Monday, December 9, 2013

Aspiring to learn more?

For those who have been following from afar my progress in Public Priest/ess training with CAYA Coven, I've just learned that my teacher, Yeshe Rabbit, is now offering long-distance training in the coming year! From her recent announcement:

CAYA Aspirants Online:

For the first time, Yeshe Rabbit will be offering distance training for those who wish to learn CAYA approaches, structures, and ritual methods.

Beginning in March, 2014, other members of CAYA and Yeshe Rabbit will be hosting a monthly 75-minute class session via Google Hangout, and pairing each Distance Aspirant with a CAYA e-mail pal/social media buddy for more personal interaction.

Classes cover CAYA's basic principles related to a wide variety of pan-pagan topics: the elements, ancestral reverence, daily practice, ethics, deity work, lunar and solar cycles, and more.

Classes involve a brief lecture outlining CAYA's core principles, followed by group discussion and exercises. There will be homework associated with each lesson. A $13 donation is asked for each class, and class size will be limited to 9 participants who are prepared to commit to a full year of training.

If you would like to apply for this training, please send an email with your name (legal and magical, if there are more than one) and a 3-5 paragraph essay about your spiritual background, practices, and/or beliefs to cayacoven@gmail.com by Dec 31, 2013. You may contact us there with questions as well.

Once all applications are in, Yeshe Rabbit will schedule interviews with interested parties through January. Acceptances will be sent Feb 1, with an introductory session at the end of Feb and classes beginning in March. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Coven Craft

In which I attempt to finish my report on Amber K's fine book about "Witchcraft for Three or More." That's just Chapters 19 through 27 and the 150 pages of appendices, glossary, bibliography and index. Roughly half the book. Should be a snap.

It's too bad that in many ways this book is outdated because of the way the interwebs have transformed not only the way groups can organize and communicate, but also because of the way the interwebs have transformed the worldwide presence of so many fringe and minority cultures (at least those with easy access to computers). It would, however, be worth updating the book for its extensive chapters on the practical concerns of covens, from basic issues of group dynamics to keeping the individual members of the coven engaged and challenged in just the right ways for their particular point in the constantly evolving nature of a spiritual path. Sure, there may be countless blogs and online resources with this material, but I am bound to live out the rest of my life fully devoted to the hard copy (pun intended). I love books.

One of my favorite parts of books is the back end, with all the appendices and indeces. Sometimes it's the only part of the book I actually pay attention too, similar to the websites I've gone to for the sole purpose of finding their page of recommended links. I enjoy reading lists, sample letters, blank forms and checklists. Amber K does, too, I can tell, because this is one zaftig backside, I tell ya. Again, many of the resource listings are way outdated, but there's plenty of useful bits, such as "The Elements of Coven Names," "Checklist for a Healthy Coven," and a slew of ritual outlines for sabbats, esbats, and most major rites of passage.

It's likely that I'll keep my copy handy, and refer to it when I need a clue about happenings in my own coven. It's already marked up at passages with information I haven't found in other places. Amber K has a knack for grabbing slippery and sneaky details that have evaded others, and this book ensures that others may benefit from her experience.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Homemade Hoodoo

Sticks, Stones, Roots & Bones Stephanie Rose Bird

One of the required reading books of my Initiate year with CAYA Coven. I gotta say, I have been delighted by the reading list so far, and this one continues the standards of wise, effective, encouraging and deeply reverent materials we have covered in these studies. How many times have I looked into a path of spiritual guidance only to be thwarted by energies of elitism, negativity, or just plain washed-out goop? I am relieved and excited to report that the deeper I delve into CAYA, the more I feel I have truly found my spiritual community.

But back to the book. This wonderful, informative, inspiring book. Stephanie Rose Bird leads us through the history, lore and practice of the American folk magick that developed out of the cauldron of African traditions bubbling away with a blend of European and Indigenous ways in the Southern USA. It's a hands-on crafty approach to spiritual practice, which appeals to the Kitchen Witch in me. Most of the materials are already lying about the house or easily found outside, and the power comes through awareness, attention, and intention (but doesn't it always?). The author stresses ethically-sourced and organic materials whenever possible, and goes into great detail about why this is important, with plenty of options to choose from. Still, it's thrilling to read about the strange animal bits and dangerous/illegal items or now-endangered plants that went into mojo bags of the past.

Each chapter focuses on a different element or concern of life that might need working on. Cleansing, protection, conflict resolution (by peaceful or other means), ancestors, prosperity, love, and the many rites of passage are each explained, explored and provided with several concotions, rituals, and songs to bring our lives into alignment, and hopefully to restore balance in the world and beyond. I see that I've marked the book up with some bits I'd like to return to, including, Spirit of Love Floor Wash, Protection Rings, dipping sewing needles into special oils to infuse their energy into the project, "the androgynous deity Erinlé is honored as the orisha of herbalism," 'Lift Me Up' Pine Floor Wash, Elegba Spirit Altar and Bath, and "the soles of our feet function as receivers of divine messages and transmitters of our intentions into the spirit world." I could spend a year exploring practices just from this book and not run out of fascinating possibilities.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Beyond the Binary

For the past month or so, several CAYA Priest/esses and I have been brainswarming a new study group focused on issues of gender-variant spiritual practice in our coven. We decided that as our first public offering, we would launch a blog on this Transgender Day of Remembrance. 

May it serve the highest good for the benefit of all beings.

Namaste and blessed be!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Invoking Hina

On Saturday, CAYA Coven's Grove of Artemis (our women's circle) celebrated the Graveyard Moon by honoring the Hawaiian goddess, Hina. I felt deeply honored to offer the invocation, as I now feel to share it with you here:

Hina
Aloha
We call to you

Hina-i-ka-malama; Hina in the Moon
We have prepared this sacred space with candles and song, offerings of fruits and flowers to welcome you

Hina who works in the moon
Who beats the kapa cloth to clothe her family
We honor your strength and creativity

Hina, healing mother
Who infuses the plants with healing energies
Tonight we pray for healing
Move us like the waves make the seaweed dance
Dance with us tonight, powerful Hina

Hina, mother of the islanders
We are all islands surrounded by your beautiful aloha
Our hearts gathered like children in your wide embrace

Hina
Aloha
Hail and Welcome Hina

Friday, October 25, 2013

Homework Hog-tie

I sure have dropped a few stitches on my book reports, eh? Haven't commented on Coven Craft since chapter 7. Jumping ahead to the most recent section we discussed in class, I will write about chapters 16-18. If I get ambitious, I'll review the previous chapters, but I ain't gonna promise. I know that I've read them carefully and got what I needed from them. And I know my teacher trusts me.

