Ritual Calendar – September

Summer has gone by in a blur and whirl of activity, mostly of the mundane work variety.  It’s a good time to begin getting back on track with the ritual calendar (or at least post the current month!).  I’ve quite happily located my brainstorming notes on these, so I have some clue now where I was going with them.

 

September Ritual – A Reaping

Timing
  • Any time during the month. For me, this is a good one to coincide with the equinox, when I usually make a harvest  celebration meal.

Themes

  • Fruition
  • Harvest
  • Gratitude
Purpose
  • Recognize the work that has been done
  • Continue positive change
  • Express thanks for any assistance that might have been given
  • Honor the elements
Preparations
  • Gather supplies as needed.
  • Before beginning, look back at March’s ritual and recall what it was that you wanted to manifest at that time.
Ritual- Minimalist Version
  • Collect whatever fruits, leaves, flowers, seeds, etc.  that you can from the plant that you put into the ground in March.  Prepare them for storage over the coming months (press the flowers, dry the herbs, etc) as you contemplate the changes that you set out to make in March.  Reaffirm your commitment to make those changes.
Ritual- Full Version
  • Delineate ritual space as preferred around the plant that you sowed in spring.
  • Enter the ritual space and call upon any deities or other helpers that have assisted you in manifesting this change.  Express your gratitude as desired  through offerings, prayers, etc.
  • As you collect the parts of the plant that you wish to use, honor each of the elements:
    • Hold the plant  in your hand and say “With air, I have breathed life into you.”  Blow gently on the plant.
    • Touch the earth at the base of the plant, saying “With earth, I have rooted you.”
    • Hold the plant up toward the sun and say “With fire, I have guided you upward.”
    • Pour water over the plant while saying “With water, I have  nourished you.”
    • When all has been done, state over the harvested pieces “With spirit, I have changed you.”
  • Spend some time contemplating the ways in which your desired change has manifested itself.  If there is still work to be done, take a moment to petition for further assistance.
  • Offer thanks as appropriate.  As per your particular practice, break the ritual space and exit the area.
  • Dry, freeze, press, or otherwise store the harvested plant for future use.  If possible, find a way to utilize the harvested pieces during each of the next six months.

Modifications and Notes

  • As common sense is not always common practice, I think I should probably say that you’ve chosen to plant a potentially poisonous plant in spring (e.g., foxglove), harvesting and storing the plant is not recommended. This ritual can be done without removing the plant or its parts.
  • Using edible herbs or plants allows you to incorporate the harvest into dishes throughout the coming autumn and winter. Rosemary is my go-to plant for this ritual, as it is a). a symbol of remembrance (important to my personal path), b). easily dried and stored, and c). one of my favorite culinary herbs.
  • In the even that you did not do the March ritual or that your plant never came up or died (it happens, don’t read too much into it!),  you can substitute another plant you’ve sowed or, in a pinch, use a purchased plant.
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Ritual Calendar – March

I realize that it’s no longer March, but better late than never, right?

 

March Ritual – Seeds of Change

Timing
  • Any time during the month.  Note that this one requires a commitment to care for a plant over time.

Themes

  • Change
  • Growth
Purpose
  • Manifest growth
  • Create positive change
  • Honor the elements
Preparations
  • Gather supplies as needed. At minimum, seeds and water needed, along with a suitable location to plant the seeds.
  • Before beginning, determine what change is most needed and/or desired in your life over the long term.  This working takes time to manifest, so slow changes are usually best for this working.
Ritual- Minimalist Version
  • Plant seeds in an appropriate place while visualizing the change that you want to manifest.  Imagine the elements providing the seeds with the energy that they need to grow. Envision this change any time you water or feed the plant.
Ritual- Full Version
  • Delineate ritual space as preferred. Keep in mind that the space will need to contain the spot where the seeds are to be planted, so if sowing them directly into the ground, plan your ritual space accordingly.  Within the ritual space, place any garden tools you might need, the seeds, and a container of clear water.
  • Enter the ritual space and call upon any deities or other helpers that are appropriate to your path and/or the changes you wish to make.
  • Dig a hole in the ground (or pot) in preparation for planting.
  • Hold the seeds in your hand and say “With air, I breathe life into you.”  Blow gently on the seeds (take care that you don’t drop them).
  • Hold the seeds up toward the sun and say “With fire, I guide you upward.”  Place the seeds in the earth and cover them, saying “With earth, I root you.”  Pour water over the ground while saying “With water, I nourish you.”
  • When all has been done, state over the newly planted seeds “With spirit, I change you.”
  • Spend some time imaging the plant as it grows and changes and as it does, envision the changes that you wish to make manifesting themselves.
  • Offer thanks as appropriate.  As per your particular practice, break the ritual space and exit the area.
  • You’ll need to weed, feed, and water the plant regularly to provide energy to this working.  As you do this, you can speak the words “By earth and water, by air and fire, by spirit sealed, manifest the change I desire.”

