Tribe is Tribe

Foundations

M

iracles, tribe

I was in an import store shopping for my best friend’s birthday a few weeks ago. I had found a piece of jewelry that I knew she would love and as the store owner was ringing me up I was explaining to her that my bestie is originally from Iran and that while this piece is not from her home country she would still love and appreciate it.

The store owner interrupted me though and simply said, “She’ll love it because tribe is tribe.” Tribe is tribe. She said it with all of the confidence and clarity of a woman who has spent that majority of her life among and within tribes.

Tribe is tribe.

I know that in our never-resting news cycle the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio that occurred at the beginning of the month are old news for most of us. They have left, as all mass shootings have since 2011, their fingerprints all over me though and are still fresh.

As I fielded emails from people asking if I was alright and checked on my own set of family and friends with El Paso connections, I kept hearing that woman’s voice in my head – tribe is tribe.

And I wasn’t sure why but I knew it was important. Then I took a walk down one of my favorite streets where an Acequia was full of water and running at force and I remembered. What I remembered was a psych class I took about a hundred years ago.

We were studying mental health in indigenous populations and I learned that one of the indigenous populations found in New Mexico and Arizona – the Navajo People – have a very specific way of looking at mental illness (and many physical afflictions too). The understanding is that while one person in the tribe may show symptoms of illness, be it mental or physical, the entire tribe is actually afflicted and that any healing that is worth a damn will address not just the individual who is obviously ill but the entire tribe.

I have been marked by every mass shooting since 2011 because that is the year I had my first baby. And that is the year when I found myself worrying about everything: leaving out a tiny piece of something that the baby could choke on, losing him to SIDS, speeding cars, and falling shelves, and…going into a public place where my child could be shot and killed, or I could be shot and killed leaving my baby without a mother or my husband could be shot and killed leaving my baby without a father. 2011 is when I started taking it personally.

Every time I packed lunch for my little one to take to school I would lay down a prayer that my baby and every baby child would be protected from a bullet, that today would not be a day a mass shooter came to a school, a place of worship, a place of work, or a place of fun. Now that I no longer make his lunch I pray that prayer every morning.

And because my babies are beautiful, blond-haired, blue-eyed, boys, I also pray that they are never the ones holding a gun aimed at someone else’s baby – because the statistics indicate that my boys fall into the category of the ones most likely to commit a mass shooting as well as most likely to commit suicide with a gun.

I don’t go into politics in my work or my writing. I remember sitting in hard-backed pews at the Baptist church and resenting the hell out of a preacher who had the audacity to tell me who to vote for. Dressing up that unique kind of tyranny in the “New Age” trappings of incense and crystals don’t make me feel any better. I believe our founders knew what they were about when they separated church and state.

However, for better or for worse, I am a spiritual teacher and writer and as such, I have a community of people who look to me for moral guidance. When the bullets start to fly I am asked to give words of comfort, clarity, and wisdom. To be clear: this is a task that I in no way feel adequate to, but it is also one that has been laid on my shoulders by nature of my work. So this is what I say: Tribe is Tribe.

And the killings and the killers are part of our tribe. There are many people in our tribe who are ill, who are hurting, and who are sick, but at the end of the day, all that really means is that our whole tribe is hurting, is ill, and is sick. Any remedy that further separates us from each other is no remedy at all and any attempt to bring some of the tribe together while leaving others out in the cold has failed before it even begins.

In 2011 I joined a special club, a tribe within a tribe, of parents who send their children to school every day praying that today won’t be the day that their child’s classroom door bursts open and guns begin shooting. We pray that today won’t be the day our babies are shot, today won’t be the day our babies are killed.

But this is not just my club, my tribe, or my problem. Tribe is tribe. This is everyone’s problem. The fact that bulletproof backpack sales have gone up 300% before the 2019-2020 school year begins is not my problem or the problem of my other parent friends, it is also my Republican uncle’s problem, my Progressive mother-in-law’s problem, and it is your problem too. Because tribe is tribe.