Chapter 16 addresses Education and Training. My copy of the book is missing this chapter entirely, so I had to borrow a friend's copy and do not have it anymore. My memory tells me it included a marvelous syllabus for an entire year of study and suggestions for how to organize the classes and provide mentorship for the students. Amber K has a rich imagination and a mind for detail, and just reading the descriptions of possible subjects was an excellent and entertaining review of the breadth of magickal studies. This book is really fun to read.

Chapter 17; On Initiation. Here is a checklist and set of questions that makes very clear the skills and experience a dedicant must have in order to begin more advanced training. It is reiterated here that, rather than an end point, initiation is the beginning of a formal commitment to the coven. Amber K also describes two forms of initiation—the one in the spiritual realm, which comes from within, and the Earth-plane initiation, which comes from the community. Wish I'd read this before my initiation!

Chapter 18; Group Dynamics in the Coven. This book came out right on the cusp of the Internet pandemic, so there are many tools and suggestions that could seem outdated or even antiquated, especially those concerning communications. One thing that never goes stale, however, is interpersonal conflicts. Amber K addresses potential issues and various methods of addressing them so thoroughly (and with the wit of one who's seen it all) that I might sneak in here to quote verbatim some of the more useful responses to challenging behavior. She explicates three modes of group operation (Work Mode, Process Mode, and Combat Mode), looks at individual needs vs. group needs and decribes roles people tend to take in groups. The most impressive part of this chapter, however, is the section with eye-popping visual charts of interpersonal relationships. I wish I could post one here. It'll make you want to crawl into a cave.

Getting interpersonal with the deity

"Argos is euthanized and killed by Hermes" Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Meanwhile, I'm preparing for my coven's Festival of Death and Wisdom this weekend. My little Hive of Initiates is doing some intense work for this one. I'm excited and nervous about aspecting for the first time. I'm working with Hermes, and He seems very eager and delighted to work with me. I seem to take to trance and sharing space with the Divine quite easily. My main concern is to not blow my god wad before Saturday night. Don't rush a good thing, my fleet-footed trickster!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Nuts and Bolts of Public Priest/ess Training

I see I haven't posted anything about my Priest/ess training since July 27. Well, it's not for lack of activities, lessons and homework. Many people have asked me what does this training entail, exactly? Well…

A brief glimpse at my calendar shows that since July 27 I've participated in:
65 Daily Practices— Though I have a rather involved set of prayers and meditations every day, including a special practice I share with my Big Sister, the core of the CAYA DP is a prayer that every member of the CAYA Clergy sings at at least one point during the day (I usually sing it several times throughout the day). Aspirants and members of the extended coven also participate. Every year, a new prayer is composed. Daily Practice 2013:

Rooted in my sense of self,
My inner light inspires.
As beauty transforms me,
I transform the world.
I am the legacy of my ancestors.
I am the legend of my descendants.
With grace & awe I create the Now.
Blessed be.
~ by Stella Iris RedRaven, High Priestess of Conscious Joy, and Athena Ixchel Firefly, Priestess of Imagination and Soul
3 get-togethers with my Big Sister— day-long ramblings in witch we have fun and adventures, eat tasty treats, share stories and in the midst of all that we interweave questions and musings, insight, dance lessons, spiritual quests, practical and emotional support, bison whispering, and moments of deep reverence for the wonder of it all. And Moomins! Plenty of Moomins.
2 Community events— The Lugh Games (served on the planning commitee) and the Harvest Home retreat (4 days at the Isis Oasis)
1 Sprouts event (activities for the enjoyment of pagan families with young uns) — a trip to the Ren Faire
1 Public service project— All I really did for this one was create a public post on my networking profile about our virtual food drive, but I saw very significant results from that small action!
1 Public ritual— for which I helped plan and serve
Several conference calls— (lost count)
 1 Community ritual— our Festival of Devotion Remembered at the retreat (got to kick back and enjoy this one, my chief responsibility was to be fully present, attentive and participatory, but no conference calls— wheee!)
1 Aspirants Class/Hive meeting— these go from 3pm-9pm or so once a month (I missed the August meeting as I was serving my camp community that weekend). The first two hours are for training the Aspirants, which includes activities, reading assignments and other homework in which the Initiates participate. The rest of the evening is my Hive supping and discussing Initiate year progress with our teachers. There's usually a wonderful magickal working designed by one of the teachers, such as a shamanic journey or crafting a mojo bag.
3 Hive rituals— When we were Aspirants we created a ritual to perform once a month at our personal altars, at the waxing quarter of the moon. The third ritual involved a magickal fire-scrying for the three Hivemates who attended the retreat (though I think the two who weren't present were holding space of some sort wherever they were).
Frequent, ongoing interactions on the listservs with the various groups within CAYA— We've just moved to G+, so my inbox has sighed with relief. However, there are many conversations going on within the coven at all times, and all Clergy are expected to maintain some sort of consistent presence within this swirl of prayer requests, birthday greetings, announcements, invitations, reports, planning brainswarms, and all of the other ways that our community continuously weaves our energies together.
Countless personal texts, emails, phone calls and get-togethers with other members of the Clergy— This was highly recommended as a way to get the most of one's Initiate year. Sometimes I'm picking their brains about Public Priest/esshood, sometimes it's purely social, but as my Initiator says, "We're never not Priest/esses." Everywhere we go, every interaction with fellow creatures, every word we say, the members of the CAYA Clergy are expected to conduct themselves with the respectful, reverent, and service-oriented comportment of a Priest/ess. That is not to say we can't be goofy. Oh, my goodness, no! There are plenty of deities who require such giddiness. However, it is to say that "Priest/ess" is not a mask or a role we can take off and put on at will or whim. It is a way of being and it is a lifelong commitment.

To me, serving as a Priest/ess is a natural expression of my authentic self. Looking back, I see it is how I have approached all areas of my life, from my home to the places where I've worked, and in every community in which I've served. Learning to be more mindful and intentional with this service-oriented approach has increased my pleasure and joy in life. It has deepened my feeling of contributing something worthwhile to the world. It has brought me to my home of homes.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Parting Ways with the MTP

 The letter I sent to my MTP community tonight:
 
To my kind, wise instructors and classmates in this MTP adventure, I offer sincere gratitude and appreciation for the short time we have traveled alongside each other. It has become clear to me that my priest/ess training with a coven in my area must be the focus of my attentions for the next couple of years, and so I am hopping out of this alchemical broth we have shared with such open hearts. I hope that I have contributed a bit of zest to the flavor.
Bright blessings to Jyoti for holding space for this work and for showing by your actions and words how to be a loving witness and a graceful facilitator in the world. Big, shimmering thanks to my mentor, Marisa, for her cheerful reflections as I've wandered and pondered the many lessons and practices in which we've delved. An especially warm embrace for Mary, a sort of superhero in my eyes, who keeps things rolling with such heart and spirit. Thanks also to Erin, my BigSibling. We never did make a connection yet, so perhaps a starry future holds a possibility that we may enjoy together.
I have been and will continue to offer prayers daily for the entire CSS community, that our hearts continue to open to the unconditional love and compassion that flows so generously through this beautiful universe. This is not as much of a goodbye as it is an au revoir.
Namaste and Blessed Be, Jaina Bee

Friday, September 6, 2013

Reflection Paper #4: Re-re-re-evaluating

In the past few weeks, I have been considering dropping the MTP program. I wrote the following letter to the registrar, and realized it also served as my "Reflection Paper" for August.

