floor waiting for me to finish my life-and-biz-planning session)

BOOKS! Oh my first love, I will never forsake you!

 

Categories: blessings, chants, family, friends, holidays, moontime, music, nature, poems, prayers, readings, spirituality, theapoetics, woodspriestess | 1 Comment

Solstice Spiral

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Last year’s spiral.

In my winter solstice post, I referenced our family’s tradition of walking a “solstice spiral” each year as part of our year-end ritual. 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! I wrote about the purpose somewhat generically in this winter solstice post from last year:

Then, lighting candles, we walk our traditional “solstice spiral” (made with gold garland laid out in the spiral on the floor, ringed with evergreen branches and candles)—leaving behind our losses and that which we no longer need in the darkness, and carrying forward the bright spark of new possibility that is taking root in our lives for the new year. After exiting the spiral, we place our candles together on the Yule log to represent that which we hope to bring into the full light of dawning year.

via Goddess Wheel of the Year: Winter Solstice Ritual | WoodsPriestess.

Solstice spiral. We shut the lights out and walk it with candles.

This year’s spiral before the lights are out.

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. This year, as each person came out of the spiral, I gave them a stone totem animal that I’d purchased from a nifty ebay seller and also a card from the Animal Powers Meditation Kit I’d conveniently won in an online giveaway recently. The stone animal was my gift to each and the card was just an intuitive solstice message for each that they then returned to the box. We carried our candles over to the Yule log and did the following responsive reading as I lit each candle in the Yule log:

December 2013 022

Little stone bear.

When the earth is barren.
The light is reborn.
When the animals sleep.
The light is reborn.
When the leaves have all fallen.
The light is reborn.
When the rivers are frozen.
The light is reborn.
When the ground is hard.
The light is reborn.
When the shadows grow long.
The light is reborn.
When warmth has fled.
The light is reborn.
In the darkest night.
The light is reborn.

(via Family Winter Solstice Ritual)

December 2013 042

Lit Yule log.

Then we each shared the animal message from our cards. I’m actually planning to do a variation of this ceremony on New Year’s Eve when some other members of our family will be visiting. We will use it as a welcoming-the-new-year path and I have some different things to give them at the end of this one (you’ll have to wait to hear about that later, because some of them read this blog and I don’t want to spoil my little surprise!)

Categories: endarkenment, family, holidays, night, readings, ritual, spirituality | 2 Comments

Strength

“We all share a deep vulnerability. Everything changes. Wisdom is the ultimate protection because it helps us face life as it really is. Concentration doesn’t lead to wisdom, it makes exploration possible. Concentration builds the strength and courage needed for deep exploration.” –Michele McDonald (Open Mind, 12/10)

Please forgive yet another post based on this same Open Mind book. Since the year is almost over, I’m finishing it up (it is a daily reader of meditations) and so it is right here and handy by my computer. It is highly worth the read! I read so much and so rapidly that I appreciate the opportunity to work slowly through a book over the course of a year like this.

I woke up this morning with an image in my mind of drawing a card from my Goddess Inspiration Oracle deck. Even though I was running short on time (shorter than I knew due to unexpected still nearly impassable snowy road conditions that needed to be braved on my way to town), I decided to draw one and run to the woods with it. Interestingly, I drew Saci, which was about strength:

December 2013 005Saci is a Hindu goddess associated with physical strength, leadership, and observation. The message on the card is: take steps to develop your physical strength.

Divine Power.

Later at the skating rink with my kids and our friends, I talked briefly with one friend about her recent experience with a vision/message and I thought as I was driving home about following through on those hunches and inspirations and what we can learn from them. I don’t know that I specifically learned anything from this strength card itself, but it did make me think about how little attention I pay to my physical strength as a feature of myself. I just posted on Facebook about “knowing that I’m strong,” but that was in relationship to stamina for grading papers, not literally…

There are a lot of types of strength—physical, emotional, vulnerable. It can be strong to ask for help, to know when to stop, when to fold, when to keep going, when to try again, when to surrender.

You can do a free reading from this deck online here. And, you can also download an app version of it for your iphone. 🙂

Categories: readings, womanspirit | Leave a comment

I make the effort

I make the effort December 2013 006
to maintain a ground of oceanic silence
out of which arises the multitude
of phenomena of daily life.

