Imbolc in Review

On the night of the full moon – that amazing blood moon of January 31st – we hosted an Imbolc-ish ritual. Imbolc-ish because I and Coyvere are not Celtic or Wiccan we are Hellenic Greek. Greeks were not big on Imbolc. It’s hard to squash the Greek god/dess into the Celtic wheel of the year. Sure, I could wax poetic about how there are the archetype of deities found in each pantheon but sometimes you just gotta go Greek.

There is very little written about The Lesser and Greater Eleusinian Mysteries. The lesser took part in the spring tended to be about purification and rededication, the greater in the autumn about the harvest and the abduction of Persephone. The Eleusinian Cults were a secret cult (who doesn’t love a good secret cult?), probably really meaning women’s traditions passed from mother to daughter and not written down. The Golden Dawn and other patriarchal lodges have tried to tie these mysteries to their lodges, but I find that to be a stretch for an agrarian rural society focused on goddess worship. Digging into archaeological sites there is discussion about the city of Eleusis and the cult of Demeter, the Homeric Hymn of Demeter and Persephone and a few ruins but these articles are rather dry. The only way to discover the true spirit of the rituals and mysteries is to go to the source – The Goddess.

With a good bit of brainstorming and meditation Coyvere and I came up with our Ritual. We felt it was important to have three steps in this ritual: a conscious rededication to yourself and your goddess, a stripping or lifting of the mundane so you can see yourself as a magical being and a cleansing of the body, mind and soul/spirit. Our ritual would historically have involved snakes, hallucinogenic drinks and a bath or swim in the river Lethe. In this modern day it included a basket of plush snakes, fairy milk and a simulated river.

We started with casting our circle of protection. It’s lovely here this time of year in South Western Arizona, making outdoor rituals welcoming and letting us be bathe in the light of the full moon. Once we had our circle cast we gathered our participants and explained the symbolism and mechanics of the ritual. Those in the group who were more comfortable calling their own deities were invited to touch on their guides or patrons before we started. Our next step was to call our gods and goddess.

We started with Hades and Persephone. Imbolc H&P

After all we were making a trip down to the underworld and who better to have at your side then the King and Queen? We lighted a candle for each of the gods and goddess as we called them. Hades and Persephone acted as guides and guardians for the ritual. The next three deities we called as an Orphic triad – Hecate, Demeter and Dionysus. Hecate as the gate keeper of the underworld, Demeter as mother of Persephone and guardian of the mysteries and Dionysus as opener of the divine self. Dionysus is an interesting one to deal with. He is often only thought of in madness or drunkenness. He is in Demeter’s grief as she searches for Persephone when she falls into despairing madness. With the full moon Dionysus is most active. He, like many of the Greeks when you ask, will give you gifts freely – so be careful what you ask for. His lunacy/madness is often a gift allowing us to see deep within ourselves. Not to the shadow side but to the divine side who we are when we are at one with our divine self or daemon. Often the madness his followers experience is the opening of that self-divinity without preparation or protection from its truths.
The last candle we lit was for Lethe herself, Titaness and Goddess of the river Oblivion where mortals bathed to forget their old lives.Imbolc Trio

With candles lit and deities present we moved on to the next part of our ritual – the rededication of self to your god/dess or as it was known in the lesser Eleusinian mystery a test of faith. In times old – so the archaeologists tell us – a devotee would stick their hands into a basked of snakes as a reminder of their mortality and their faith in their goddess Demeter to watch over them. I’m not really a snake person, but I do have a surprise basket of stuffed snakes! It worked really well to have people stick their hand into a basked and pull forth a deadly snake.

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Once our faith had been tested it was time to drink. Ah the old alcohol debate – to have alcohol as part of a ritual or not? Especially one with Dionysus. He is after all the god of wine and madness. Traditionally they would have had an ergot-based drink made with barley and mint. A rotten grain beer, with mint hum…. Not a fan. Both choices made me nervous so we opted for warm almond milk with nutmeg, cloves and a touch of honey. Fairy milk as it’s sometimes called. Almond milk (well a kind of milk and a nod towards the Imbolc theme) because we have members in our group who can’t drink lactose. Nutmeg because it is a mild sedative and hallucinogen, cloves because they help to open the third eye and honey for a touch of sweet to set off all that bitter.

