‘Familiar’ Loss

“We never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures.”

― Gail Caldwell

rosyA

Witch’s Familiar is something of tall tales as told in history books and still a very integral part of spiritual practice for many of us.  In April, we lost our beloved Familiar, Ms. Lyra, and it’s taken me this long to be able to share.  Lyra was a huge part of our every day in every-way life and the loss is a particularly deep and painful one.  I have sustained the loss of dogs, cats, horses, grandparents and both of my parents; the list goes on.  As pagan peoples bearing close ties to the energies and frequencies we live and work with, the loss is deeply felt and a familiar is extremely hard.  Every place I turn in my bedroom, in the garden, in the barn, on the front porch is ghosted with her presence and constant reminders at every turn.  Our lives were enriched by her presence, by her nurturing nature, by the flash of her golden eyes and her sassy chatter.  Ms. Lyra would watch over me wherever I went: while I slept, she patrolled the land; when I was up in the morning, she raced through the dog door to have a morning meditation; when I went running, she frequently insisted on running 2 miles or more with me through the woods (which is highly usually for just a regular cat and  indicated I needed to be on the watch for something); when sick she would give her healing energy to whomever needed it.

Our spiritual practice was enriched through her awareness of that which could not be seen and her supportive presence during circle.  Her energy and frequency added another layer of power and connection to our workings that is much different now that she is gone.

Almost everyone has experienced a serious loss of some sort in their lives, whether it be a family member, friend, home, job, beloved pet or familiar.  Loss is always hard unless it’s the last five pounds of winter weight.  It is a feeling I have become far too familiar with and therefore know what to expect, though I do not believe that it is an experience one ever truly gets used to.  “They” say that time heals all wounds, however, one would need to define ‘heal’.  Loss is an oxymoron, in that one has less of something, yet somehow feels heavier in our grief.

RIP

The process of healing is different for everyone and there is no right or wrong way to grieve, other than ignoring it. In the face of grief remember to be gentle with yourself, give yourself time and honor life and loss in your own way.

All these months later and our loss still feels heavy and fresh.   We have honored her presence in our Samhain Season rites and will continue to remember Ms. Lyra equally as we acknowledge any family member.

Ms. Lyra-the lives of those at Rosethorn Manor and been blessed by your presence and will never be the same again.  May your soul ride gently and safely on the joyful breath of Bastet until we meet once again my beloved.  RIP

If you have lost a beloved Familiar, we would love to hear your story.

Women’s Spirituality Trilogy

celticThroughout history, much of what has been written on paganism, witchcraft and alternative spiritual practices has led to much in the way of misunderstanding.  Witches and Heathens, as portrayed in movies sends one down the road of a bumbling idiot, maniacal evil sorcerer or vampy succubus and everything in-between.  While at times amusing and entertaining, most are based on unflattering stereotypes that hold little value in their representations.  We previously listed out some of our favorites on the Pagans and Media post, however, wanted to touch on a really great set of videos with a more authentic and respectable historical approach.

 

There are a series of videos called the Women’s Spirituality Trilogy. The three videos… The Burning Times, God Has Remembered, and Full Circle. The Burning Times provided an in-depth look at the diverse history of 15 to 17 centuries considering the worship of the goddess, manipulations of the clergy, and witchcraft of yesterday and today. Terrific numbers of witches and non-witches burned my other types of torture reminding.

God Has Remembered, examine varieties of goddess worship in different places around the world. There was footage of caves, deserts, temples, carvings and statues. The writers also touched on the resurgence of forgotten values and worship currently being practiced by both men and women.

Full Circle dealt with the manifestation of the many forms of women’s spirituality. It showed women coming together out of the shadows of men, clergy, fear and uniting in trust once again. The many points of equality and respect between the two genders were shown.

 

Watching these videos is time well spent. It was wonderful to recognize many rituals and songs that we do in our own circles. These videos had great people such as  Starhawk and Margot Adler. The dances and music were beautiful and all of the videos were represented in an informative and intelligent manner without divulging too much. The resurgence in forgotten values and practice of the old ways are alive and through this path our futures hold hope. For people newly answering the call it is a great entry resource and for those already familiar it is wonderful to see it happening in somebody fantastic ways and in living color.

