Posts Tagged ‘avalon blog’

Now, many groups are created online (or members find each other there), but just because we can find each other easier via the Internet doesn’t mean we’re any better at staying together.”

An excerpt from another throwback blog post. Read more about the ups and downs of building Pagan community today.

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Looking for more Samhain-related posts? Here’s some past posts: Honoring the Ancestors, Embracing the Wise Crone, and Herb or Rembrance, Herb of Samhain.  

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Happy Halloween and Blessed Samhain to all of you! It’s been a while since posting something other than the Halloween Oracle Card of the Day (on Facebook), but this time of the year always makes me want to get back to the keyboard.

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My Beloved Dead altar for 2016

Of course, I’m not alone and I’read many blog posts and articles about this beautiful season and what we learn from it. We see how others deal with loss, and Heron Michelle from Patheos wrote how we as Pagans should do more than honor and celebrate the dead but also prepare for own death even in practical ways. It’s an excellent and honest article.

I lost my Mom a little over two years ago, and I do know that Michelle’s words ring true as my Mom had taken care of everything for her funeral and burial except her head stone, which she always said she would leave for us kids to pick. When an undiagnosed liver disease finally became known, we had precious little time with her and it was a blessing to not also worry about her medical wishes, funeral expenses and so forth. Planning all of that years ago was a gift my mother may not have even realized she was giving.

However, I my biggest Samhain lesson from losing the most important person in my life is this: Don’t wait to live the life you want.

Mom was one of those who worked hard at underpaid and underappreciated jobs all her life. She raised four kids and showed great resourcefulness in keeping us fed, clothed, and sheltered on a tight budget. Even after retirement, she had to work to make due. With undiagnosed illnesses (for him, it was dementia) affecting their personalities, my mom and stepdad divorced when she was in her late 60s. What little savings they had was split. They had to lower the price of their home to sell it, losing money in the process. Her last year was stressful as her tight budget, her medical issues, and mental confusion combined to make life very difficult, even with three daughters hovering over her.

Mom’s “golden years” had become pretty tarnished. All her life she had planned to travel and relax in retirement – that dream mocked her as she struggled to get by.

Sadly, I see so many people go through this same thing. They focus all their energy on work or professional goals or doing the things they “ought” to do, thinking they can work on their real dreams or just take time for themselves later. So many have their retirement dreams cut short illness. For others, it’s financial surprises that ruin their plans. The fact is that even careful planning can be for naught in some situations. We simply don’t control as much of what happens to us as we think.

It reminds me of a picture I once took where a sign warned about falling rocks, but a log was falling in the background instead. Life is like this: prepare for one thing and something different will happen.

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And as I put up my Beloved Dead altar every year, I’m reminded of this lesson.

This is why I don’t work overtime. Yes, I have what many consider a good job, but the fact is that the company really cares more about its bottom line than it does about me. And while it’s a good job, it’s not exactly a dream job. So I’d rather spend my extra time for me or with the ones I love.

This is also why I saved some of the insurance money leftover from Mom’s final expenses to travel to Ireland next year. We have some Irish heritage, so I know my Mom would have approved – but it’s the place I’ve longed to go to for the longest time.

This is why I allow myself the really good chocolate and time to write.

This is why I took up an old hobby that brings me joy.

It’s why I try to focus on smiling and laughing with friends and family rather than getting too involved with things that bring a lot of unneeded stress.

Many Pagans quote the “live in the moment” philosophy and yet are often as bad as the rest of Westerners about taking time for themselves and honoring their real life goals and dreams. We are not immune to the disease of just getting by or wasting time on things that don’t fulfill us.

No matter who we are, the fact is that life is much shorter than what we imagine. Let’s not waste it.

Blessings!

 

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Healing is often talked about in Pagan or New Age communities but often any purposeful action behind the words is missing. Sometimes, we all need a little extra help in becoming healthy – whether it’s physical, mental, or spiritual health in need. This ritual is an excellent tool to give the participants some extra healing energy while also helping to refocus their minds on what they need to heal.