I am writing to you to let you know I've been seriously questioning whether it is beneficial for me to continue with my participation in the MTP program. I haven't discussed this with my mentor, big sibling or any other MTP or CSS folks yet, though I have a call with my mentor on Wednesday, and will certainly discuss it with her.
     My chief issue seems to be a certain psychic space and energy I cannot spare for this program and my fellow classmates while I am in deep training with my coven in the Bay Area. I know it is early in the MTP, yet I do not feel any significant connection with the community. I participate on an active listserv with the 30+ ordains of CAYA coven, plus five Initiates and another listserv with the ten Aspirants. When several of my MTP classmates recently shared about emotionally intense events in their lives, I realized I do not have the bandwidth at this time to open my energies to another large community, especially one that is almost entirely "virtual." Neither group would benefit from this, and I would end up feeling stretched out, drained and cranky.
     I thought of deferring or auditing, and I haven't entirely ruled those out yet. However, I am not convinced this remote, online, virtual style of training works for me at all. Especially with a class of 40 or so, where there are many classmates I never hear from. I spoke with Susie T, class of 2012, about this aspect. She said, "as an introvert, that characteristic did not bother me." I am learning a lot about what works for me and what doesn't. Apparently, I am more of a kinesthetic learner than I thought, and I am grateful to realize this now.
    Other notes, while I'm mulling it over; the instructors have been amazing, and the Grandmothers Corner is a treasure. I haven't been very impressed by the reading materials so far. And I confess I haven't incorporated much of the "assigned" practices into my own, as my daily practice is already filled with CAYA coven prayers and rituals.
     I'm chagrinned to admit this, especially after you so kindly called me a "model student." Perhaps a model student is one that discerns one's motives and intentions honestly, and makes sacrifices in order to devote one's energies in a responsible way. I feel like a greedy child who had a toy in her arms and saw another and wanted to grab it, too. ;) (Except that I do not in any way consider either MTP or my coven "toys." But that's the image that came to mind)

     And I suppose this IS my reflection paper. :)
With deep appreciation and love, Jaina Bee

Module 4: Walking Your Prayer

Instructor: Ryan Brandenburg

Grandmother: Flordemayo

Required Reading:  The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Reflection Paper #3: Choosing a Spiritual Practice

My monthly reflection on the lessons of the Ministerial Training Program



Instructor— Nancy Rowe
Grandmother—Mona Polacca; Hopi-Havasupai-Tewa

“What will be your way to kiss the ground?” This is the question asked by Nancy Rowe that plants the seed of discovery in my mind. Having had a somewhat regular and routine daily practice for many years now, it was a good question to ask as my month was upturned by the death of my own beloved grandmother, which made anything such as “the usual” difficult if not impossible to achieve. With everything changing uncontrollably, my practice started with simply coming into the present time and space. I began to adapt my practice to whatever I could manage in the moment—focus on my breath, the simplest of prayers, such as “Thank you,” and feeling gratitude for the blessings of comfort, support, water to drink, a good cry. Having unraveled my standard daily practice, I could allow for new possibilities to emerge.

The Findhorn book offered many suggestions for ways to tune into the moment. I found sweetness in the practice of addressing my neighbors in nature— the trees, birds, insects and rivers— as I would any human I wished to know better. Without presumption, I would greet the creature and invite it to share some time with me. I was often met with a welcome feeling. In this way I found moments of peace as I traveled away from home for various family visits.

Mona Polacca spoke of this same reverence for approaching a space with respect.
To paraphrase:

“Enter a room with awareness, observe the space don’t just rush in. Approach the water respectfully, introduce yourself to this life-giving element, don’t just run in. Tell it what you have come for, to drink or to swim or to pray, before you do it.”

Another concept she spoke of was the importance of cultural connection. As I entered family gatherings, I considered how I modeled responsibility, commitment and purpose. I had the opportunity to share a story at my grandmother’s funeral, and observed the way such a seemingly simple action can heal and connect people. As I left my family and encountered other human cultures, I kept in mind that I represented my family. What did my presence say about my people? As I interacted with non-human cultures, I considered how I represented humans in the web of creation. Did I approach with respect and leave with gratitude?

Our talk with Jyoti offered insight into some notable experiences that seem to be occurring to many of the students. I could relate to the digestive complications and the ringing in the ears especially, and hope I can discuss this more with other students (frustrated that I cannot join any discussions on Facebook, however I honestly cannot handle that site responsibly).  Jyoti was slinging so many potent phrases at us, I feel like I could meditate on each one for a week and have my work cut out for me for the rest of my life. Some I’m pondering and practicing daily: “Stay in your sacred witness,” “If you’re going to have your dream come true, it has to go all the way to your feet,” and “This is the alchemical process cooking up in Mom’s kitchen. Remember: backstrokes through the soup!”

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Women's Rituals

Last week I served in the full moon ritual for the women's group of CAYA Coven; Grove of Artemis. After weeks of uncommonly difficult planning (was the retrograde a tough one for you, too?) and our own personal life challenges many of the committee arrived (one stayed home sick) with cautious energy, unsure how things would proceed. I am grateful to say that by the time we left, we were all charged up and amazed by the wonderful time we shared in sacred space. Of course, many thanks to Durga.


With this mantra, we invoked the Goddess, and a High Priestess aspected her with powerful grace. With Her blessings, we charged river stones with words of power and sent out compassionate energy to honor and support incarcerated women who have been sterilized without proper authority or consent.

Afterward, I spoke with a participant about my Initiation training with the Wildflowers, which is the mixed-gender clergy group of CAYA. She expressed interest in possibly pursuing that path, and with  an expression I took to be curiousity mixed with concern she asked, "What's it like working with men?"

I had at that moment a new thoughtpath open up. Oh! of course! there are many women who have never shared sacred space with other genders. I used to be one.

Twenty years ago I met regularly with friends in a "women-only" space. After a few years it began feeling very limiting and undesirably exclusive to me. I speak only for my own preference here. I recognize that voluntary segregation is very important and helpful to many people for various reasons. I am working toward a broader spectrum of diversity in every part of my life. So what am I doing in a women-only ritual? Well, for one thing, it's a requirement of my training year. But I hadn't looked beyond that. Yet.