Modifications and Notes

  • Using salt to mark out the ritual space boundaries is not recommended, as this can kill vegetation.
  • Plants should be chosen carefully and can be done by using magical correspondences.
  • If beginning a plant from seed isn’t feasible, this working can be done using a small plant and transplanting it into the ground or a new pot.

Ritual Calendar – February

I’m a bit behind on this one, so for the next few minutes, let’s just pretend that it’s still February, shall we?   I did an abbreviated variation on the minimalist version in the midst of having several people unexpectedly show up at my door, wanting solace from the grief of losing a friend.  It ended up being an improptu raising of our glasses in celebration of life as we sat on a sunlight patio.  Perrier isn’t my normal choice of water for this one, but it worked well on the fly.  Hopefully, next year, I can do the complete ritual.

February Ritual – Drinking in the Light

Timing
  • To be performed on a sunny day any time during the month.

Themes

  • Rejuvenation
  • Vitality
Purpose
  • Banishing the winter doldrums
  • Re-energizing in preparation for coming of spring
  • Shifting the balance away from the shadow/dark work of late fall and winter
Preparations
  • Gather supplies as needed. At minimum, water and a drinking glass/bowl are needed.
  • If doing full ritual, prep offerings.
Ritual- Minimalist Version
  • Fill glass/bowl with clean water.   Allow glass to sit in direct sunlight for as long as possible.  While the sun is still out, drink the water while envisioning that it carries the sunlight into you.  Imagine that the liquid light is filling you, banishing away the darkness that is no longer useful and illuminating you with radiant energy.  Give thanks as appropriate.
Ritual- Full Version
  • Dress for ritual by layering white clothing under black (black coat over white clothes is fine).  Alternatively, you can dress in black and go skyclad as the ritual progresses, but this may be a challenge in cold parts of the world.
  • Delineate ritual space as preferred. Within the space, place a bottle of clean fresh water, a drinking glass or bowl, one or more small candles to represent fire, offerings for patrons and/or sun deities (if desired), and an ignition source for candles.
  • Enter the ritual space and call upon any deities or other helpers that are appropriate to your path.  Petition for blessings as you fill the glass with water and hold it up to the sun. Set it down and allow the sunlight to reflect up on the water.
  • If making offerings, do so before proceeding.
  • Light candle(s) and focus your intent on burning away of that which no longer serves you. As the candles burn down, feel yourself being emptied of any negativity, any unnecessary darkness, and anything that does not serve you well.  As you do, shed the layer of black clothing.  Feel the emptiness within yourself as you proceed.  Do not try to fill this space as the candles continue to burn.
  • When the candles have completely burned out, pick up the water vessel and as appropriate, state your intent in doing this ritual. Drink the water and visualize the light filling the emptiness.  Feel yourself being energized as you do so.
  • Offer thanks as appropriate.  As per your particular practice, break the ritual space and exit the area.

Modifications and Notes

  • Colors and number of candles may be altered as appropriate for individual symbolism.  My choice is usually three candles – one each red, yellow, and orange.
  • Appropriate images may be included as candle carvings or drawn within the ritual space.
  • Your intent may vary as needed.  For me, it’s something to the effect of “I drink in the light that I may find my way through the darkness in which I must walk.”
  •  In reference to the phrase “unnecessary darkness”:  For those of us who do shadow work, keeping touch with the darkness within is important.  Be selective in how much you let go of based on your own workings and knowledge of self.