Ritual Premise

I’ve recently mentioned the Irish goddess of herbalism, Airmid. The idea is to invoke the spirits of Airmid and her brother Miach to help send healing energies to ritual participants. I considered writing a short post just about Airmid for anyone unfamiliar with the goddess/faery healer, but I decided that it would be difficult to beat the classic essay by Erynn Rowan Laurie from Issue 25 of Sagewoman. Click here to read it.

An herbal healer as shown in the Druid Plant Oracle deck. Image copyright – Will Worthington.

An herbal healer as shown in the Druid Plant Oracle deck. Image copyright – Will Worthington.

Attendees bring a sprig of fresh herb or small sachet of dried herb, taking turns explaining what the herb’s use is spiritually and physically, and then sews it onto the cloak that is on the center table. When the herbs have been sewn on and the cloak blessed, the cloak is used to direct healing energies to the participants.

After this, you can add a seasonal celebration before the cakes and ale if doing this at a sabbat. I often do this at Midsummer and honor the Sun with a game of roll-the-hoop or something similar within the ritual circle.

A Note About Scripted Rituals

I’m not fond of scripted rituals. I prefer that participants know the outline and concepts behind the ritual and simply deliver the words that feel right at the moment. The following ritual does provide wording for different things, but feel free to just read it, learn the gist of it, and present it in a way you enjoy and makes you comfortable. 

Preparation

Set up a ritual table in the center of the circle that is clear of all objects except a needle, thread, and snips or small scissors. You can place the cloak on the ground and sew the herbs on that way, but a table makes it easier, especially if your knees aren’t what they used to be. Another table should be set up on the edge of the circle for a chalice or small cauldron with whatever you use as holy water, smudge, god & goddess or elemental items/offering plate, and cakes and ale.

Cleanse the space with your preferred method. I typically sain the area by sprinkling what I consider holy water: moon-charged water with 9 drops of Chalice Well water added in.

The ritual leader can conduct the entire ritual by his or herself, or split into two parts for a high priest and priestess. You can assign parts to others as desired, particularly the quarter calls. If you have a great storyteller in your group, you may assign them the task of learning and telling the story. Another possibility for a group with at least four people comfortable with acting out sacred drama is to act out the story of the physicians, with roles for Airmid, Miach, Dian Cecht, and Nuada. As I’ve discussed before, sacred drama can make a ritual amazing.

The Ritual

Smudge participants and enter into the circle as normal. Use these simple quarter calls or whatever ones you prefer – depending on who is in the ritual, I will sometimes substitute quarter calls with honoring the Realms of Land, Sea, and Sky from the Celtic cosmology.

Air (east): I call to the spirit of Air, breath from the east.

Fire (south): I call to the spirit of Fire, energy from the south.

Water (west): I call to the spirit of Water, blood from the west.

Earth (north): I call to the spirit of Earth, flesh from the north.

If you wish, you can add the common chant, “Earth my body,” at this time, doing it multiple times to build the energy.

Now, tell the story of the Physicians of the Tuatha de Danann:

The Physicians’ Story

Here the facilitator summarizes the story of the physicians as desired. See the last blog post to learn the story.

After the story is finished, call Miach and Airmid:

Ritual Facilitator: I ask that the spirit of Miach join us in our circle. May his selflessness and desire to heal and be healed be reflected those here today. May his wisdom and skill be infused into this world for the healing of all. So mote it be.

Ritual Facilitator: I ask that the spirit of Airmid join us in our circle. May her desire to harvest and to sow healing wisdom be shared among those here today. May we continue to learn her healing secrets so her tears are not wasted. So mote it be.

Ritual Facilitator: Now, we will take turns stepping forward to share our own herbal knowledge and to imbue this cloak with healing power.

Participants take turns stepping forward, explaining their herb’s powers, and sewing it on. It is a good idea for one of the ritual organizers to start this off to help others be more comfortable in knowing what to do. An example is,“I bring plantain, a wild-growing herb good for healing the skin and small wounds.” After all the herbs are sewn onto the cloak, dedicate the cloak.

Ritual Facilitator: Now that we have brought forward all the healing herbs available to us, we will now dedicate this cloak to healing. Though we do not have their healing well, we will sprinkle holy waters from this sacred chalice onto the cloak.