Faith tested, and our sight opened and enabled, we were ready to set into the river Lethe and bathe – washing away what we no longer need, cleaning ourselves of karmic residue we no longer required and stripping away of the human to see the divine within.
Right before the ritual, Coyvere and a few others took strips of blue crepe-paper and created a waterfall for us to walk thought. This gave both the illusion of a river as well as a physical “wall of water” to walk though, lettings us fully enjoy a swim in the river Lethe.

Imbolc Ritual
Holding on to Persephone’s energies I stayed in the river until everyone in our group had their chance to bathe. It is Persephone’s job to see that the souls once cleansed are sent off onto their next incarnation. By staying in the river, I could also watch people’s energies and help guide should someone feel overwhelmed or stuck in the river Lethe.
Everyone in our group made it safely back to the mundane world, much cleaner spiritually and karmically. We ended the night with light conversation and snacks.
While I can’t speak for what others experienced in the ritual or in the days following I can speak for myself. When you spend time in the Lethe you spend time really seeing the core of your being which can be intimidating and inspiring at the same time. It has been a rough couple of weeks emotionally and spiritually speaking. Those blinders I had against myself have been stripped away. There is no ignoring them – there is only going forward and upward into my spiritual path.

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Cloves, they have secrets to tell

lemon 1I’ve been working most of the afternoon on a post for another blog/e-zine that I write for Spiral Tree on pomanders and clove fruit for the holiday season. My house, my kitchen was almost overwhelming with the smells of oranges, lemons, limes and cloves. Now those of you who know me, might be aware of the fact that I can be a bit ADHD at times… squirrel!! *()*)(* what’s for dinner, I need some tea, lets make 12 batches of cookies for the Yule ritual we have on Sunday and clean the house get out holiday cards,write a blog post, teach a yoga class… oh yeah what was I doing!?!?!? SQUIRREL get back here! @@

I tell ya it’s amazing I get anything done.

Hope often tells me my totem animal is a bedazzled squirrel. *sighs*

see… so off track right now…

Back to lemons, cloves and pomanders

I enjoy the smell of oranges and lemons and use the essential oils of both often as a mood lifter and stabilizer. I haven’t spent as much time working with cloves other than the usual in cooking, as a mouth wash/ rinse for a sore tooth and the essential oil as an antibacterial. I read once that cloves were a mental simulator but never paid it much mind. I had put cloves, in my mind, into the category of culinary herb and not that magical.

We all make mistakes

This afternoon as I was working on 101 things at the same time making clove oranges and lemons I got a reminder to be careful with who (or what) you play with.

I was up to my elbows creating pomanders and my mind was buzzing with ideas and thoughts. Racing really to the point where I felt frantic and overwhelmed and it continued to grow. I mentioned something to Coyvere who in his calm way said “maybe you should to meditate.”

“Meditate! HA!” I responded “There’s too much too do!” And I started listing everything that needed to be done RIGHT now.

He blinked calmly and said “Go meditate” the foolish man….

So I huffed myself off and tried to meditate. Gosh darn him if it didn’t work

Hecate, bless her heart (and I mean that with affection in a southern polite kind of way), had been trying to talk with me. She wanted to remind me that cloves are not just culinary they are magical. A stimulant. “Stop sniffing the cloves, you silly little witch.” That was the message and  I finally slowed down long enough to hear.

Cloves, lemons, moon, secrets long lost trapped in our memories. We are coming into the longest night. The night where women, especially those of us approaching our croning time, should should be celebrating in the dark. The dark, the night these are the precious times for women, when the moon shines bright letting us see glimpses of magical secrets long lost. I don’t know all the secrets of cloves and the moon, nor have I even scratched the surface of understanding this mystery before me. I do know that I’ll be spending some time this Solstice meditating on Nyx mother night and finding comfort in the dark not running towards the sun.

Enjoy the dark my friends

Nettle

 

Gaia “Hold my beer”

This past month feels like the start of just about every young adult dystopian novel that I have read. Series of natural distastes  entangled with an incompetent or overly religious government waiting in the wings to swoop in and instill their “new and improved” form of government to save the people. The average person on the street oblivious or so afraid they don’t know what to do to make the train wreck stop.