Exploring my intention in any group that intentionally excludes any definition of "other" is emerging as a significant source of learning on my path as a public priest/ess. I realized I had entered service in the women's circle with some resistance, because I don't feel a need to explore that for myself at this time. I was alarmed when one of the committee members asked if we could tell the story of the Durga "without mentioning the gods." (It felt rather extreme to me, though I have no idea how the priest/ess intended that exclusion. We ended up agreeing to include the gods, who had gifted Durga with their weapons and powers.) Later I spoke with a Hivemate (someone in my Initiate group) who helped me to recognize that this service is not about my personal needs, but about facilitating sacred space for those who seek it. Oh. Big fat food for thought.

If I can help create ritual space for "self-identified women" and be a priest/ess who simply cannot define the words "woman" or "man," if I can hold space as one who is not afraid of nor despises those who are not included, but wishes we could all celebrate together, if I can open up to the mysteries that reveal themselves in specifically-defined groups and see it as focus rather than denial, perhaps I can be of some benefit for the highest good.

Sometimes I'm not exactly a woman (what IS a woman?)

Richard
Jazzbo
Sam Alameda


However, I must say I've been giggling to myself because I knew that at least one of the participants at Saturday's ritual is totally out as genderqueer, and I wondered if that meant that the room wasn't 100% "woman" after all? And besides, I would say genderqueer describes me better than any other gender term. So what is happening to our "self-identified women only" space? Where do we draw the line when a line may not exist?


(It is important to note that this is by no means the beginning of this questioning conversation— among the greater pagan community and certainly among the members of CAYA Coven)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Reflection Paper #2: Working the Process

My monthly musings on the lessons of the Ministerial Training Program—an unpolished ramble straight from the heart that I turn in to the admin, my mentor, and post on my class Yahoo! group. Yeah, I'm feeling pretty transparent and accountable these days.

The Power of Humility: Choosing Peace Over Conflict in Relationships; Charles L. Whitfield, MD, Barbara H Whitfield, RT, CMT, Russell Park, PhD, Jeneane Prevatt, PhD


Instructor— Russell Park

Grandmother—Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance; Oglala Lakota



I’m laughing a little at myself, in a good-natured way, as I reflect upon the somewhat mad scramble of my initial attempts to “work the process” of this program. Navigating various facets of virtual and remote communication tools and techniques in this context is a new experience for me. One meaning of humility is a willingness to learn.



It feels like I’ve been blindfolded and am being led on a trust walk into an invisible school. So the deepest connections I feel with the community are when I am practicing the daily prayers and practices. After the first day of telling myself “This is a dream,” I had vivid, lucid dreams of an enormous school in a beautiful, ancient building surrounded by sky. It seemed I could never explore the vast extent of this school, yet wherever I went I would be recognized and welcomed. It felt wonderful.



The most useful practice from this module has been identifying moments I veer into blame, judgment or guilt. The increased awareness has led to sensing the slightest whiff of these Triangle 1, victim-based attitudes, and I’ve been able to remind myself I have options, and find my way into the co-committed attitude of Triangle 2. The concise descriptions of direct communication were very helpful here.



The practice that I find myself resisting is teaching and learning through story-telling, especially when I’ve heard the story before. This is difficult for me to admit because I love stories, and my identity is very attached to being a person who is known to love stories. So I laugh gently at myself again, and nod at the courage to be honest here. The fact is, I crave facts. I want to rush to the point and check the task off my list. It’s a form of spiritual materialism, I suppose. Somewhere in this training, maybe in the Grandmothers module, I think it was said that stories are told over and over until they are absorbed into your being. You don’t ask questions, you wait for the answers to unfold. Only we’re encouraged to ask questions, as well. Our learning is steeped in paradox, so it’s best to keep the sense of humor handy!



This reminds me of Russell’s statement that “challenges become tests” and the tests will be repeated over and over as we transcend old patterns. I liked how he said, “Don’t fear you’re falling backwards,” as it has comforted me when I wondered why I seemed to be regressing instead of advancing. To fall back a bit becomes the opportunity to develop the witness, and to observe the choices I’ve made before, and the options that are more perceptible at this time.



Grandmother Beatrice most definitely loves her stories, and so do I. I see how her life directly informs her practice. Our job isn’t to lead others but to cooperate with each other. Her prayer is so clearly a spontaneous expression of the heart. She speaks of humility as a deep respect for the Creator, as a way of showing gratitude and appreciation for our lives.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Required Reading, continued

Chapters 4-7 of Coven Craft are concerned with the issues and logistics of joining a coven or creating one of your own. I tremble with excitement when I read lists of tips and tools, like when I was a kid and would spend hours furnishing my dream home. This section of the book offers practical advice, such as what to watch for and beware of in potential covenmates. The chapter on step-by-step instructions for organizing a coven from scratch gave me much insight into the structure of my own coven. Amber K is deliciously thorough in the varieties of considerations to discuss with covenmates, from agenda topics to negotiating a rental space. There's even a full description of how to create an astral temple. The Internet has outdated some of the networking tools since this 2003 edition, yet it is still a introduction to this process that any student of the Craft could appreciate. I would definitely refer to this book if I were helping facilitate the formation of a coven.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Reflection Paper #1: The Grandmother Archetype

 At the end of every month —or "module"— of the CSS program, we are asked to turn in a 500-word Reflection Paper that captures the essence of our thoughts and practices based on the required reading, the conference call, and any teachings or assignments received by the instructors. We are not asked to polish up a finely crafted essay—simply to write from the heart. It feels a bit awkward for me, with a tendency to withhold anything that doesn't seem "perfect" (or at least "mind-blowing"), however I think it's wonderful practice for being fully present as my authentic self.

This month, we read Grandmothers Council the World: Women Elders Offer Their Vision for Our Planet by Carol Schaefer. No instruction other than the introductory conference call, so this is what I wrote:

The immediate feeling I sense is humility and gratitude to be on this path. Grandmother love is unconditional, with infinite compassion for all beings. It was the loving presence of an energy I call Granny that led me to this training, and I know that under her protection, I cannot fail. I offer my reflections with an open heart full of curiosity and trust. I offer my words in the hope that it may be of benefit for all beings.

Reading the personal histories of the women who came together to sit on the Council showed me so many ways to hear the call, to resist and struggle, and to finally accept one’s place in our grand dance with the Divine. For many years I’d felt like I missed out because I didn’t learn traditional ways from my own grandmother, that I didn’t even grow up in any particular religious practice to embrace or reject. Worrying that I have had to patch together some personal practice out of whatever clues I find along my way, I’ve struggled with the self-confidence to let my own expression shine. To learn that some of the Grandmothers rejected and resisted their calling for even longer and to more extremes than I have was a surprise that both comforted and encouraged me. To learn about the varied paths that converged into one voice of unconditional love and healing thrills me.