Facilitator takes the chalice and sprinkles water from it onto the cloak.

Ritual Facilitator: We will now use the healing charm of the physicians of the Tuatha de Danann:

ALL:

Bone to bone

Vein to vein

Balm to Balm

 

Sap to Sap

Skin to skin

Tissue to tissue

 

Blood to blood

Flesh to flesh

Sinew to sinew

 

Marrow to marrow

Pith to pith

Fat to fat

 

Membrane to membrane

Fibre to fibre

Moisture to moisture

Ritual Facilitator: May this simple cloak be imbued with the healing power of Airmid and Miach so that it may facilitate healing for us all. Now, I will bring the cloak to each of you and place it around your shoulders. When you are done receiving the energies, remove the cloak and return it to me.

Go around the circle and put cloak on attendees one at a time, keeping your focus on the healing for each individual. Sometimes it will be physical healing they desire, but other times a spiritual or mental healing – try to be grounded and supportive in your energies as you take the cloak around the circle.

After you’ve gone all around the circle, you can add a chant or toning that you feel focuses on healing – or use sound vibrations like that from singing bowls or gongs, which are becoming better known for healing work. I was trained to use a toning that goes: E-A, E-A, E-O. Each vowel is toned individually and held for a long as possible. You can use anything you wish.

At this time if you want to do a seasonal observance, do so.  

To help reground the circle, distribute the cakes and ale with the traditional blessings of “May you never hunger” and “May you never thirst.” Start to close the circle by thanking Miach and Airmed:

Ritual Facilitator: We thank the spirit of Miach for joining us. May his story continue to inspire us on our healing journey. Blessed be!

Ritual Facilitator: We thank the spirit of Airmid for joining us. May her wisdom and dedication to healing continue in us. Blessed be!

Air (east): We thank the spirit of Air, for breathing new life into us. Blessed be!

Fire (south): We thank the spirit of Fire, for re-energizing us. Blessed be!

Water (west): We thank the spirit of Water, for cleansing us. Blessed be!

Earth (north): We thank the spirit of Earth, for regrounding us. Blessed be!

ALL:

“May the Circle be Open” chant to close

 

Well, that’s it. If I’ve left out anything or if you have questions, feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll answer a soon as possible. As we are between the Vernal Equinox and Beltaine, we are heading into prime time for this ritual, though it could easily be done through early fall in most regions.

Until next time, blessings!

Thistle

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I never knew 19 years ago that someday having a stockpile of herbal tinctures would make me feel witchy.

I never knew 19 years ago that someday having a stockpile of herbal tinctures would make me feel witchy.

I’ve become one of them.

Them. The older Pagans and Witches that I remember from my early days on the Pagan path. Those that would nod encouragingly but with a smile hiding at the corners of their mouths as I relayed my early endeavors with the elements, meditation, and such. They were always supportive, but now I understand the smile tugging at the corners.

Meeting folks new (or old) to the path is always a pleasure – we are always eager to share what we’ve learned with others and trade suggestions. But after almost 20 years, I’ve heard those same early experiences so many times that I can’t help but smile a little now too. But like the elders I looked up to, I wouldn’t dare act like it’s not a big deal because it is a big deal.

Some recent experiences like this made me think of the evolution of witchy-ness that I and many folks that I know have experienced. Anybody else remember when they were a bright and shiny witch or pagan? That giddy feeling from buying the first few books or magazines? That so-anxious-you-might-puke sensation at your first ritual?

I remember when getting a subscription to Sagewoman magazine felt like a big deal, and being given a tarot deck was HUGE (yet kept hidden in case my mother saw it during a visit). Over time, things became more elaborate and my above-average memory came in handy to remember the order of a ritual as well as the chants, the correspondences of herbs and stones, and folklore and mythology.

As the years went by and ritual participation moved into ritual writing and leading classes, what also made me feel witchy changed quite a bit. As experiences became more richly woven, they often became more complicated as well. After a few years, I found myself wanting to focus more on building my own knowledge of applicable skills like herbalism and sustainable living. To strip away the excessive elements of the practice and be creative in a different way. I made a few teas, soaps, infused oils, and bee’s wax lotion bars as I started to experiment.