Makes a cat down right nervous.

Fires in the Pacific West, four hurricanes  in the gulf, earthquakes in Mexico and its not just here in the Americas, the whole world is hurting.

Hope asked me earlier today if I was noticing that it was like all the elements are pissed. Earth, air, fire water all angry pissed and acting out.

I responded with a quick unthinking retort of “Awe hell no, it’s Gaia she’s PISSED”

Then to myself . “Oh”

She’s downright angry at us and its starting to manifest.

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Mom is telling us to clean up our mess.

While meditating this morning I had to ask her “Where to start, mom ”

“Sanctuary” that was the answer I got clear in my mind. “Build your own sanctuary and shrine to me”

Coyvere’s interpretation of Gaia is less angry than my own.  He says she simply is sweeping aside old broken structures to make way for the new growth that must emerge here at the beginning of the new age.  He is more calm about destruction than I am some days. He is more comfortable that I to soak in the chaos.

I am a creature of habit so change is struggle to me and not always welcome. I understand the necessity of change and work with deities to help uncover my own chains of illusion that bind me. Focus is not my strong point and daily practices, well I’m a cat for goddess sake, we like sunbeams, warm fires and a good book. Static is an art form for a cat.  As Coyvere reminded me often daily practice is the best place to start. Establishing daily habits of worship or even recognizing and thanks daily  for what we have.  These are the things that will help us to recognize Gaia’s growth and changing and to help carry us though these changes.

I have had a daily practice for years.  Starting each morning lighting our oil lamp for Hestia. Over the past couple of years I’ve added things a couple of salt lamp candles for cleaning out the house in the morning, lighting some incense to our ancestors inside the house and a stick outside for my more natural or nature based ancestors.  The last good drink of tea in the morning has always gone outside to the earth for Gaia.

Is  that enough? When I am mindful and present in such acts yes but when I do them out of rout habit, no it’s not. My gods do not want mindless sacrifice they want mindful sacrifice, if only for a second. That is more important that remembering to take cloth bags to the store.

It is going back to these basics that help me in these times of storms. Going back to the basic helps me ground and be present in the moment.

In this I will create sanctuary.

 

 

 

Ah Hope

Ah my dear Hope

We must agree to disagree

I know that you and I have had this argument for years – this idea that we are in an adversarial relationship with our gods (guides, guardians and/or higher self). That some members of my tribe see the relationship we have with them is unbalanced and that they enjoy our feeling of pain, suffering and embarrassment. Even to the point that they will set us up to fail or to look foolish. I also know that this makes you angry. In that anger, you search for proof of this belief. I see this in you and I see it in others.

It breaks my heart because my experiences are so much the opposite of yours.

Let me remind you of my truths that I always work with:

1) Separation of self from divinity (this is a myth a lie)
We are all one in the same. My guardians, guides, ancestors and/or gods. I would love to separate out the three in to neat categories but they are not separate. At some point in the vast cosmic expansion they are all linked as one. I know I approach spirituality, faith and religion with a more eastern mind set. I AM NOT SPERATE FROM MY DIVINITY OR MY GODS. If we are one why would they want me to fail why would they find humor in my mistakes. When I am soul hurt my gods weep with me. When I am ego hurt they offer comfort but with that edge and that reminder of free will sucks.

2) Trust
It’s a horrible 5 letter word that eats at the consciousness and ego us all. To trust is to embrace weakness and worst of all faith that others are there to help. Yet without trust starting with ourselves we can never find balance with gods. Without trust, there is always that struggle. Without trust, there is fear. We all know fear is the mind killer.

3) We view the world though our human existence and mask
We look at the world around us through a mask of our own perceptions, a filter built of our experiences and teachings. The foundations of this are built in out childhood by our families. Some of us grow up learning to trust the world and view all people as good in their base nature and willing to help others. Some of us grow up viewing the world as adversarial always a struggle for rare praise and resources. This creates an adversarial relationship with others from the start. The latter is where this break between or own self and being a peace with our own divinity and connections comes into play.