On Artifacts and Stories

I have had in my custody for the better part of twenty-five years a silver lighter case set with three stones – two turquoise and one coral.  I do not know where exactly it came from, how it was made, or what, if any, value it might actually have.  It dates, I think, to some time in the 1970’s and has certainly seen better days.  There are some dents along the bottom and there is wear from being repeatedly pushed and pulled from pockets during the decades prior to it coming to me.   I do not own this object, but merely am its caretaker.  It resides in its own designated space within my home and is treated to regular polishings.  I use it to light candles of remembrance, as I think that it is important that utilitarian objects be used as they were intended, not simply left to collect dust.

Why does this matter and why am I talking about a battered vintage lighter case on this blog?  Because as I polished the case this week, I realized that, without ever setting out to do so, I have developed a habit of collecting objects that were of value to people have passed away.  These objects tend to be utilitarian, well used, and have little monetary value.  I keep these things because they tell a part of the person’s story and thus preserve the memory of that person.  Without actually ever being directed to do so, I know that it is my job to pass these objects on with the stories of those people who owned them to others who will cherish the stories and keep the memories of those people alive.  It is a part of the work that She demands of me, this honoring of the dead and preserving the continuity of their memories.

As for that battered bit of silver, there is a story there, a history that needs to be preserved.  It speaks a tale of my mentor’s family – a story of a father who abandoned his family, of a lighter case that he owned because it reminded him of a piece of jewelry that his mother had worn years before, of a son whose only link to that absent father was an object accidentally left behind, and of the grandson who grew into adulthood without knowledge of his father’s family.  It is a story of loss and absence, but also of honoring and preserving links to those from which we came.  The case will someday belong to the original owner’s great grandson,  as will the story of his father’s family.  In the meantime, I am the keeper of that object and the guardian of a family history that is not my own, an unwitting preserver of artifacts and stories.

 

 

 

Getting Grounded (PBP Week 13)

Life is full of change and mine doubly so over the last few months.  I’ve realized that, amidst the changes, I’ve lost touch with any form of regular spiritual practice and ritual.  The best I’ve been able to manage is mentally muttering a half-prayer/half-mantra/half-rant* that goes something like this “Enough already. Enough. Enough. Enough. Of FFS, enough already. Just stop.” Somehow, I don’t think this particular mantra is going to get me brownie points with anyone and certainly hasn’t gotten me any closer to inner peace or enlightenment.  It hasn’t even managed to lower my blood pressure or reduce my stress.  As mantras and prayers go, it might just be a failure.

It is time to be grounded – in several senses of the word.  Most of the last few months have been spent in a constant state of heightened anxiety, one in which I felt separated from everything except the anxiety itself.  To say the least, this isn’t a physically, emotionally, or spiritually healthy state of being.  My initial goal is just to feel grounded again, to bring myself back into living moment by moment rather than fretting over what just happened or what might happen next.  Forget out-of-body experiences- what I really need right for the time being is some good in-body experiences, some moments of feeling whole again.

Exactly how I’m going to accomplish this has yet to be determined.   I know where I need to be, but haven’t quite figured out the best way to get there.  Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a Michelin map for this.  Nor are the answers at the bottom of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream – already checked there.  I think I’ll start by shutting off the computer and sitting outside in the sun for a bit.  With any luck, my brain will turn out to be solar-powered and start churning out some ideas of what to do next.

 

*Yes, I realize that there are more than two halves listed.  Can we just say that things have been so backwards that the sum of the parts has been greater than the whole?

Emptiness (PBP Week 9)

This post has been a couple of months in the making.  My notebook is filled with several false starts and lots of insubstantial scribblings.   I seem to go back and forth between two extremes – a). wanting to pour everything out in great detail and b). wanting to pretend that nothing has gone amiss.  Catharsis or Cleopatra (Queen of Denial, that is)… with very little room for anything in between.  I’m going to try again, one last time, to write this post and if I fail, I’m leaving it as is and moving on to something else.