A year and a half ago, I started taking herbal classes, most of them lead by an herbalist from The Golden Light Center in Missouri, and this expanded my knowledge and confidence in using herbs more than traditional spell work ever did.

Harvesting my own herbs – like this chickweed – for herbal tinctures and tonics has proven rewarding.

Harvesting my own herbs – like this chickweed – for herbal tinctures and tonics has proven rewarding.

Last summer and fall, I concocted more than a dozen different tinctures and glycerites, a few of them even from carefully wildcrafted plant materials. There was lemon verbena and mint glycerites for upset tummies, Japanese knot weed tincture for Lyme’s disease prevention and treatment, horny goat weed tincture for those certain performance problems, and even mimosa tincture for dealing with mild depression. And as I started to share and trade these with friends, I found myself feeling more witchy than I ever had before. I felt a connection to those who came before me and used their knowledge – whether it was knowing the magic of herbal healing or using herbs magically (or other items and skills).

Looking back at this, I think it is similar to learning how to draw realistically before going into abstract art – learning to use herbs for physical health feels like a foundation for magical use of herbs, if that makes any sense at all.

Even months later, when I look into my magic cabinet where I now keep the herbal medicine along with my assortment of candles, crystals, and other items, I feel a creative spark and a power I’ve never known before. Of course, I’ve felt connected to the Irish fae/goddess Airmid for years, but now that connection is forged by action and not just an ideal. Now, reading the charm, “bone to bone, vein to vein, balm to balm” takes on yet another layer of meaning – the passing on of knowledge from one person to another. To heal using nature’s divine bounty, just like that dutiful goddess tried to even when her father’s ego got in the way.

Usually, I have a good idea of where a post is going when I start it. Not so with this one. Perhaps it’s to see if others out there have had their own evolution of witchy-ness. Maybe it’s just to give beginners an idea of why the elders sometimes look amused  – or just to remind the elders not to feel superior just because their beginning lessons were 20, 30, or more years ago. We all must break down and analyze our practices now and again, starting anew to some degree. Any well-lived life is an evolution of sorts, so why should a magical practice be any different when it affects our lives so much?

OK, enough rambling for the night – please post your own ideas about changes of magical practice if you wish.

Until next time, blessings to you all!

Thistle

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Brigid before me,

Brigid beside me,

Brigid behind me.

I am under the shielding

Of good Brigid

Each day and each night.

This is my nightly prayer – though often said in my mind rather than with my mouth – as well as my charm of protection whenever the need arises for one.

This came to me many years ago after first reading “The Descent of Brigid,” based on verses in the Carmina Gadelica, as well as several other protective charms to the Irish goddess and saint called Brigid, Brigit, Brig, or Bride, depending on your preference. If you are unfamiliar with this deity, this article on The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids is a good place to catch up.

Many people remember Brigid at her February festival of Imbolc, which many of us celebrated last week. We make a Brigid’s cross or bed, maybe eat some dairy-based dishes, sing one of her songs or another, and say a prayer to her. Then many seem to forget her with the coming of spring and festivities of Ostara and Beltaine. It seems that she was the goddess du jour when I was coming into Paganism in the late 90s. There does seem to be an inclination to be interested with the goddess of the moment, which blogger Daughter of Avalon discussed in her post “The Goddess Trend.” In it, she discusses how the changing world may be encouraging us to look at specific goddesses, rather than just following a trend.

Irish crosses

A Brigid’s cross of lavender stems and a Celtic cross both cross the threshold between Pagan and Christian.

Yes, Brigid has the advantage of being at the center of one of the four fire festivals, Imbolc, where people weave reeds or straw into her crosses or eat dairy foods to represent the return of the milk. But many people forget her after that. And many who once revered her have since left her for the goddess of the moment. It’s a bit sad to me that more people who start with Brigid (and so very many of us did) decide to forget or abandon her for a different goddess. As a multifaceted deity, she can fit into almost any societal mood.