Imagine if you will your own body, your heart wanting our stomach to digest food quickly and efficiently leaving no fat behind to travel to our thighs. The stomach doing its best to give us the energy we need to live and move though are day piss that the heart is trying to tell it what to do. In this model, the heart is always at war with the stomach because the stomach is failing to do what the heart wants the stomach is at war with the heart because the stomach is just trying to do its job. Creating this imbalance and fight constantly. Then our brain gets involved and wants to use facts or logic to tell the heart and the stomach to stop fighting but rather than listen to the brain the heart and stomach start fighting with the brain. In this system, the body s always at war with itself. It has forgotten its true mission which is to be whole.

The reality is of course that the body is a single system that, when in balance, works harmoniously so that all of its parts benefit. We and the gods and spirits native to our universe are all part of one body. The more we understand how each part works, the more we can simply trust those parts to do their job. When we believe that a part should work differently and demand that it acts in some manner that is alien to it, it seems as if that part is defiant. The defiant part is telling us our beliefs are wrong, which can feel like an attack when our beliefs are deeply held.

4) Deities are a limited resource…
We live in a world that requires is to kill to eat so right from the start our perceptions are that life is a battle be it with a tomato worm or a tiger. We are all fighting for resources we need to live. Day to day there is struggle to get enough food, clean drinking water, enough money to pay bills, to get the medicine we need to survive. This struggle is real it is part of being human. What is not real is this idea that the attention paid to us by deity, the love given to us by deity is also limited. Worse that we need someone else to tell us what it is our gods are wishing and hoping for us. This is a myth and a HUGE one. There is no limit to the love a deity can give us, there is no limit to the attention bestowed upon us by our deities, gods, guardians and ancestors. Their desire for us to succeed is unlimited as is their affection, love and energy they bestow upon us to see us reach our highest potential. Their only desire is to see us freed from any Karmic debt and to move upward embracing all of this human experience.

My hope for you is maybe someday we can come to a balance between our understandings of how the universe works. Maybe one day convince you that you are amazing and wonderful and that the gods do love you.

Much love

Nettle

PS Coyvere sends his love as well

Oily update

Today I strained my herbal oils that I started back at Sumner Solstice, it was messy

I got oil all over my hands, the table, the chair the kitchen sink, my hair even the floor. It was a glorious mess!

The oils are fabulous looking and smelling – sweet green earthy no moldy rotten smell to them. 0726171318d

from left to right we have Arnica, Plantain, Calendula and Yarrow – this is why labels are important – at least in the making of herbal oils and future salves.

0726171317a Also important is remember to check to see if you have all the ingredients you need in large enough proportions to finish your project. Now begins my search for beeswax.

Happy almost Lammas/Lughnasadh!

Summer Solstice

Summer solstice is here and I’ll be honest it’s as hot as Hades outside right now. Moving to the desert we have experienced our first 120+ heat, it’s an experience.  Good or bad, not sure yet.  I’m trying to leave out judgment for now.

So what do you do for the Solstice0621171132a when it’s too hot to go outside?

Why you start some magical healing oil for salve making later on in the summer!

Then you take a nap. 😉 or go swimming in your pool, or take a nap or read a book or take a nap… I’m digging this siesta thing.

I made four oils today starting with Safflower Oil. It can be hard to find good Safflower Oil but it is worth the search. Safflower oil is great for the skin.  It soaks in nicely and does not leave a heavy greasy feeling to the skin.  The better the quality of the oil you use, the better your final product will be.

I then picked my herbs.  For this method, I prefer to use already dried plants. As much as I would love to grow my own I cheat and buy already dried from a trusted source.

I used four pint-sized canning jars and roughly an ounce of dried flowers and leaves of each plant. You fill the jar loosely (please don’t stuff the jar – you need space) with your dried herb then slowly poor the safflower oil over the top until the jar is full.  Seal the jar with a tight lid and then place in a sunny window for about a month. Label your jars so you know the date and herb in the jar. It’s almost impossible to go back and smell what’s in the jar or even try and remember. so label, label label.