The Season of Yule

Y

ule, also known as the Winter Solstice, Brumalia, Saturnalia, Modrinacht, Tammasmas Nicht and Albun Arthan is a festival steeped in historic traditions and rooted in many pagan societies, whereby our ancestors gathered in the deepest darkness of night to pay homage to the twins of dark and light (the Holly King and Oak King) as well as the Goddess in her life-giving capacity.  It is also one of the most recognized and largely shared pagan celebrations across the world(followed by Samhain). It is one that is so powerfully felt due to the mass numbers of people in the northern hemisphere with open hearts celebrating together.   It is quite amazing and moving what people engaged in a single purpose simultaneously can energetically accomplish.  If only all of our open hearts could be brought together for a single positive purpose all year long, imagine what we could accomplish.

Opposite of the Summer Solstice, Alban Arthan is the shortest day and the longest night of the year, signaling another change in our turning wheel.  For three days the sun stands still and pauses, before starting on its journey once again.  The  Season of Yule is one of quiet expectancy, with the shifting of energy focused on the outward movement and expression of life, though it is hard to imagine spring at times during the hardships of winter.  The subtleness of a longer day in the addition of an extra minute of light can also be lost on us when snow, clouds and rain are the order of the day or we are socked in by fog.  However, the depth and void experienced at Samhain helped clear away the final chaff of the year, which now allows the quietness and stillness of the new solstice light to be felt, even if we are unable to see it.

At this time the Goddess in the cave labors to birth new light, hope and love in the world.  A new baby in our family circle opens our hearts and as a soul tribe we are all called upon to participate in the love, care, nurturing and success of this new light in our lives.  In this same manner, we are now called upon to love, honor, protect, nurture and engage in the long journey that brings fruition to the little seed of light within ourselves. With our hearts open it is also so much easier to give of ourselves to help birth the light in others.

At this time in the PNW, November winds have blown off the fall leaves on the trees, thunder has sounded and the driving rains are welcome after our hot summer.  We are chipping ice out of the water buckets and horse troughs.  Snow has intermittently fallen and the birds are relying on hawthorn berries, beauty berries and blackberries for sustenance as well as scraps from our chicken coop and seeds in the feeder.

On the first weekend of December, our family treks out to find the perfect noble tree.  Sometimes the ground is frozen with snow and sometimes we are wading through mud.  When our tree is in its stand we do a small rite to welcome the tree and give thanks for its life and the reminder of eternal life and the ability to thrive during all stages of growth.  The trimmings from the tree are gathered along with grand fir, cedar, douglas and pine to fashion a Yule log to be burned on the Solstice.  The fragrance of the season is both calming and uplifting, while also comfortingly reminiscent of family gatherings past.

Our altars are bedecked in evergreens, wintergreen, sprigs of bright green prickly holly with bright red berries and pure white snowberries.  Mistletoe is strategically hung in an open doorway.  White candles, statues, garnet, bloodstone and tigers eye grace our altars alongside offerings of homemade butter cookies, herbs and nuts.  For several days before the solstice tales of Gods and Goddesses are told.  On the eve of the solstice, fires are lit and flames are kindled to call forth the light, more stories are told as we indulge in festive treats.  The kids will open a small gift from the Winter King before retiring for the night.  Solstice morning we arrive around the fire ring to cast herbs of pine, grand fir, cedar and wintergreen berries into the needfire and burn the Yule log while we join hands to sing a song or two before wassailing and libation pouring in the orchard.  Everyone quickly makes their way through the frigid morning air into the house, fragrant with brown sugar and cinnamon french toast and hot chocolate.

In a larger group, we come together to collectively create sacred space and call in the blessings of the season.  We invoke the God and Goddess of Yule and give our energy to the birthing of the new divine light.  In turn, our open hearts receive a piece of light and life to take out into the world that we continue to make the Lord and Lady manifest once again.  We make merry as we share in a feast and heady wassail punch before heading out to the bonfire.