I make the effort
to see and passionately open in love
To the spirit that infuses all things.

I make the effort
to see the Beloved in everyone
and to serve the Beloved through everyone
(including the Earth)

I often fail in these aspirations
because I lose the balance
between separateness and unity,
and I feel afraid.

But I make the effort.

–Ram Dass (via Letters to my Daughters by Beth Sage-Owens)

It was pretty silly of me to plan a new blog-every-day experience while simultaneously entering the heaviest workload of the school session. I made this commitment to myself to show up though and so I’m doing it, even though it basically feels ridiculous to expect of myself and I’m not sure that what I’m sharing in these hastily banged out little posts actually has any value to anyone else! The school session ends on Saturday though and the rest of December will be ahead of me to continue my experiment/experience as well as turning my attention to my thesis (this month of posts was kind of going to be my wrap-up “lessons” from a year in the woods). I came to the computer wondering if I already had anything in my drafts folder I could use today, in my own best friend style, and behold, I did. This poem that I copied from a book at the beginning of October. And, it was pretty appropriate for today 🙂 After the GGG this Sept., one of the women I met there offered to mail me a book of her past writings and newsletters and this poem caught my eye and I saved it to use someday.

I visited the woods very hurriedly today because I was getting ready to leave and drive to class on potentially icy roads. I said, “I’m just going to take a picture and leave!” BUT, guess what? I could see both the moon and sun from the same spot (I had to move around a little) and the light in the woods was beautiful. And, as always, it restoreth my soul.

So, this is what I’ve got to offer tonight, nothing more, nothing less. I make the effort.

Categories: GGG, nature, poems, quotes, readings, woodspriestess | 3 Comments

Sunday Sabbath: An Irish conachlann

October 2013 130

New projects I’ve been working on with my husband this week!

I follow the footsteps of my foremothers Foremothers who
gave birth to me Me, a priestess of the Goddess Goddess we
draw down to us Us, the People of the Earth Earth that
supports us all All life, even you and I I follow the footsteps
of my foremothers.

–Elizabeth Barrette
Charleston, Illinois

in Talking to Goddess, edited by D’Vorah Grenn

(Formatting as the original)

Categories: art, blessings, Goddess, poems, quotes, readings, sabbath, theapoetics | Leave a comment

Woodspriestess: Brigid

Brigid 20130924-090026.jpg
She of the Sacred Oak
She of the Sacred Flame
She who ignites our creativity
and who forges our passions.

Sacred smith
shaping lives
in the cauldron of destiny
healing
tending
guarding
loving

She who spills forth
in the language of poetry
and falling leaves
She who flickers from the candle’s flame
and the blacksmith’s coal
She whose hands open to receive new life and new ideas
She who can be called upon
in any hour
of any day

Brigid
Sacred Guardian
keeper of flame
hope and hearts.

You are summoned to us
to enliven our work
to guide our steps
and to inspire our message.

May it be so.

Brigid is a Triple Goddess of Fire: the fire of poetic inspiration and creative voice, the fire of health and fertility, and the fire of metalwork and crafts.

Brigid is an ancient Irish goddess later syncretized into the Christian saint Brigit. Her abbey was referred to as the Church of the Sacred Oak, the word for which later evolved into modern day Kildare. Her sacred wells are usually located near sacred oak trees, sometimes referred to as “clootie” trees, in which pilgrims hang prayers, blessings, wishes, and requests for healing. When I decided to be a merchant at this year’s Gaea Goddess Gathering at Camp Gaea in Kansas, I knew I wanted to have something affordable to offer at my booth that would connect to Brigid, the honored Goddess this year. I decided to make a simple “Sacred Oak” pendant with the idea that it would help the wearer to carry her healing presence throughout their day and “hang” their wishes upon her sacred oak whenever they want! The red cord represents her sacred flame.

I’ve started a new etsy shop with a broader focus than the birth/motherhood oriented focus of my original Talk Birth shop. I’ll be maintaining both shops as sister shops though and migrating some of the items from it into my new one.