I picked four herbal oils to make this year at Summer Solstice

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Calendula Flowers (Calendula officinalis): uses as a gentle healing herb for skin wounds, rashes, and irritations – calming and soothing to the skin. This oil can be used on small open wounds. Please don’t use if you have an allergy to any of the other members of the Asteraceae family (such as feverfew, chamomile, or Echinacea species)

Yarrow leaves & flowers (Achillea millefolium): Yarrow is a traditional healing herb for wounds.  The Greek hero Achilles used yarrow to wash the wounds of his soldiers.  One of the best I know to apply to an open wound or sore. Yarrow is also a member of the Asteraceae family and shouldn’t be used by pregnant women.

Plantain leaf (Plantago lanceolata): Plantain leaf is an invasive species plant to North America that has naturalized meaning it’s considered a common weed. The leaves are wonderful for healing insect stings and bites, treating itching and hives. Yet like all plants someone you know might be allergic so use with caution when sharing this oil with a friend for the first time or using yourself.

Arnica flowers (Arnica montana): I’ve just discovered Arnica for sore muscles and bruising, I love this plant. It cannot or should not be taken internally nor should it be used on an open wound. It too is a member of the Asteraceae family so people with known allergies to this plant should avoid using Arnica

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So here they all are sitting on the window sill to wait and steep for a month. I’ll try to remember to shake them daily. Check back in a while and I’ll share with you the next step in salve making.

Summer Solstice blessing my friends – May the sun shine bright upon you, illuminating what is hidden and harmful, letting you heal and grow.

SummerSolsticeSoiree

Struggles with understanding

Last night Hope and I had a long conversation about our post continuing on from the are the gods one big conglomerate mass or individual entities (they are both). Leaving me all stirred up when I tried to meditate last night. The set up was just about freaking perfect – the scent of our night blooming jasmine, the sandalwood incense I had lit, and gazing up at the stars trying to see a meteorite from the Lenard’s Meteorite Shower. I was struggling with why I bristle and struggle with the idea of Gods perpetuating Rape Culture and abusive God-Spouses. WHY do people believe this, or why couldn’t I believe?
With the pomegranate bush in bloom, Persephone and Hades’ energies just rolled right off the plant. It is comforting and safe for me. While I do not consider myself a channel or medium, I hope that I do have a good clear understanding of the messages I receive from the goddesses and gods. While this is not the conversation word for word it is the impressions that it left me with this morning that I must write down on paper.

I know rape culture is a thing. It permeates our culture and all the patriarchy back to the first start of this horrific idea before Eve ate the apple. (To which I often hear Lilith at this point reminding me that Eve was framed as was I).

So why do I bristle when I hear Gods perpetuate or have caused rape culture. Persephone reminded me, as did Hekate, that we all have our blinders and here is mine. I have always connected with Persephone, whether it is because she is my spirit sister or something more I don’t know, but there are times when she and I are one. One of Coyvere’s most powerful path walkings was the one where he first met Hades and Hades gave him a hug, calling him Brother. The very first time I met Coyvere was a few days before Halloween in Madison. I could feel the waves of Hades washing off him and oh did my inner Persephone sing. Not with fear or loathing, but with joy and love. A reflection of love and joy that was so powerful it frightened me to my core and it took me two years to understand that what he represented was love. Love that was pure, with no traps, no motives, no tricks. Until I met him I didn’t know that love from men could be pure and untainted. Because until him I had only known men as power and that abusive power that predominated rape culture. What they called love was not love but power seeking to control or bind.

Aphrodite blessed me that day, and I’m not sure how I got so lucky to have been able to spend more than 25 years with a man who does love pure, who understand the patriarchy is in his favor, and that rape culture is a real thing. He works to bring awareness to himself on this issue and having three daughters helps him as well. He could never shame or embrace his own daughters when it came to their ownership of their bodies. Why should they have anything less that he was blessed with just because of genetics?

My blinders, or rose-colored glasses, are that I cannot perceive Hades abusing Persephone or harming her in any way. It is not a part of my story. So, when people say Hades abused and raped Kore/Persephone I cannot see from my story that happening.
Persephone has always been a part of me, even as a small child reading the myth of Hades’ abduction of Persephone into the underworld I’ve felt part of the story was off or wrong. Just one of those gut feelings of there is something wrong here.