For many of us, the festivities shall continue over the days in visits with family and friends.  For our family, festivities culminate in a large family gathering.  Presents and breakfast are shared in the morning.  We visit throughout the day with the menfolk making merry around the firepit with a libation in their hand and children playing with their new toys.  Women visit in the kitchen and living room while a feast of roast beast, salmon, mashed potatoes, roast vegetables, pear and blue cheese salad and rolls are cooked up.  Snacks are munched on throughout the day since breakfast is early and dinner is a bit more formal and later in the evening.  The evening ends with the ladies convening on the front porch to share a drink and cigar (a carryover tradition of my mother’s Austrian family from the old country).Yule bird bath

To our pagan brethren across the globe, we raise a pint of wassail to you and wish bright blessings on you and yours!  Blessed Be!

We would love to hear what traditions your family engages in to bring forth the light.

Litha

celticTomorrow we embark on a midsummer journey.  The Litha solstice brings us to the longest day and the shortest night of the year where the Earth is at the midpoint on her journey around the sun.  The word “solstice” is from the Latin word solstitium, which translates to “sun stands still”  Depending on the year Litha will fall between June 20-22 or the 25th which was the Old Litha.  Litha is also known as Alban Heruin and Midsummer’s Night.   Historical writings have shown summer solstice celebrations all over the world and continue today as we honor the Old Ways.

In the Pacific Northwest, we are surrounded by the lushness of summer beauty

Summer Solstice Litha Wreath

Solar Wreath fire @ Rosethorn Manor

due to the warmth.  Usually we are still experiencing some precipitation, however, this year has been unseasonably hot for us.  The gardens are bursting with roses, lavendar, honeysuckle, mock-orange, rhodies and lungwort.  The apple trees have little baby apples that we have spent many an hour culling so that larger apples may grow, but not be such a burden on the trees.  We are keeping an eye on the just budding St. Johns Wort that will be used in our protection bundles at Lughnassadh.  The promise of abundance is everywhere and continues to grow until harvested at Mabon.

At this time we approach the sacred grove in perfect love and perfect trust, setting aside our difference and stresses of the mundane world to celebrate the Goddess in her lushness.  We honor deity and adorn our altars with yellow flowers (sunflowers if I can get them to bloom in time), yellow candles, bouquets of rose, peony, lavendar, mugwort, thyme, rue, fern, cock feathers and iris.  Fruits of the garden such as early strawberries and oak & holly leaves.  Stones of lapis, tigers eye, jade and moss agate round out the frequencies we are aligning ourselves for the season of Litha.   We praise the Horned God in his passionate love for the Goddess and the abundance and life their joining brings. In ritual we call forth the Sacred Spark of light and life to ignite change within ourselves, drawing on the strong and long light to bring forth balance and sustain us in our journey.  We give offerings of honey cakes which are a favorite this time of year, remembering to leave plenty for the bees.

We close our rite by lighting a fire to Brigid and focusing on the necessary balance and changes needed in our life-sacrificing that which no longer sustains or benefits our journey so that we make room in our storehouse for the inspiration that will enable future abundance in our lives and our work.

How do you celebrate this sabbat in your own life?

Blessed be the season of Summer!

Carbon Footprints and Mindful Consumerism

Posted: March 28th, 2010                                                                                                              Times Viewed: 2,878

Do you know what your carbon footprint or pollution rate is? If you don’t, you should find out and there are several websites that are helpful in determining this based on your lifestyle. This blog spot came about as a result of conversations with coven members and attendances at past pagan events. As Pagans and Witches we know-or should know, about environmental issues, waste and recycling, the acres of debris choking our oceans and its effects on our sacred lands.

Carbon footprints (or shall we call them troll prints) and pollution go hand in hand. It has been a long standing problem starting in the Industrial Age and has snowballed out of control. From what I have seen it seems that many people see an issue aired on Oprah or in a magazine and get up in arms. For a while that may affect some change, but it’s never consistent or long enough. I’m not saying that every little bit doesn’t help, however if lasting change is going to happen it has to be built on responsible lifestyle choices all of the time, even when these choices are not convenient.

As pagans we recognize the earth is sacred, what we do to her, we in turn do to ourselves. We are quite literally, in every way made up of atoms from the earth and through the elements we are linked to the web and life force of our planet. With this sacred bond also comes the understanding that we are connected to all life on this planet, whether it be elemental, human, or animal, “fur, feather, scale and skin-different without but the same within”. When one is highly attuned to this web we know the joys and beauty of the network as well as the very physical pain that comes with pollution.

