Experiments in … The Wheel of the Year: Ostara

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Photo taken from http://www.patheos.com

 

Gather round, kiddos! It’s time for another episode of Wheel! Of! The Year!

Wild applause.

Today’s celebration is the Vernal (Spring) Equinox, also known as Ostara or Eostre. Ostara is a Saxon goddess of fertility. Eostre is a Germanic goddess of the Dawn, and, hence, also fertility. Fertility plays a big role in this holiday’s revelries. This is largely due to the fact that The Wheel of the Year is made up of holidays that celebrate the cyclical changes in our Natural environment. With the Vernal Equinox comes the victory of light over dark. Flowers begin to bloom. Trees begin to pollinate. (Thank you bees and breeze.) Animals are giving birth. New life is making itself known all throughout the Natural world. Ergo, we celebrate the evidence of this Natural fertility, this renewal of life.

Ostara is a Natural time to honor new beginnings. Start new projects now. Take action on plans you’ve laid in the darker months. Plant seeds, actual and metaphorical ones. If you haven’t already, take stock of where you are in your life and where you want to be.  Then take solid steps towards cultivating the year, decade, life of your dreams.

Ostara is also a great time to get outside. And to wake up your body/mind/spirit after the long dark Winter season of introspection and stillness. Walk in the woods. Sit in the sun. Do some gardening. Or, if gardening’s not your jam, visit a local botanical garden and spend some time delighting your senses with the emerging buds and blooms that surround you. Do whatever it is that brings you joy, enlivens your spirit, and tickles your senses.

The Equinox is also a time of balance. It is a day in which there is equal representation of sunlight and moonlight, day and night. As such, it’s a great time to explore balance in our lives. Taking some time to meditate on what balance actually means to us, looks like for us, can be especially helpful here. It’s difficult to begin the work of cultivating balance if one doesn’t have a clear idea of what balance is for one, personally. Once you have your clear idea of balance, you can begin working through the challenges that might be keeping you from living in balance already. Then it’s up to you to start creating your shiny new balanced life, knowing that the energy of Ostara will be working with you to help you along the path.

As for my Self, my celebration will definitely involve some time in the woods. I’ve made some new floral-scented facial mist and oil, recently, and I’ve been waiting to charge it with Ostara’s energy for extra potency. I’m also bringing some beautiful spring flowers into my home as a lovely reminder of the bounty that Mama Nature always provides for us. Lastly, per my resolutions, I’ll be creating an entry in my grimoire for this rejuvenating holiday.

However you choose to celebrate Ostara, I hope it’s a beautiful one for you. And I hope this energy of new life and new possibilities permeates your life in the most blissful ways.

Love and light!
Melanie

Greeting the Porcupine

So, I’ve been really trying to continue working with the energies of Imbolc as the Wheel transitions toward Ostara.  It’s not been easy.  I’ve managed to land my Self in a whirligig of over-commitment, burn out, super stress and anxiety, a dwindling quality of self-care, and some misaligned vertebrae causing some pretty gnarly pain and insomnia.  Not-so-good times.  However, amid all this chaos, I am still doing my very best to look for the joy in the journey, the lesson to be learned or core challenge to be tackled.

I’ve been making some changes – I went full blond for the first time ever; taking steps toward even bigger changes – I’m really ramping up my search for a van to purchase that I can call home (more on that soon); and am working hard to treat my Self to some very necessary healing arts – getting massages, facials, and working with my crystals and gemstones.

This morning, after a particularly challenging week, I slept as late as I wanted.  (No alarm clock!!)  Then I rolled out of bed and onto the yoga mat where I gently urged my body toward expansion with some delicious languid stretching and moving.  I followed that with a re-reading of the description of Porcupine from my medicine cards book, and a Tarot reading with my trusty Mythic Tarot deck.  Both were insightful, informative and encouraging.

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You may recall that my totem animal for this period between Imbolc and Ostara is the Porcupine.  (Go here if you missed the last post where I wrote about this.)  As usual, this time when I read the description, my focus was directed differently than last time I read it.  This time I was drawn more to the discussion of Porcupine as a symbol of trust and faith – in people, in the Universe, in ‘the process’.  Here’s a passage I found especially poignant this morning:

“Porcupine has many special qualities, and a very powerful medicine:  the power of faith and trust.  The power of faith contains within it the ability to move mountains.  The power of trust in life involves trusting that the Great Spirit has a divine plan.  Your task is to find the pathway that is most beneficial for you and that uses your greatest talents to further the plan.  Trust can open doorways to the creation of space.  The space thus created allows others to open their hearts to you and to share their gifts of love, joy and companionship.”