She is the strength and fire to forge both swords and plows.

She is the healer of people, animals, and sovereignty – not to mention legendary midwife to Mary and Jesus (clearly an embellishment to her legend, but it could offer a clue to her earlier veneration).

She is the breath of inspiration to the poet and artist.

She is the protector who lost and frightened souls call upon for strength.

She is the goddess that stands on the threshold and holds hands with Pagans and Christians on either side. She – much like the Celtic cross in some myths – is a symbol of two cultures combining. Considering many of us live in places where we are a spiritual minority, she may remind us to respect those who walk a different path, especially if we expect the same courtesy.

However popular she may or may not be, she is in my heart always. She was my first goddess. Not necessarily the first one I learned about after coming to the Pagan path in 1997, but the first one I felt called to. My only connection to community early on was a subscription to SageWoman magazine. The second issue I received was #40 Angels & Guardians, in which Diana Paxson’s long-running “One of Ten Thousand” column featured Brigid in her protector aspect. And just a year and a half later, Paxson’s column in Issue #46 again focused on Brigid but in her inspirational role. The Daughter of the Dagda had certainly caught my attention with her dualities of gentleness and burning flame, healing and forging. Not much later, I performed a self-dedication to Brigid.

Sagewoman articles – cat not included – were my introduction to this versatile goddess.

Sagewoman articles – cat not included – were my introduction to this versatile goddess.

Thinking back on it now, it seems she was especially attractive because she’s just as complex and multidimensional as all of us are (no matter how society may try to trim us with its cookie cutters). None of us are flat characters – some of us just appear that way because we’re afraid to show our real selves to the world.

Like many others who follow Pagan or goddess spirituality, I have no problem in honoring and working with multiple deities. And while Cernunnos, Abnova, the Morrigan, Lugh, the Green Man, and Airmid are all ones I feel connected to, Brigid remains the cornerstone of my spiritual foundation for the reasons above and many more.

So by all means, enjoy making a Brigid’s cross and eating custard on Imbolc, but please don’t forget about good Brigid the rest of the year. She is there for you no matter the season.

Until next time, bright blessings!

Thistle

 

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Mistakes are a part of life, yet we can be really hard on ourselves when we make them. This subject has been on my mind a lot lately, and I know a lot of folks who berate themselves for past missteps. Many of these are people I care for quite a lot, and seeing them tear themselves apart over water that’s under the bridge is rather heartbreaking.

And let’s be clear – I’ve made plenty of my own missteps. With family, friends, significant others, job choices, and so on. But with a couple exceptions, I prefer not to look at my mistakes as setbacks. I view them a little differently. Below are five reasons why.

plot twist

 

5. Yes, you are spirit, but you are also human.

There’s a quote from Pierre Teilbard de Chardin that makes the rounds quite a bit: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” If you believe this line of thought, you should definitely cut yourself a break because, quite frankly, the human experience is messy.

The constant struggle balancing our physical needs and desires, our logical thinking and ego, and our spiritual center can be difficult. Most of us go through periods in our life when we are either angry, sad, confused, or one of the many other feelings that can cause us to less than ideal action or to just plain feel bad.

But whatever happens in our lives, we are just humans. Yes, we have amazing abilities, but we also have stunning flaws and desires. Not all of this is bad – it’s just part of the human experience. Sometimes physical or emotional pain is part of the human experience, especially if you subscribe to the idea of soul agreements. That leads us to No. 4:

 

4. It could be part of the plan. Yes, your plan.

“I planned to make mistakes and for crap to happen to me?” you ask dubiously.

Well, maybe. Some folks subscribe to the concept of soul agreements, or relationships and challenges that could be part of your spirit’s plan for this lifetime. Most agree that soul agreements are made between you and other spirits – prior to this human incarnation – to be part of the same family or to have some other relationship. Sometimes these agreements have a very positive spin (for example, soul mates or soul friends), but other times they are intended to give the soul something difficult to experience and overcome.