It is through our willingness to show up and reveal our complete, authentic selves— no matter how far from an ideal we may think we fall— that we have an opportunity to look past the conditioning that has made so many feel unworthy of standing up or speaking up for what we value. The diseased culture of “perfection” that has led civilization away from our gloriously wild and potent roots is, ultimately, unsustainable. That’s the bad news AND the good news. The many prophecies referred to in the book speak of an urgency to take action to change the direction of the world’s energies in a small window of TimeSpace. I sense that every heart that joins the Great Turning somehow widens that space, allowing more and more people to discover and appreciate this opportunity.

Although I am a passionate supporter of women’s power in the world, and recognize the need to address the particulars of women’s ways in the world media, I feel it is drastically important to offer more guidance to the masculine-identified than the message I often see, even in this book; “Men need to move aside and let the women take over.” When one of the men in the MTP program said at first he wasn’t sure men were allowed to participate, it reminded me of how unwelcome the male-identified can feel in these changing times. My own work with my family and my ancestors has shown me that this is a particular challenge for me to confront, and I hope to develop skills of inclusiveness that encourage enthusiastic participation amongst all types in the gorgeous diversity of life.

PS: I forgot to include that reading about the Grandmothers inspired a part of my daily practice, in which I smudge with sage a picture of the Council and name the Grandmothers and their origins and achievements, one-by-one, thanking them for inspiring me to follow in their spirit. This action of appreciation helps me feel connected to a greater community of spirit and intention.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Another Embarcation

Well into my second year of Public Priest/ess training with CAYA Coven, I have now begun a second two-year spiritual course— The Ministerial Training Program offered by the Center for Sacred Studies. My main attraction to this program is the direct access to the wisdom and practices of The International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, as well as deeper studies into Indigenous traditions from around the world. The classes are mostly remote, with conference calls, one-on-one calls, and an annual retreat peppered throughout an enormous amount of personal time reading and writing and practicing the assignments given by each module's instructor.

At the Grandmother's gathering in Montana last year, I spoke with several students in various points of the program, from just starting to just graduated. I discerned that this was a challenging journey—more than one likened it to graduate school—and well worth the effort. When it is completed, I will be ordained as a Minister of Walking Prayer, a title that intrigues and delights me.

Last week, the class of 2015 had our first conference calls with the CSS administrators. I'd never been on the phone with dozens of people before! After a beautiful opening prayer by the spiritual director, we introduced ourselves, one by one. It took almost two hours over the course of two seperate calls, even with a two-minute time limit. What an ecclectic group, with members from Alaska to Switzerland, ages ranging from twenties to sixties and up, many spiritual backgrounds and reasons for joining the program. Some had to fundraise for tuition, some are raising babies, some are enjoying grandchildren, some are running businesses. We are mostly strangers now, yet are assured by the instructors that by the time we meet for our first retreat in May, we will feel like family.

I am hoping that these two training programs will complement one another, rather than detract or distract. Currently, I am in a position to devote most of my time to studying and practicing and devoting myself to service in my communities. I have long wondered what would be the most benefical endeavor to pursue in my oddball life, and as soon as I put my trust in pursuing a spiritual path, everything has been flowing gracefully. Gifts and opportunities meet me at every turn, and when I say yes, the lessons and rewards have been most decidedly phenomenal. In the most delightful way!

So keep a lookout for further posts in this track, to be labeled "MTP." I am eager to discover the wonders, myself.

Two Times Become One

As our first of our four required reading books, my Hive read Chosen By The Spirits by Mongolian Shaman, teacher, and activist Sarangerel. During the class discussion, our teacher told us she'd wanted to show us the roots of our pagan practice through an unfamiliar lense so that we might observe it in a fresh way. And though the words for the tools and practices and deities are unpronouncable, I recognized the drum and incense, the casting of the circle, calling of the directions, and a relationship with a panthean quite familiar to my own experiences as a Witch.

Since the delightful book was so attractive to my best friend, who absconded with it last week, I don't have the copy in front of me. So I shall have to review it from my scattered memory. Which is a good practice for understanding what was an oral tradition— until the persecution and decimation of shamanic cultures forced people to preserve some of the wisdom in written form.

What impressed me immediately about the writing was its plainspoken and encouraging voice. Sarangerel—who was born to a Mongolian family in the US—shares with the ease and generosity of an Auntie teaching you how to bake cookies. "Of course you can do it! Just pour in the milk and stir with a wooden spoon three times clockwise," could just as easily have been a line in the book as any others in there. She doesn't pretend it doesn't take years to master the skills, yet she doesn't withold the practice as mysterious and off-limits. She believes that if you're curious enough to be reading the book, you probably have a Shamanic calling.

The book offers practical descriptions of rituals, trance journeys, and divination methods—just enough to get you going, and always with the reminder that every Shaman has a unique experience, so don't worry if it doesn't match what anyone else reports. Like so many of my favorite teachers, Sarangerel asks the student to seek and try and learn and know from their own personal experience, rather than the swallow-and-regurgitate methods so popular these days.

I think the most fascinating section was about several traditional divination techniques. I am inspired to create my own sets of tools, especially one method that involves assembling an assortment of little rocks into three clusters that represent the person and the spirits affecting her. I love the idea of making magickal tools out of found objects, of recognizing spirit in something one encounters while wandering through life. I've been collecting little doodads for decades, and perhaps a Shaman's kit is already in my possession, just needing to be recognized as such!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Public Service Message

Another track of my Initiation year is that of learning about CAYA's actions in the realm of public service. Last Saturday I joined a group representing our coven in a day of gardening at City Slicker Farms in Oakland, an organization that offers free produce to the neighborhood. To clearly understand how this is meaningful to the role of a Priest/ess, it is helpful to ponder the meaning of service itself.

When I was a young lass dreaming of being a Witch, my images ran along a decidedly fairy tale theme gathered from fairy tales and Hallowe'en. A Witch had a gingerbread house, a magic wand, a cauldron, a black cat and a long, pointed hat. But what did a Witch DO? She rode a broom, she mixed icky concoctions, she sang strange words under the moonlight, she (always she) captured and imprisoned little kids to prepare for supper.