Every baby that dies and every person who thinks they can solve their problems with a gun pointed at someone else is everyone’s problem, the only way to address it is together, most especially together with the very ones you don’t want to deal with. You know, the difficult members of the tribe who look different and talk different, the ones that make you uncomfortable, the ones you’d rather not talk to.

You know Miracles, the inverse is also true. If one person commits to healing, to betterment, to living a life of integrity and justice and kindness then the tribe as a whole is blessed by that too. One of my favorite stories to illustrate this comes from the Jewish tradition.

It is the tale of the Tzadikim-Nistarim – the hidden righteous ones. They are 13 people who, through consistent right action, uphold the entire world and make life possible for all. My favorite part of this story is that these righteous ones are hidden even from themselves.

Meaning that it could be you, it could be me, it could be any of us. Because what one of us does touches all of us. Because tribe is tribe. And because there is nowhere else to go, nowhere else to be, but right here, with everyone else.

Here is a version of the prayer that I pray over my babies on a daily basis, feel free to work with it in your own life if it speaks to you.

xo,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Creating Ceremony Lesson Five: Wrap It Up, Tie It Off

Ceremony and Ritual

M

iracles,

When is the ceremony that transforms Cinderella’s life over? Is it once she is gowned and crowned and off to the ball with her fancy shoes? Lots of readers would say yes. The Fairy Godmother arrives, the magic happens, and the rest is up to the prince and Cinderella herself.

But it is not so. The ceremony that transforms Cinderella’s life is not over until she and the prince are actually reunited. THAT is the life-changing event that her ceremony has set out to accomplish. But in order for that to occur and for the ceremony to conclude there is one more thing that has to happen: the lost slipper has to be reunited with its owner.

This speaks directly to the final step in creating ceremonies that are so easy to miss that it is rarely even talked about or taught. This step is the concluding and tying off of the ceremony which includes the ritual disposal of any remains from the ceremonial work that needs to be disposed of.

The tale of Cinderella gives us a clear sense of this because when Cinderella drops her slipper she has left a piece of her ceremony behind and nothing can be resolved until it is recovered and put back into place.

Once the action of the ceremony has taken place there is going to be clean up. In traditional societies when ceremonies are being performed on a large scale, we find that there are roles designated to various individuals so that the people performing the main action of the ceremony are not the same people who are on the clean-up crew. But within our own lives, it is often the case that we are fulfilling multiple roles during our own ceremonies and so making sure that clean up occurs is our responsibility.

I cannot stress this enough. You may well be tired and drained after putting so much energy into creating a ceremony, but if you do not do the required clean up it is very possible that your efforts will be for naught.

Look at the space that you have been working in. What ceremonial remains need to be taken care of? Is there extra candle wax, ash, bits of paper, shells, or feathers, that need to be attended to? Perhaps extra ingredients that were not needed need to be put back into their canisters and on their shelves. Maybe a piece of clothing or ritual tool that has been knocked out of place needs to be returned to its original setting.

In my own work, I call this the wrapping up and tying off phase. It refers to the way that I make prayer bundles and mojo bags, my final steps are to wrap them up in my hands and then tie them off with a firm knot – that is the signal to me that the work and the ceremony are truly finished.

There are many ritual disposal techniques you can call on at this point. The one rule of thumb that I truly think should always be followed is this: DO NOT THROW CEREMONIAL REMAINS AWAY IN THE TRASH. An old teacher of mine told me once that when you throw such things in the trash you are basically saying to the Otherworld that your work and your efforts have been trash. Don’t do that!!! Instead, follow these guidelines:

  • Recycle whatever can be recycled.
  • Consider burying biodegradable objects into the ground at the base of a healthy, living tree.
  • Consider burning things like candle wax or extra herbs and then burying the ashes or scattering them depending on what you are working on and what the goal of the ceremony is.
  • Rule of thumb: for ceremonies where you are arranging things to flourish and thrive, dispose of remains near you. For ceremonies where you are arranging for things to disperse or diminish, dispose of remains away from you and in a manner that allows them to scatter.