I had been dealing with an increasingly toxic situation in my work life, one that was causing a good deal of anxiety, depression, and anger (and bitterness and outrage and distrust and lots of other potentially destructive feelings).  Earlier this year, I hit a wall quite suddenly and went into a complete shutdown.  I was marginally functional but not feeling anything at all.  I didn’t care that the work situation was deteriorating by the minute.  I stopped emotionally responding to everything, both good and bad.  I also stopped doing all but the minimal requirements for survival.  For the first time in my entire life, I forgot to eat (my view on food is decidedly hobbit-ish) and to sleep. With depression, there has always been a feeling that I’m staring down into a dark chasm.  This was different.  There was no chasm, no supporting precipice on which to stand; there was simply emptiness and more emptiness.  Finally, in the emptiness, there was  a tiny spark of fear that things might continue like this indefinitely and a sense of self-preservation kicked in.  Things aren’t back to normal yet, but they are moving in that direction.

Once I moved past the “OMGs, how did I sink to this terrible place?” feelings that came when I started moving back toward normalcy, I realized that emptiness wasn’t such a terrible place to be.  In this case, it was a necessary and positive thing. The emotional disconnection allowed me to make the choice to remove myself from the toxic situation and to approach a new opportunity with humor and trust.   I’m sure there’s a pithy quote from some wise sage out there that says this better than I can, but here goes my best attempt at summarizing my point… there are times when what fills us is not to our benefit and must be drained away in order that something better can take its place.  Sometimes, emptiness is a necessary first step to filling our lives with what we want.

PBP Week 16 (Very Belated) – How To Be Spiritual When Stuck On A Hamster Wheel

A hamster and a hamster wheel

For those who have noticed my conspicuous absence in this space, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, just too busy with IRL concerns to give this blog the attention it deserves.   It’s been a period where forward movement seems to have stopped and I feel like I’m simply spinning the hamster wheel in circles instead of actually going anywhere. It’s spring, which means busy season in pretty much all aspects of my life.  Add to this a pending move and all of the accompanying madness and well, you get some idea of why that hamster wheel is squeaking so damn loud.  I keep running just to stay in place and not fall behind.

Years of observing myself in these spurts of busyness and activity have helped me notice that I experience a certain pattern of behavior in my spiritual life.  When things go explosively busy, I tend to temporarily drop much of my spiritual practices, in favor of the things that “have” to be done.  That’s right, I said that as if spiritual practice is a luxury rather than a necessity.  For at least couple of weeks every year, that’s exactly my mentality.  If I know my to-do list is longer than Methuselah’s beard, my mind-set tends to shift and I start questioning the necessity of all those little (and big) things that I do to stay in touch with my spiritual self.  Meditation goes out the window, as does time in the garden, along with daily prayers, and the hundred other little things that I do to stay connected.

After a few days or weeks of this blatant disregard for an entire side of my being, I tend to fall into a period of being blue (not quiet outright depression, but close enough to see it and know that it’s waiting for me to give in). In these times, I find myself seeking out the spiritual equivalent of comfort foods – sensations and experiences  that bring a sense of calm and well-being, that re-connects me to inner self and to the world around me.  Wanting to touch upon that part of my existence goes from being simply a minor wish to a constant gnawing presence.  I tend to want to swing the pendulum back entirely to the other side and work only on spiritual things, at the cost of everything else.

At some point during this process, I inevitably remember the lesson that I seem to constantly be retaught…. spiritual practice isn’t a hobby to done when there’s nothing else more pressing;  it needs to be a daily practice that allows me to better cope with all of those other pressing things that need to be done.   Instead of being something outside of my regular to-do lists, spiritual practices need become a part of those lists, done even when I think there are more important things to be accomplished.

Anyhow, that’s my very belated rambling for the letter “H” as part of the Pagan Blog Project.  Thanks for patiently waiting while I took care of all those other things that I thought had to be done first.  My plan, likely to be foiled by the nefarious villain that is ‘real life’, is to get caught up on the Pagan Blog Posts over the next couple of weeks.  In the meantime, if you hear a squeaking sound, it’s just me on that hamster wheel, trying to make some forward progress.