I have been starting to understand, recently, just how much I am in need of Porcupine medicine.  I realize that I have lost a great deal of my ability to trust and have faith in this world.  This is especially true with people.  Being such a sensitive and highly empathic person, I am very easily deeply hurt by others, often without the others even knowing.  I’ve created a habit of recoiling from others as a result, always feeling distrustful of getting too close to anyone.  This is a sad state of affairs, in general, but, especially so, considering that I am a person who craves close companionship with others.  So, in essence, my lack of trust and faith is keeping me from one of the desires I hold most dear.

However!  Just this week, I experienced a little Porcupine medicine in action.  I’ve been (in my own trepidatious way) cultivating a friendship with a new colleague.  She’s been expressing concern over my health complications and waning energy.  (I’ve been feeling pretty defeated.)  Earlier this week, when things were getting kind of unbearable with my neck/head pain and the continual insomnia was really starting to effect my ability to pretend everything’s okay, she came to me at work bearing a beautiful picture she painted and some herbal tea.  The painting was inscribed with such kind words that I cried when I read them.  For the first time in a very long time someone actually saw me – not the face of me, but the whole me – and embraced me, honored me, and cared for me.  I am most often the one taking care of those around me.  I am most often the one making sure everyone else is alright.  I am not only not used to someone doing this for me, but I make it difficult for those who try.  Not intentionally, of course, but because I am not good with allowing myself to be vulnerable.  (I’ve become the wounded Porcupine – using my quills for protection.)  This simple gift may seem small and commonplace to some of you reading this, but, to me, it was a paramount gesture of generosity that really set to work the restoration of my trust and faith in not only the world, but in my place in it.    So … Porcupine is weaving her magick in my life in more profound ways than I expected.  And I am super grateful.  (Gift-bearer, if you are reading this, thank you, again.)

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So, change is happening.  Magick is afoot.  And the Universe is supporting me in the process.  I hope that you are getting the Universal support you need, too.  I’m trusting that Life is unfolding as it should for the greater good.  And I am ready to unfold with it.

xoxo,

melanie

Experiments in … Spirituality: Imbolc 2016

This year I celebrated Imbolc a couple days early. This was mostly because I wanted to do my celebrating on the weekend when I wouldn’t feel too rushed or too tired. It was a really nice, relaxing, reviving experience. And … in good resolution form … I documented it in my new grimoire.

Actually, if you want to get really technical, I started my celebrations last weekend during the snow storm. (So strange that last weekend was a snow storm and today, a week later, is 70 degrees and sunny.) Anyway, last weekend, I began spring cleaning my home. I did a whole lotta cleanin’ during that snow storm, but I still have quite a lot of work left. I imagine it will happen piecemeal as I get time over the next couple weeks. Though, to be fair, I only have the lesser, annoying things left on my list, so maybe (hopefully!) I can get it all taken care of by this weekend.

The more formal part of my celebration was a little less dirty and exhausting. I began with a purification bath. I made a special blend of bath salts just for the occasion with Cypress and Lemon essential oils. Cypress has the power of helping one to release old and stagnant energies and patterns to make way for new, more currently aligned life magick. Lemon is symbolic of the sun and is very uplifting and invigorating. Both are great for Imbolc, a time of new beginnings and of the promise of Spring and the growing power of the Sun.

While still in the bath, I used a guided meditation to help attune me to my creative energies and the potential for creation that resides within my Self and deep within the Earth.

After cleansing body, mind and spirit, I created some sacred space for my Self and my celebration.

My first ritual was a candle dedication ceremony in which I engraved and anointed a white candle. I held the candle in both hands while verbally dedicating my Self to a year and a day of celebrating the Wheel of the Year and following my magickal, blissful Life Path with openness, awareness and optimism. Then I burned the candle and meditated on the flame a little more while directing my intentions to it. I will continue to burn the candle throughout the season until it is spent. This will act as both a reminder for me to continue to honor my promise to my Self, and as a light of inspiration when I’m feeling stuck.