Now, I really didn't GET any of these actions. Most of them might be fun once in awhile, but as the whole agenda, it did not attract me. Brooms seemed like an uncomfortable mount. So why did I long to be a Witch? That is something I'm still learning, but I have some ideas…

Somewhere in the tales I've heard over the years, I started noticing that when things looked grim for the hero/ine, it was the well-timed appearance of an unusual person that turned the tide. Whether a flitting pixie with a secret word or a smiling fairy godmother waving a sparkly wand or an old lady with magic beans— or even an old tinkerer gentleman, a bold dwarf (always a he) or a flute-playing tramp— if this person had not appeared, the story would not be worth telling. This outsider had something the hero/ine needed, and often the only true payment they asked was some form of noble behavior on the part of their clueless client. They might demand a coin or some other treasured object, but it was really the spiritual growth of the hero/ine with which they were concerned. If the protaganist #%!@ed it up, a punishing price would be extracted, motivating the young fool to get the clue they lacked. What might have seemed fierce, or even cruel, turns out to be an act of love. The strange outsider is the one who holds the mirror to the seeker.

In this exchange, I see the roles of teacher/student, mentor/apprentice, Priest/ess/Initiate. This is one of the many services an ordained member of the clergy performs. To be a Priest/ess is to be of service. In my understanding, service is an action taken not for any form of obligation or personal reward, but for a higher good.

Some service is quite tangible—taking out the recycling after a ritual.
Some service is a bit more abstract—coordinating the meeting time and place for a rehearsal.
Some services may seem odd to outsiders but fit the expected job description—preparing offerings for a deity.

Then there are actions which contain layers of service. Volunteering in a community garden performs the direct service of facilitating food production, AND it also presents Pagan Priest/esses to that community as regular folks who wish to contribute to their well being.

In the storybooks it is dramatic to present the Witch as a kooky spooky outsider, however in practice it is more helpful to make oneself approachable to the public one serves.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Walking the Labyrinth

Leaving my old life behind and stepping onto the path of the Priest/ess. December 2010. (Photo by Adrienne A)
Today I happened to find this photo from the time my life was going through its most intense shedding phase. It felt bigger than death to me. I had questioned every part of my identity and let go of it all, wondering what would form from the nothingness I felt. What came then was a memory of wandering in the forest when I was five. I knew back then that I was a Priest/ess and that magick was everywhere, though I wouldn't have used those words—or any words—for it at the time. Around Winter Solstice, some friends from Lopez Island came to visit and we discovered the labyrinth at Land's End. I had never seen it before. I look at this photo and I can feel the uncertainty, the grief, the fear, and hidden deep inside, the seed of faith ready to open within me.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Inspiring Sun and the Nurturing Earth

The text for the Bardic Activity I wrote for CAYA's Equinox of Joyful Vows:

Earth moves slowly in a circle. Sun dances at the center, rotating slowly to always face the earth.
Earth speaks:

The earth rolls over and something feels different. Clouds gather to discuss possibilities and joyfully release their rain onto the thirsty earth. The snow begins to melt. This sends the rivers shouting gleefully down the mountainsides. Curious seeds pokes their heads out out of their sleeping bags, "What's up? What's happening?" A great bird swoops down from above and lands on a branch bursting with buds. While down below, a glimmering snake wriggles through the daffodils making them laugh in the breeze. All of life yearning to behold this golden monarch who approaches. To touch and be touched by warm fingers of light.

Earth to Sun: Where have you been? It was so cold while you were gone.
Sun to Earth: I’ve been here all along. It is you who drifted away into your dark dreams.
Earth: It seemed you drifted further and further a little each day, and the darkness made me feel so sleepy.
Sun: I could not stop your wandering.
Earth: I wondered if you still cared.
Sun: I wonder what secrets you keep from me when you are so far away.
Earth: I withhold nothing from you.
Sun: I watched you swirling, tossing your leaves in the wind. You looked so beautiful and small, shivering in your snowy mantle.
Earth: Why didn’t you follow?
Sun: You know I cannot leave my post.
Earth: Were you afraid to lose me forever?
Sun: I knew you’d swing back my way.
Earth: How did you know?
Sun: That’s how we dance, my friend.
Earth: We’ve done this before?
Sun: We’ll do it again.
Earth: I must forget each time, because I would swear this is the first day ever. Doesn't everything seem fresh and bright and new? See the little lambs hopping like popcorn on the green fields. And the swarms of bees buzzing in the trees. It's hard to believe that anything had ever existed before today.
Sun: I love the look of surprise when my rays awaken you. I love the way you blush with cherry blossoms.
Earth: I wasn’t really asleep. I kept one eye on you.
Sun: Let us dance together, you fertile beauty!
Earth: I can't resist! You dance divinely, glorious one!

They dance together a moment, bow, and move on…

Around & Around, Inside Out

Part of my Priest/ess training in CAYA involves participating in the planning and conducting of several public rituals throughout the year. Last night I made my debut in "Center Stage" (as one of the High Priests put it). The past two weeks have been an intense, challenging, and supremely rewarding experience that culminated in DOING that which before I had only read or thought or talked about— I presided before a congregation in sacred space.

The Equinox of Joyful Vows celebrated both the point in the solar year where the sun and earth meet between the Solstices and also the ordination of our newest clergy members. The theme of the sun's apparent return (and earth's actual return) to a place of equal light and dark comingled with themes of emerging from a way of being that no longer fits. This is the reign of the ascending sun, the time of spring busting out of winter's cocoon. These themes of migration and shedding were woven throughout the ritual, symbolized by the spirits of Bird and Snake, two creatures of change.

One big CAYA lesson I learned is that if you open your mouth during a planning meeting, you're going to be doing something about it. Having been a solitary practitioner for most of my life, I was startled to discover that my bright ideas were not only appreciated by the coordinating clergy members, but I was now in charge of manifesting them! Before I knew it, I had signed up to provide a Bardic Activity about The Inspiring Sun and The Nurturing Earth. I barely even understood what was meant by "Bardic Activity," but it was explained that I was to tell a story, a poem, a song or dance in honor of the Divine energies we had called into our Circle— in this case, Bird and Snake. To say I was nervous about undertaking such an important part of the ritual is a big, juicy understatement.

Next, the committee decided we needed an appropriate song for the Deity Activity, which was to be Bird and Snake blessings for any congregants who so desired to receive them. The coordinating High Priest/ess suggested that maybe we could write one. I mentioned that sometimes songs "come to me," and probably this would happen as I drove home over the bridge that night. And surely enough one did! The committee agreed it was just right. It felt amazing to have this strange little gift of mine so appreciated.

Another challenge was the fact that the Bardic Activity I wrote involved working with a member of the clergy that I wouldn't be able to rehearse with until right before the ritual. I knew she was a dancer, and so I envisioned her as The Inspiring Sun dancing in the center of my orbit as the Nurturing Earth, and I kept the dialogue brief. Years of theatre experience had led me to depend on rehearsing before a performance, however I was beginning to recognize important differences between a rehearsed performance and a sacred ritual. In a sacred space, the Priest/ess opens up to the Divine energies and lets them come through as they will. So I decided to trust that once we were between the worlds, everything would unfold as it should.