After you have ritually disposed of the remains from your ceremony it is time to enjoy the fruits of your labors – literally! It is time to feast! You can do this by yourself or with others – you can go out to a fancy restaurant or stay in and enjoy a meal that you cooked (ideally before the ceremony began). It is up to you but the traditional way to conclude ceremonial work is to break bread, eat your fill, drink plenty of water, and pay attention to your dreams.

After all, you have made magic and its effects will be reverberating long after your ceremony has ended.

xo,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Creating Ceremony Lesson Four: Just Kick the Ball

Ceremony and Ritual

M

iracles, action

When I was in my mid-twenties I learned how to play soccer. My best friend’s husband had a field and put together an adult league and recruited both of us to come and play. My husband had played the sport throughout school but I have never so much as kicked a soccer ball – to say I was out of my depth is a huge understatement.

After the first game, my bestie’s husband pulled us aside and grabbed a ball.

“Girls,” he said, “You can just kick the ball straight out, you don’t have to run a little circle around the ball and then kick it.”

We were indignant! We were ticked off! We were…running circles around the ball instead of just kicking it.

Years later, watching my son learn to play soccer, I saw that he did the same thing – run a circle around the ball instead of just kicking the darn thing. As it happens, this is a pretty common beginner’s mistake.

The exact same thing happens sometimes when we create ceremonies. We may go through the beginning steps with exacting care…or we may try to rush through some of them. We may think about what our lives will be like after the ceremony has done its transformative work and get lost in detailed fantasies, but in all of that running around we sometimes forget to…just kick the ball.

In our case, that means deciding and then doing the action of the ceremony. There are so many different possibilities to choose from that it is easy to get lost, but this is one of the reasons why we do the preliminary work that we do.

That preliminary work – banishing, communing, and petitioning – prepares us for this next step and gives us a lot of information that will help us decide what the action of the ceremony is going to be if we don’t already know.

In the story of Cinderella, magic is everywhere you turn. Pumpkins turning into carriages and fancy gowns were brought to us by the Disney film, but before that, it was a barefooted scullery maid who received the simple gift of new shoes. The original story was mistranslated, and the shoes were said to be made of glass but actually, they were warm fur-lined boots. (I know, this totally changes your vision of the Cinder girl, doesn’t it? Me too!) Cinderella is literally given the ability to walk in a different pair of shoes – and therefore carve out a different path for herself than the one she has found herself on.

So what action is going to be the center of your ceremony?

Look over your notes up to this point. You will find themes and ideas that you keep circling back to again and again.

Maybe you are working on cleansing and healing a situation and a spiritual bath is the major action of your ceremony. Perhaps you need to turn a sour situation into one that is sweeter and the making of a sugar jar is the central action of the ceremony. It is also possible that you need to nail something down, light something up, bring in more money, heal a broken heart, or make a special dedication – all of these desires have magical acts that go with them.

Pick you an action(s), decide when you are going to do them, gather the necessary materials, maybe put on a pair of fur-lined boots and then get ready to kick that ball.

xo,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Creating Ceremony Lesson Three: Say it Loud

Ceremony and Ritual

M

iracles, creating

Welcome to the third lesson of the Creating Ceremony series! I call this one “Say it Loud” because that is what we are going to do.

At this point you have banished and then done what is probably the trickiest part of creating effective ceremonies – you have waited and communed with the Otherworld.

You are now ready to say your prayer, make your petition, state your intention, and/or declare your goal.

Magical ceremonies follow the same laws of physical matter in many ways. For instance, the law of Mass-Conservation tells us that matter is neither created nor destroyed – it only changes forms. This is true of magic too. When we create ceremonies we should think less about creating something out of nothing or annihilating something else – rather, we should think of our work as arranging and re-arranging things for the best possible result.

Keep this in mind as you create those petitions, prayers, and intentions.

Take some time to come up with the ‘just right’ statement. You will most likely need to journal and reformulate your words a few times until they have the flow you want.