Honestly, I once had a huge problem with this concept. Who would choose a debilitating disease? Who would want a life of poverty? Who would opt for an abusive parent or spouse? The idea that I would choose a miserable father, a miscarriage, and a failed marriage as things to deal with in life infuriated me. As time passed, however, I began to see how these different people and events lead me to other things that I needed to learn or just needed in my life.

How we deal with challenges – whether we continue to respond like impudent children and with anger instead of with understanding and compassion (yes, compassion for ourselves) – may be part of the bigger picture for your soul. Life lessons aren’t always obvious when they are happening. So if you screw up and have to deal with the fallout, deal with it and move on – your ability to do so may well be the goal of the lesson plan that you yourself wrote.

worst pasts

 

3. Every mistake can be a learning experience – if you let it.

Who learns anything by always being perfect? If we never fail, we don’t learn perseverance. If we never tempt an exploration, it’s difficult to make a discovery.

Sometimes, all we really need to learn is to relax and see our mistake from a different perspective. Richard James, the developer of the Slinky toy, was a mechanical engineering trying to develop a specialized spring for ships. His mistake for ships turned out to be a huge success in the toy market – but only because he could see the potential in his booboo.

In other cases, our mistakes and the resulting pain is a cue to slow down and look at what we’re doing and adjust our path. If you keep falling for the wrong kind of person in relationships, maybe you need to examine what it is about that type of person that draws you even though you should know it won’t work. If people take advantage of you, perhaps it’s time to balance your kindness and generosity with the strength to stand up for yourself when needed.

No mistake need be a waste of time – there is something to learn from them all if we look close enough.

 

2. It develops character.

No, seriously! Anyone who’s delved into creative writing can tell you that if nothing bad ever happens to a main character, there’s no story. Well, the same is pretty much true of real people. Those who come through many mistakes and struggles are often those with great insights and the ability to help others see that they can overcome their own mistakes.

Besides, when all is said and done and folks are gathered at our funerals, do we want them to just say, “Oh, she was so nice”? Or do we want there to be some stories they can share and laugh and commiserate over? A life of good stories is not a wasted life.

fit in meme

 

And because I’m an eternal smarty pants, the number one reason NOT to beat yourself up over mistakes is:

 

1. Mistakes in your past give you double the memes to share on Facebook!

This one should be self-explanatory to anyone with a Facebook account!

Until next time, bright blessings.

Thistle

 

Note: To the best of my knowledge, the memes in this post are free to use.

© 2014 PJ Graham

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It feels like it’s been forever since I last posted – and it has been quite a while. The last six months have been packed with change and new experiences for me, and I’ve just been taking the time to digest it all.

Personally, a few things have dominated my mind and heart. My mother – and I am quite the mama’s girl – was diagnosed with dementia and that has brought with it a whole slew of experiences my family would rather have avoided. A romantic relationship both started and just turned to friendship during this time well. These are a bit painful right now, but I know I’ll grow and more forward from here.

Spiritually, I’ve returned to a mostly solitary practice, which is a major shift after 8-1/2 years of working within a group. Groups can be amazing and helpful, but sometimes you have to step out on your own. I’ve also been blessed with amazing discussions and done more varied reading that has stimulated a lot of ideas while also tearing down limiting beliefs I once held. And after more than 20 years of avoiding organized spirituality, I started attending the local Unity Church in February and have been pleasantly surprised with that experience so far.

A few things always remain constant: love of gardening (dirt therapy), good food, dogs, and amazing people in my life.

But with all that has changed for me comes a desire to change things up a bit here. To begin with, as my focus will no longer be just Avalonian, I’ve adjusted the blog subtitle from “Finding Avalon in the Modern World” to “Finding Spirit in the Modern World.” This just seems fitting with all things running through my mind lately. I’ve also upgraded from the free WordPress site so this blog has its own domain name: partingthemists.com.

Of course, I’ve already warned readers that the content would have more diversity, and I plan to start that next week with a post titled “5 Reasons Not to Beat Yourself Up over Past Mistakes,” a topic that has really been on my mind a lot lately. And after that I will post about the Airmid’s Cloak Healing Ritual, something I’ve done a couple times and really love. So stay tuned for those!

Until next time, bright blessings!

Thistle

© 2014 PJ Graham

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