And this brings me to the meaning of Perfect Love and Perfect Trust, for that is what I clearly experienced during the ritual. We had gathered our tools and altar items, adorned ourselves in ritual finery, went over the outline— but once the circle was cast, something else took over. It felt like we had all surrendered our egos and control to the Divinity we celebrated. As I spoke to the congregation, I felt the Perfect Love and Perfect Trust of the clergy beaming at me, supporting me in this moment of my Foolish leap off the cliff of my solitude. I looked into their eyes and saw delight and wonder and respect.

I did have one major Public Priest/ess Pop Quiz surprise. The very moment I stepped before the congregation, I looked out and recognized someone from my past in the back row. Someone I hadn't seen in years. OK, it was an ex. One wobbly wave of awkwardness went through me, and then I felt that Perfect Love and Perfect Trust stabilize me again. I was here to honor the Divine, to serve this community—including my ex. I had no control over who came to this public ritual. In fact, I welcomed all who attended. It even made me smile a little that the Divine had offered this test of my skills. Verdict: I got lots of work to do, but I did pretty good.

The high point for me was hearing dozens of voices singing the "Bird/Snake" song. High soaring harmonies and deep resonance I never could have sung by myself, and propelling rythms provided by our drummers. It took on a life of its own. I can still hear it in my memory.
The bird returns (around and around)
The snake emerges (inside out)

I haven't mentioned that I also taught a dance to the committee, that we had planned to do, in theory. In practice, the space was too small, so we had to improvise on the spot. I had already surrendered to the momentum of the ritual, and was delighting in the discoveries we were making together (although I do hope we have an opportunity to perform this dance outside or in a bigger space someday). A part of me was always "on the job," keeping one eye on the committee members and another on myself, making sure I was keeping up my end of the bargain. This was another Priest/ess lesson— the responsibility that alters the ritual experience. No longer was I able to drift off or lose focus, or goof off. Not that I'm prone to such behavior at public rituals, but my sense of accountablity had increased.

Meanwhile, my third eye was tuning into the swirling sparkling magick in the Circle, experiencing a deeper reverence than I ever had before. Service connects me deeper to my Here and Now than anything else I have tried. In service, I feel the embrace of the Divine, the kiss of the Goddess, the protection of the God, the allness of all.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Speaking of Witch

Immediately after posting the previous entry about the history of persecution Witches have endured, thinking that was all in the past, I heard about a recent incident of Witch-bashing on Fox News. The clergy of my coven composed this official response. Witnessing the collaborative and respectful process of creating this public statement inspired and deeply moved me. I love my coven!

Come As You Are Coven Responds to Prejudicial Comments on Fox Network
The Clergy of Come As You Are Coven, an Interfaith Pagan community in Northern California, take exception to the statements about Pagans and Wiccans made by Fox Network commentators Anna Kooiman, Clayton Morris, Tucker Carlson, and Tammy Bruce on-air Feb 17, 2013.  The inaccurate and slanted reporting and commentary permitted by the Fox Network on the topic of the recognition of Pagan and Wiccan holy days by the University of Missouri was an incident of egregious misinformation, lack of research, blatant sexism, religious prejudice, and personal invective.

The remarks made by these Fox Network hosts were especially irresponsible in light of the increasing diversity of religious tradition in America, where members of minority religions still struggle to establish equality and fair treatment in their schools, local governments, civic organizations, and communities.

Given the current politically divided climate, it is crucial for the media to hold a high standard of integrity and commitment to reporting fairly about the diverse cultures in this country and the countries with which the United States interacts. This is achieved through unbiased reporting, sensitive yet unemotional delivery of factual material, and thorough research to establish the verity of assertions made by reporters and commentators. The media has a responsibility to act with conscience and accountability in the selection and appropriate preparation of the individuals who are professionally tasked with informing large portions of the population.

In this case, accurate factual information about Pagan and Wiccan holidays is widely and readily available online, in libraries, in government
documents such as the US Army Chaplain’s Handbook, and in a number of state and district court cases where Wicca was specifically recognized as a religion protected under the First Amendment. There is no sufficient excuse for the gross misrepresentations allowed by Fox Network on Feb 17.

We request that this issue be addressed by Fox News Network via an immediate, prominent, on-air apology; significant on-air retraction of specific comments with factual corrections; visible dialogue with practicing Wiccans and Pagans conducted in a respectful manner; and appropriate commitment by the Network to providing the individuals responsible with a mandatory professional course of diversity training in religious and sex/gender sensitivity.

As an Interfaith Pagan organization that recognizes Wicca as a major influence, and that also recognizes the First Amendment right of each individual to choose a personally meaningful spiritual path, we denounce any efforts to undermine the sacred nature of any religion/practice, holy day, and/or celebration, especially but not limited to those growing, emerging, and/or marginalized religions/practices.

We applaud the University of Missouri’s sensitivity to the needs of its Pagan and Wiccan community members via recognition of their holy celebrations, and encourage other academic, government, and business institutions to include similar awareness of these holy days in their own administration and planning.

We support the varied and diverse efforts of the concerned individuals and groups who are bringing this issue to public attention and mobilizing Pagans and Wiccans to demand public accountability and fair resolution.


#####




The Clergy of CAYA Coven are each going to be sending this statement to the Fox Network and the FCC at the following addresses:

News Corporation
1211 Avenue of Americas, 8th Floor,NY, NY 10036

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554




If you like this language and it expresses your feelings well, feel free to adjust and use this for your personal or group purposes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Beginner's Mind

One of my favorite parts of learning is books. Acquiring them, reading them, marking them up. I am at least a third-generation marginaliaist. My mother's books looked like ravished parade floats when she tossed them aside for the next. Always the next. Well, there's that story about Joseph Campbell underlining books as meditation, and if that doesn't unfurrow your brow, I've done all I can.

The first book on my required-reading pile is Coven Craft by Amber K. According to my teacher, it's a somewhat dry and very practical book. We'll be reading and discussing three chapters for every monthly class. Even though our first class isn't until March 24, I dipped into it up to the end of chapter 3.

The preface and introduction simply outline the history of Witchcraft and explain what it is what it isn't, what it has been for the author, what it might be for the reader, what is a coven… I laughed as I caught myself trying to skim through quickly.

Yes, I've read some books on the subject. Yes, I think I know this already. AND…Yes, I want to cultivate that wide wonder of beginner's mind.

So I slowed down and read it. Wow, was Pope Innocent III a terror. The Inquisition never fails to turn my stomach. Maybe I do want to skip ahead. All I can do is say a prayer for tolerance and compassion. And thank the powers that be for my birth into the freedom I've enjoyed in this life.