I followed the candle ceremony with a simple divination practice. I turned to my trusty Medicine Cards deck with the question: Who will guide me from Imbolc through Ostara? I shuffled the cards, cut the deck, and pulled one card. It was Porcupine. Porcupine is the 12th card in the deck. Its keyword is Innocence. It evokes the power of faith and trust. These are some of the notes I jotted down about Porcupine medicine from the book and from my own understanding:

– In numerology, the number 12 becomes the number 3 (1+2=3). The number 3 is closely aligned with creative forces as well as decision-making.
– Porcupine quills are only used when trust has been broken.
– The medicine in this card is that of relief from seriousness + severity.
– Open your heart to those things that gave you joy as a child!
-“How can you, as your adult-Self, comfort you, the child within, and teach your inner child how to have faith and trust again?”
– “Your task is to find the pathway that is most beneficial for you, and that uses your greatest talents to further the plan [that Great Spirit has for you].”

So, I’ll be spending some time cultivating joy and innocence in the coming days. I’m liking the sound of that already! It also goes along well with the advice that my acupuncturist friend gave me during our session a few weeks ago. She told me that more creative expression and artistic endeavors would be good to help balance my liver chi. All that synchronicity, and that’s really what my New Year’s Experiments are all about anyway: creating more magick in my life. And what is magick but the ability to view the world through the lenses of innocence and joy?

Imbolc officially happens tokay. Even though I’ve already had my formal celebration, I will take a few moments tonight to meditate on Brigid, the patroness goddess of the holiday.

How will you celebrate the waning winter? The promise of Spring? The quickening of Mama Earth’s womb? Whatever you choose, I hope it’s a joyful occasion for you!

Xoxo,
Melanie

Wheel of the Year: Samhain

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We celebrated Samhain this weekend past.  Samhain is yet another holiday on the Wheel of the Year.  It occurs at sundown on 31 October, and continues through sundown 1 November.  Yes, much of the secular Halloween celebrations are echoes of Samhain traditions, but Samhain is a much more reverent and spiritual holiday.  This is a time when ancestors and loved ones who have passed through the veil are honored.  It is the festival that marks the end of the agrarian harvest season and the introduction to the colder, darker days of Winter.  As such, it’s a time for personal reflection and even deeper, more honest introspection than we might have already been undertaking during the harvest holiday season.

This is a simplified explanation of the holiday, of course, but you are welcome to do a search for more specific information if you’d like.  In a full disclosure, I have been dealing with some of my own personal darkness of late, and I’m finding brevity is all I can offer during this time.

For my celebration of the holiday, I, as usual, kept things simple.  I also allowed myself the luxury of not getting too caught up in the time table of my celebrations.  I did a mini ceremony on the night of the 1st.  I performed a classic “cutting away” ritual in which I made a list of those things that are no longer serving me in my life – things I would like to release from my life.  After taking a moment to meditate on those things, and how they may have served me in the past, I took a flame to them.  As the paper was burning, I tried to imagine my life without these encumbrances.  Then I let them finish burning in a little mini cauldron I have.  (It seemed only appropriate.)    Once the flame was safely extinguished, I said a small prayer for hope and fortitude, and went to bed.

The next day I did a tarot reading, using my Oracle Tarot deck.  I used a basic Celtic Cross without the outlier cards.  I did a little yoga stretching beforehand.  This was what I was given:

1. BONDAGE (Issues of Control, Freedom):  This card is in the Significator position.  The Significator is indicative of the querent in her/his current situation.  This is a familiar card for me.  It often shows up when I’m feeling trapped or stuck in situations that aren’t particularly fun.  It also heralds times when I am feeling like I’m being pulled in a number of directions, none of which seem like the clear choice.  The Bondage card correlates to the Devil card in traditional decks.  The idea here is that we are only enslaved by our own acceptance of the slavery.  We have the power to eradicate the chains that bind us, but to do so requires a willingness to buck the status quo and risk stepping into the unknown.  The handbook that accompanies this deck offers this piece of wisdom:  “This card indicates … that you are unable to be your true self and are acting the way you feel you should in order to … maintain the situation in hand.  To be free, you must rediscover your authentic self and walk away from the chains.”  Yep.  This card is the perfect Significator card for me.  It could sum up my life, really.
2. 4 CUPS (Nervous About Change):  Position 2 is the Crossing Card.  It depicts that which is blocking the querent from moving forward through the current situation.  Fours in the minor arcana (suits cards) are related to the Emperor of the Major Arcana (thematic cards).  They mirror those older masculine authority figure qualities and challenges:  Qualities are a sense of stability, a solid foundation.  Challenges are a stubborn refusal to change, or a sense of being stuck, which often results from a fear of stepping away from tradition and trying something new and unproven.  Fours turn up a lot in my spreads.  The cups suit are representative of our emotional and spiritual selves.  The four of cups, here, is telling me that I am allowing my Self to be stuck in unserving patterns out of a fear of causing some kind of emotional pain for my Self.  Most likely, I am afraid of failure.  Although, it could very well be that I am secretly afraid of success.  I do have a tendency to self-sabatoge.  In any case, I am allowing fear to keep me from making a move – any move.
3. 9 SWORDS (Stress, Anxiety):  The third position of the Celtic Cross spread shows the superficial view of the current situation.  This is what might be noticeable to the querent and/or to those around the querent.  Nines are related to the Hermit card in the Major Arcana.  They depict a time of introspection and rumination, often on completed or near-completed projects or cycles.  The Swords correlate with our mental selves, and with communication and progress.  This card is showing me the darkness and solitude I’ve been experiencing lately.  The stress and fear that always lift to the top of the matter might be the easiest feelings to access, but they are just that:  the film that covers the sweet cream underneath.  Sometimes one just needs to take a moment to wallow there before that film can be removed and the cream can be enjoyed.  It’s an accurate representation of things, for sure.  I spent the whole weekend holed up in my house feeling sorry for myself.
4. THE STAR  (Hope, Inspiration, Nature):  Position four represents the root of the matter, or what is really brewing for the querent in this current situation.  It may not be noticeable to anyone else, and the querent may not even be aware of this aspect of the matter at hand.  The Star is a Major Arcana (thematic) card.  These cards, when they appear in a spread, usually carry more weight than the minor arcana (suits) cards.  They suggest that whatever they are depicting is going to be of some special significance to the querent.  The Star is, for me, most often a symbol of hope.  It’s a sign that good things are brewing and the Natural Order is on top of things.  Ironically, as I mentioned above, I had just been praying for some hope.  And here it is in my tarot spread, in a very fortuitous position.  Thank you, Powers That Be.  This card is telling me that, first and foremost, I have not abandoned hope, but, rather, it is what is guiding me through this process, through this current challenge.  It is also letting me know that, whether I can fully recognize it or not, I am operating under a clarity of vision for my Self and my future.  And, ultimately, I can rest assured that things are happening as they should.  This discomfort is part of the process, and should lead me somewhere good.
5. 6 SWORDS (Cautious Progress):  Position five depicts the past, the time before the current situation, and the situations and circumstances that lead up to the current one.  Sixes are related to The Lovers card in the Major Arcana.  They are about finding balance and harmony, and can sometimes represent the discovery of what your soul desires/requires.  Sixes often offer some kind of solution to problems, or revelations about what is missing.  There is often a choice or decision to be made to find balance or completion.  Swords, as mentioned above, are representative of the mental self, and with communication and progress.  This card is spot on for me:  I had that light bulb moment a couple years ago in which I realized that my soul was begging me to take better care of my Self.  I’ve been really working hard to do that, and I have been making “cautious progress”.   I may still have moments of over-thinking things, but ultimately, I am slowly and steadily creating a better life for my Self.  And all the work I’ve done thus far has lead me to this current place and time.  The challenges that I’m facing now, are just one more step on that journey.
6. THE WORLD (Rewards, Expansion, Destiny):  Position six is the future card.  It predicts what could be in store for the time following the current situation, all other things staying the same.  It’s the probable outcome assuming that the current situation follows its natural course.  The World is the final card in the Major Arcana.  As such, it is both an ending and a beginning.  As one cycle is completing another is blossoming into being.  It usually heralds the successful conclusion to a project or situation.  This card is telling me that if I stay on the path I’m on, and keep working on creating better health, wealth and well-being, that I will succeed and be rewarded justly.  I will also be prepared to begin the next phase of my Life Journey thanks to all the work I’ve been doing and all the challenges I’ve overcome during this current phase.  It’s another hopeful card, and I’m thankful for it.  It’s nice to be reminded that all this work is not for naught.

Overall, it seems that I am nearing the end of a cycle in my life.  All I need to really move through to positive completion is to give my Self the permission to change my patterns and to develop new ways of moving through and looking at the world.  I need to be willing to take more risks, and continue stepping out of my comfort zone.  This, of course, is not always an easy thing to do, but, really, is a mere trifle when I think of it contextually.  If this is all that is holding me back from breaking through my old unhappy, unhealthy way of life to a new stage of hope and possibility, then I will need to find a way to make it happen.  My life depends upon it, after all.