The degradation and pollution of our planet is consistently a topic among my pagan friends as we try to solve it for ourselves and see where we are responsible through our life choices for helping or hindering the war on pollution. One of the biggest factors is understanding our personal relationships with deity and how we see ourselves in relation to what is going on around us, how do our actions and waste effect our environment?

Through the years I have come up with many things I do to take responsibility for my family and our carbon/pollution footprint. One of the major ones, of course, is to recycle. However, it is taking it one step further and buying products that use the least amount of packaging and required the least of a footprint to produce. I do not have a lot of landfill waste; however I did look at the contents of my recycled plastic and aluminum. I made lists of the most often consumed item and then chose to can or make those that I could such as the basics, mixes, as well as chili, soup, pizza sauce, root beer, even Irish cream, etc. I save and purchase everything from pastas and nuts to teas and spices in bulk. It all takes time and is a project of organizing your home and pantry to make it work. As a single parent ‘doing it all’ time is something I have very little of it. I don’t necessarily want to be ‘doing’ all of the time, but as I said it’s a lifestyle and a choice that is responsible for less waste. I compost food waste for the garden and shred much of my paper in a shredder to compost so it’s not being burned and wasted.

As a pagan, I go through a lot of candles and incense. I keep all my candles that I use for Sabbats wrapped up and labeled so that they can be used the following year if they don’t burn all the way down, if I need a new altar cloth in the past, I wait till the material is on sale or do without. I make sure to buy quality and have enough now that I shouldn’t need to buy those for a very long time. I take all my incense powder in the bottom of bags and boxes and keep it in an old baby food jar. I use this to make my own incense or add to spell workings. I grow as many of my own vegetables and herbs as I can-of course aided by my compost. I have found that it is important to think about every item I purchase in terms of what it took to make it and what waste it will be in the end. I also made a deal with myself that I wouldn’t bring something into my house if it didn’t have a use. I want beauty and function and if I bring something in, something goes out. Quality over quantity. There has been a movement to try and stop waste by having people ask themselves how much do you need, what do you need versus want? Yet it seems to me when I look around that people will rationalize a want into a need, so it only partially cuts down on waste. I’ve heard people say that everything they have is needed. Is that really true? I read an article wherein a man suggested that people, ‘RETHINK ESSENTIALS’. It makes much more sense to buy only what you need. Anyone can rationalize a want. But ‘rethink essentials, ‘ I think, says it all.

A few years ago I joined thousands of other people and spent 18-months buying no new consumables except food. (I did draw the line at undergarments, but everything else was used). You know, it wasn’t really that hard and it does a good job of pointing out your own impulse buying or the rationale ‘I just have to have that’.  I did do without some things, however there was nothing that was really missed in the end.  I remember going out with some friends and one forgot the camera at home. What did they do? Went and bought a disposable. How about taking responsibility for the fact that you forgot it and must do without? We see this all the time in the need for the latest gadgets and junk. If one really requires that stuff in his/her life maybe priorities need to be rethought. What is each person willing to do without somewhere else in order to offset that gadget or technology? It is said that one should plan for seven generations ahead of you. When people try to rationalize to me their choices I have to ask why? Would one not feel shame at the lack of responsibility in terms of one’s own relationship with the Earth and Deity and future generations?

As Pagans I think it is time that we rethink our essentials by being mindful of every single item that is brought into our homes and the waste that leaves it. If the Earth is our Mother, then what are we doing? I go to events or pagan gatherings and find myself scratching my head as I look around and see the waste. Being a pagan and a witch means living an integrous and morally responsible life day in and day out. It is doing the work within to know who we are as people, thereby knowing what drives our needs, our wants and our triggers. It is knowing what is going on in the world around us, educating ourselves and having our voice heard by how we spend our dollars.

We must ask ourselves: would we treat our Mothers the way we treat the earth? Would we bring the mess of junk into our mother’s home or discard the junk there or waste her resources with such disrespect? If you were to look around your home and/or property does what you see bring honor to your spirit, honor to the spirit in which you practice, honor to your relationship with Deity? What do you think? How do you help or hinder? What do you do to consume mindfully and take responsibility? I would love to hear what your experience has been or what you have done to lessen your carbon footprint.