Chapter One; "To Be a Witch," is for folks who skipped the preface and introduction. OK, it does elaborate on ethics, and that's a very fine place to start, though not as glamorous as the tools and trappings of Witchcraft. Which reminds me of a photography teacher I had as I began college, back in the 1980s. He asked the class, "What do you want to learn?" Us freshmen called out all the fancy tricks of filters and lenses and printing papers until he stopped us with, "How about learning to take a decent photo?" Oh, yeah.

Ethics, as I understand it, is basically about aligning yourself on all levels—thought, word, deed, spirit. Robin Wood's When, Why …If  decribes it as being personally accountable for your own choices and actions. Amber K agrees that it's up to each individual, and yes, it's a lot of work. It all comes back to Know Thyself. For me, that's a part of Daily Practice.

Chapter Two; "A Short History of the Coven," tells how the folk religions were forced into secrecy by the Roman Church's violent repressions and supplantations. Small groups, such as immediate families or very close friends, gathered in privacy to practice their beliefs, possibly attending the socially-approved churches in public. I am always fascinated by the clever techniques people used to disguise their ritual objects, such as a broom that is a magic staff or a pentacle made of wax that can be thrown into the fire.

Fairy tales, superstitions and other relics of folk life may be traces of the old religion. Or maybe they were created to ridicule the practice into the world of fantasy. Probably a bit of both, with a few odd bits from other sources. If I've learned anything, it's that life is constant mutation, which is why I always take any history with a dash of tamari.

Chapter Three; "The Gods and the Universe," addresses the varied cosmologies and pantheans of witchcraft, due to the fact that there is no central authority. I've heard if you ask three pagans to define paganism you'll get seven answers. Yep. The only general agreement I have found so far is that reality is much bigger than any one person can wrap their perceptions around. Each individual or group works with whatever fragments feel meaningful to their own practice. And other than some petty bickering, Witches usually keep it respectful and peaceful. We aren't trying to conquer or convert anyone.

Beginner's Mind helps me stay in the present, paying attention to the radiant resonance of the here and now that is the best guidance I can ever receive.

Bee here now.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Humility and Intention

I had an entirely different post halfway-written before I deleted it and changed the subject.

It is a challenge to find my voice in blogland. With such a personal and delicate subject as my spiritual practice, I'm keen to discern the line between "sharing interesting observations" and "trying to make an impression." (It took me several tries to craft that sentence, and I hope it makes sense.) One of the demons on any path of leadership is an inflated sense of self-importance. I hope to nip that in the bud by addressing it as I take my first steps in this direction.

It might help if I clarify my intention for this blog of shadows and reflections. As I am currently on a path of training to serve in public rituals, I desire to present my explorations and experiments out in the open. By keeping mindful of my public presence, I hope to cultivate the grace and dignity I would look for in any priestess.

So look for prayers here, and ideas. Look for research and questions and discussions of the books, songs, movies and adventures that nurture my growth. Look for stories and dreams and memories and hungry demons and  unexpected allies. I'd like to include helpful links for those curious to know more. I'd like to share generously without TMI. I heartily welcome all respectful comments, questions, and suggestions.

Looking at what I've just written, it seems so serious and cautious. Maybe I've avoided pursuing a leadership role because I was afraid to lose my sense of play? Maybe I should check out some playful role models, like His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Let my journey be dappled by sparkling light and dancing shadows.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Full Moon Room Service

Notes from a ritual conducted on January 26th:

"Love notes from the universe" continue to shower down on me as the many
fragments of my lessons mingle and form powerful patterns.

For deities, I decided to work with Skadi (SKAH-thee), the Norse giantess of the
snowy mountains, but of course I'm beginning to see that she chose to work with
me, too. (This came from a recent class assignment)

The full moon happened to come on the second night of a weekend in the
moderately-high altitude of Tempe, Arizona. The hotel was built into the side of
a giant rock! I felt Skadi's presence even in the cactusy desert. Why was I
there? My extended family had organized a financial seminar to learn about being
responsible stewards of our resources (yes, we are a unique family). I felt this
portended well for my coven's request to include Wealth Consciousness into the ritual.

The packed schedule of the seminar had a fortuitous window of time between 4 and
6:30 PM which I earmarked for this sacred practice. I had wanted to do the
ritual outside, on top of the "mountain", but rainy conditions and lack of
privacy decided that my room would be the place.

I wanted to put meat on the altar, for Skadi is a hunter. 30 minutes of
wandering the grounds, thinking I'd get some jerky at the the gift shop, or a
burger at the restaurant, but both were closed. I realized this was my way of
"hunting" for meat! Instead, I ordered room service meatloaf, and cast the
circle.

On my altar were a pair of scissors, to represent my version of "skis" (another
emblem of Skadi), a glass of water into which I placed ice cubes from the vending
room, and a book about the Runes (by Ralph Blum). (I have never worked with the
Runes before, and this book just leapt off of one of my bookshelves as I was
packing for my trip, right?) After invoking all of the assembly, I spoke the
requests for blessings of Wealth Consciousness for CAYA.

My activity was a meditational cutting of paper snowflakes out of pages from the
financial seminar binder. I had cut five when room service delivered the feast.
I placed a portion of food onto a plate for myself and poured red wine for the
blood of the hunt, toasted Skadi with a "Skol!" and conversed with her as I ate
my share. I learned a lot by listening to her.

To cast the runes, I added the numbers of the date and my room number to come to
the 11th Rune, Fehu; "Possessions, Nourishment, Cattle." Wow. You ever feel like
you just got zapped? "We are here to nourish God." I read the reversed too,
because Skadi rules the darkness and destruction. One definition of her name is
"Shadow." I read, "In dealing with the shadow side of Fehu, you have an
opportunity to recognize where your true nourishment lies." Ahhhh.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Transcultured

Having moved so much, growing up with a (possibly partially actual?) gypsy
mother with an untraceable heritage, and an appetite for all cultures, languages,
teachings, husbands, cuisines, churches, whatever! My paternal side is a pretty
big question mark beyond Swedish/Irish/Midwestern. I never felt a deep
connection with any particular place or people, and after losing my mother, I
didn't even have her roving vortex to cling to. I have often felt like a child
of the world and an orphan in the storm all at once.

Still, why does Chinese medicine resonate so well with me? Perhaps it is the
many trips to Chinatown SF when I was a kid. We'd stay in a residence hotel at
Grant & Broadway, mom would give me 50 bucks and tell me, "Stay on Grant
Street," then disappear into her adventures. So Chinatown was my babysitter, and
I never got in trouble there. I loved to wander the stores with such strange
smells and unexplainable objects. Now the bitter, musty reek of Chinese herbs
smell comforting and healing to me.

I felt safe in a situation that looks totally insane in hindsight. Perhaps Kuan
Yin was watching over me, after all. I feel I have some overdue gratitude to
offer my Chinese allies.