PostScript:  I hope to eventually have photos of the tarot cards here, but my computer is old and slow and I don’t have time to wait right now.  Apologies.

Wheel of the Year: Mabon/Autumnal Equinox

It’s time for another stop on our journey around the Wheel of the Year, kiddos! Ding, ding, ding! Approaching Mabon! Please watch your step as you’re exiting the car.

Happy Mabon!

Mabon, which occurs on 21 September, is the second of the harvest festivals, which makes sense as it follows the first of the harvest festivals, Lughnasadh (Lammas) which we celebrated last month. (Go here for more information on Lughnasadh.)  All of the harvest festivals are celebrations of the reaping of that which was sown in the darker part of the year.  They are celebrations of the Sun, of Light, and, on the same token, opportunities for mindful preparation for the coming Darkness.  (Of course, how literal this play of Light and Dark is, is dependent upon your geographical location.  But, the metaphorical transition can be experienced by anyone who attunes to it.)  800d33372daab9b7ca33390e87f02c91

Many of the same tools and traditions of celebration apply across the harvest holidays.  There are decorations of wheat sheaves, apples, gourds, fallen leaves, pine cones, and the like … as well as any remaining bounty from the harvest (fruits, vegetables, grains) decorating hearths, homes and public spaces.  Tables are laden, too, with foods created from that bounty: Breads, soups, casseroles, and simpler servings of in-season fruits and vegetables. Warming libations, such as cider, wine, mead and tea are common to help take the edge off the chill in the air.  Fires are also set for this purpose.

Mabon is a very good time to practice a little introspection and reflection. It’s a time to look back over the year and see how your best-laid-plans are coming to fruition, or, in some cases, how they’re dying on the vine. We began this inventory at Lughnasadh, and we continue to make corrections now at Mabon, culling that which isn’t giving us the results we had hoped, reorganizing the bits that might be sort of working, and taking a moment or two to pat ourselves on the back for the good progress we’ve made.

Mabon is a solar holiday – one of the quarter days on the Wheel of the year. It’s also known as the Autumnal Equinox, which is, of course, a day consisting of equal hours of sunlight and darkness. This is the tipping point that ushers us into the dark half of the year. It’s at Mabon that we take our first steps through the veil to that more reserved, introverted, and quiet half of the year. As such, it’s a great time to begin to put into practice some of those things that can support us as we transition to a more yin existence. Meditation, quiet strolls in the woods, journaling, practicing yoga, soaking in a hot tub of salts and aromatherapy oils … you know … things that are cozy and nurturing and self-preserving.

There are many activities associated with Mabon. Food preparation is common, as, especially those who live in agrarian societies, are using and preserving the last fruits of the harvest. Bread-making, soup-making, pie-making, the last of the canning, drying the last of the summer herbs, and the making of wine, beer and mead are all popular ways to celebrate Mabon.  dbf6a8bd65d9d16fa8ff1f2370faf06f  Apple dolls are also a common sight on Mabon altars. The apple is a sacred fruit whose seeded midsection so beautifully depicts the sacred symbol known as the pentacle, or 5-pointed star. Apple dolls can be made in the image of the Sun and the Moon, the god and the goddess, or even your Aunt Dixie and Uncle Lou, then decorated with dried berries, nuts, seeds, and grasses. And any sundry and various crafts utilizing the materials provided by Mama Nature at this time are always appropriate.

As for me, I’m planning to make a garland of pine cones with maybe some other embellishments I find out in the woods or in my craft stash. I’m also thinking about making a gratitude garland like this one I found online. (Mabon is often called the pagan Thanksgiving, after all.) I’ll definitely take some time to get out into the woods for a nice, long hike, and get on the mat for some asana practice.  I’ll likely do some divination work, either with tarot cards or runes.

All this week, I’ve been taking a personal inventory, and getting my ducks in a row, organizing my current projects and getting prepared for the new projects I’ll be starting for the holiday season. I might even make some of these fancy apple rose tarts or these vegan biscuits if I get a wild hair, and a little extra free time. Most importantly, I will take some time to sit with my gratitude for all the bountiful blessings in my life. You, dear reader, will be among that for which I am grateful.

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So, that’s how I’ll be celebrating Mabon. How about you? Do you celebrate the Equinox? What do you do? Feel free to share in the comments. Whatever you’re doing or not doing, I wish for you a holiday filled with gratitude, balance, and bounty.

xoxo,

Melanie