I have quite a bit to say about this year’s GGG, but I’m saving that for another post! (which will hopefully take less than a year to write…)

Brigid's Temple at the GGG

Brigid’s Temple at the GGG

 

Categories: blessings, GGG, Goddess, poems, prayers, readings, spirituality, theapoetics, woodspriestess | 2 Comments

Calling the Circle: The Shadow

This post is the fourth in a series, prompted by the book Calling the Circle by Christina Baldwin:

Studying the circle is an imperative aspect of circle work. We can’t keep shadow out of circles in business, or circles in church, or circles in the family; the Gifts for Sagewomen.shadow is not isolatable. When we come into circle and sit down in contained space, pretty soon we see the contents of our shadow reflected back to us around the rim. If we are in a circle that does not acknowledge, respect, and ritualize the existence of shadow in the group, the projections of our ‘not-I’ material accumulate and accumulate until everybody’s closet explodes.

What causes the collapse of circles full of well-intentioned human beings is not the presence of shadow but the repression and denial of shadow, the insistence that it is not among us. Denial of shadow eventually fills the interpersonal field with so much unrecognized and unresolved energy that it is released through explosion or through gradual erosion and undermining of healthy norms.

Most people do not enter the circle thinking about shadow. We enter the circle hoping for light, for shelter, for more efficiency, for a humane way to get things done. But if we do not look at shadow, we create a repeating scenario. Time after time, there is a circle of ‘good’ people who come together with the best intentions and dedication to accomplish a good thing. We are nice to each other. We are often polite and unconsciously conforming. Sometimes one or two people commandeer more leadership, attention, or time in the group than others want, but we don’t know what to do and so we let them. If we are irritated, our dissatisfaction goes underground, covered up with more niceness, or we begin withdrawing our hopes that this will be the circle that really nurtures and protects our fragility or accomplishes our goals. If we are invested in the group, we get angry in our disappointment and begin trying to make others behave. If we aren’t invested, we drift off, showing up less and less often, looking for another, better situation. Sometimes we end up talking with others about a ‘problem person,’ usually not feeling good about our behind-the-scenes behavior but not knowing what else to do.

Personalities polarize between those who seem oblivious to what ‘they’ are doing to the cohesion of the circle and those who are intensely responsive to this discomfort and keep trying to manage ‘the other(s)’ In many of these instances, the concept of the shadow is never introduced into the group, and people do not have the opportunity to live out healthier alternatives for dealing with conflicting energies…our perception needs to shift from polarities of innocence and guilt—‘Look what he/she/they did to me’—to consider what is happening to us, the collective, interconnected body of the circle, and how we continually learn from each other.

Later in the book, Baldwin address the fear involved with healthy participation in a circle and how people may unknowingly act to sabotage it:

  • Someone may obsessively blame the form, coming up with explanation after explanation for why the circle won’t work… [Note: in women’s circles, I see this expressed in a related form of, “women are so hard to work with” and complaints about backstabbing, etc., etc.]
  • Someone may declare that other members of the circles are not safe or trustworthy and refuse to contribute fully until a number of conditions are met. These terms, however, are highly subjective and constantly shifting. No group can prove itself ‘safe’ by the definition of one member; it can only prove itself healthy and responsive to the needs of different people over time.
  • Someone may consistently undermine the self-esteem of others—being hypercritical, reframing other people’s statements, competing verbally, or being overly helpful in a condescending manner.
  • Someone may demand emotional attention that doesn’t fit in the context of the circle; for example, crying until the entire group has stopped to comfort him/her, or raging until the entire group has stopped to placate him/her, or insisting on excessive processing interaction after interaction.
  • Someone may declare him/herself so ‘different’ that s/he can’t identify with the rest of the group–or s/he removes him/herself from peer collegiality through feeling superior or inferior.
  • The entire group may stay locked in the honeymoon phase for a year or more, avoiding the usual breakouts into differentiation. Nope…no shadow here…only incomplete engagement.

She goes on to explain that ALL of us are “guilty” of exhibiting some or many of these behaviors over the years…

“I believe that the thought that women together can change the world is emerging into the minds and hearts of many of us, and that the vessel for personal and planetary evolution is the circle with a spiritual center.” ~Jean Shinoda Bolen

Other posts in this series:

Categories: priestess, quotes, readings, resources, women, women's circle | 1 Comment

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