When it comes to human interpretation of myth, understanding of myth, and our vast oral storytelling traditions I always think of the telephone game. How one phrase is changed to be a completely different phrase after being passed in whispers from one person to the next. No matter how much we want to believe the stories haven’t changed from when they were first told woman to woman or woman to man around a fire in the middle of a starry night. We know that is not true. Oh, how I dream of hearing the original version of Hades and Persephone before someone decided to embellish the story to reflect themselves. Even jokes we share between friends are changed to reflect the area we are in or the people we are around. Making the joke more understandable to the crowd we are telling it too.

Stories, myths, and jokes are teaching tools and sadly humans respond quicker and learn quicker through fear than love. We never have to practice self-fear, but we have to practice self-love.

Most religions teach us that we are flawed, broken and must live in fear of the gods for they want nothing more than to punishes us for our wrongdoing and miss deeds. My favorite example of this is going away to sleep away camp back in high school. All week between the swimming, archery and cannoning we were told how premarital sex was wrong. Hell, I was still so uninterested in sex at the time that the idea of sex just grossed me out, yes, I was still in my middle teens at this time. But the second to last day of camp the councilors said after a solid week of this anti-sex talk that even THINKING about sex was a sin. I was fucking livid one of the first times I understood the phrase “seeing red”. All I could think was what a horrible trap they had just played. How could thinking about sex be a sin? We wouldn’t be thinking about sex if they hadn’t started the conversation. Now they dare to say that God will punish us for just THINKING about sex. That was just fucked up and wrong. Sex was a blessing from the gods, not a curse or something dirty that one should be ashamed of or hide from. That was the moment that I also realized that I was raised differently than other children my age. I was out of societies box. This was also the first time I clearly saw how religion is different than the gods. How religion is broken.

Science has proven time and time again that religious people are just wrong when it comes to biology. No, my uterus is not just floating aimlessly around in my body. No semen does not contain a fully formed baby that is just waiting to be implanted in the womb to grow to maturity. Yes, animals other than humans do form homosexual life long relationships with one another. The world is not flat. If we can see that the religious writings are interpreted by the society they live in and are changed, why can’t we say the same for myths. The one constant in this should be the gods and goddesses, not the religion that tries to interpret myth for us to their advantage.

Back to Hades and Persephone and the rest of the Greek myths as we understand or read them now. I do believe they were colored, changed from the original meaning of the myth. I always get a nod from any of the gods and goddesses I’m working with that being a yes, the myths have changed.

Do I see Zeus as a bit of a horn dog when I perceive him? Meh, not so much, maybe he can give a suggestive wink in my direction once in a while but no is no and it’s gone no further. Same with Hermes, a hug but never a grope. There is no perception of being taken advantage of because I’m female or human. There is respect. Do I have or have I somehow created a filter, perception, or rose colored glasses that my gods respect me and do not use fear as a tactic to try and control or bend me to their will. They have never had to. Does it make me some fool to trust them? I don’t know.

Because I believe that I reside, or my atman resides, with and is divinity my perceptions or these rose-colored glasses do not let me. Or perhaps it’s part of my non-negotiables that the aspect of divinity that I reside with or resonate with will not harm me but will only act with love never fear, trickery or spite. That is what a patriarchy or a theocracy uses to control its people or worshipers fear. There is plenty to fear in the universe that is outside the god glob thing or the individual human gods we worship. In here, I stumble onto another non-negotiable for myself. Good and evil are spate, evil is not a human construct. Humanity does not have an exclusive right to the creation of or our own actions towards one another of evil deeds.

I am not worshiping or working for a theocracy or a patriarchy. My gods don’t use fear to control or motivate me.

I can see the advantage to using fear – with fear people do not trust themselves or anyone else, they can only turn to deity for support. Then if the gods or goddesses themselves are using fear as part of worship there is no way (to my perceptions) that you can evolve further. You are stuck in your fear.

Do let me clear up one thing – I do not think that people who say they have been abused by a god or god-spouse are lying or wrong in their perception. Because that would be supporting rape culture and I don’t know what they have gone through. Something horrible happened to those people and it’s my job to believe them, to not question their religion or faith, but to help them heal.