That flow, by the way, is very subjective. For some people their petitions need to be as brief and simple as possible, for others they want long, flowery prose, some folks prefer to weave in words from other languages, while others like to write their petition in verse.

I often chant my petitions over and over again and/or sing them so personally that I prefer shorter petitions with rhythm and rhyme.

If you get stuck in this process, these prompts might help you:

What is the current situation I want to transform?

How do I want to transform it?

Who is going to help me do that? (This prompt is really asking you to consider what Holy Helpers will be allies for you in this endeavor but it might also bring up allies present right here and right now).

What is the final outcome and/or the possibility that I am yearning for?

Once you have created your petition, prayer, or intention I encourage you to say it and say it loud. There is deep magic in working with our voices and letting them be heard. Some schools of magic call this the “power of utterance.” So write it down, carve it on a candle, inscribe it in clay, but say it out loud too – once or many times.

xo
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Creating Ceremony Lesson Two: And Now You Wait…

Ceremony and Ritual

M

iracles, wait

We are continuing our week-long teaching on Creating Ceremony. Now we turn to Lesson Two – let’s do this!

Have you ever had the experience of creating a ceremony, casting a spell or laying down an enchantment only to discover that despite your best efforts, attention to detail, and hardcore organization the work falls flat on its face?

Maybe it doesn’t deliver the goal you were hoping for. Maybe it doesn’t result in anything at all. Or maybe it concludes in a tangled web of unintended consequences that have you hiding your head under a pillow.

No doubt you have had this experience. I talk to folks every day who go through this, and I have experienced it myself. It is super common. I call it a ceremony slip. (As if your ceremony slips on a banana peel. Oops!)

Ceremony slip is also easily avoidable because usually, this occurs for one simple reason: we aren’t willing to wait and pay attention.

Here you are. At this point, you have already learned to banish (and maybe had a good cry along the way). You are ready to get started formally on creating a ceremony for a specific need or purpose, a need or desire to change within and without.

Now, most books and teachings will tell you that the next step is to state your purpose, make your prayer, and/or write your petition. Declare your intention!

But, in my experience and in my own learnings that is NOT the next step. That is what results in dead, flat, ceremonies that don’t change a thing.

For truly effective ceremonies that don’t fall flat, the next step is actually to wait and watch.

What I’m talking about here is active waiting, not passive, twiddle-your-thumbs waiting. Through your banishing, you have opened the door and cleared the way. Now you need to take the time to see who and what presents itself to you.

You are looking and listening for communiques from the Otherworld and your Holy Helpers (that’s the name I use to describe spirit allies, guardians, and guides). By looking and listening with care, you are entering into deep communion.

This communion can show up in a huge variety of ways. Some of the experiences reported to me include:

  • Dreams
  • Seemingly random coincidences that are strangely connected
  • Finding specific talismans or omens during my daily business
  • Communications from Ancestors and my beloved Dead
  • Friends reaching out with an essential piece of information
  • Opportunities that just magically show up
  • Direct vision and communication with specific Holy Helpers
  • Employing divination to gain clarity and refinement

Listening, watching and waiting is the part of the creation process that takes the most time. It may take one day or several. The process may take two weeks before you have the information you need to move ahead. Sometimes it takes longer. Some ceremonies are weeks, months, or years in the making.

Because waiting actively is the part of ceremony making that takes the most time, waiting is also the part that people tend to skip over. Traditional societies understood that planning and creating a significant ceremony will take multiple days, weeks, or years. It is a process that cannot be rushed, controlled, or plotted out directly on the calendar.

Those creating and participating in a ceremony understand that after initial banishing work, they need to find a way to enter into communion with the what we call the Otherworld. At that point, we are out of ordinary time and in that space of time-out-of-mind that C.S. Lewis describes so beautifully.

Cinderella’s version of this is waiting for the Fairy Godmother to come. She doesn’t know what is going to happen. She doesn’t know that *anything* will happen. But she has banished, and now she waits. In many versions of the tale she grows closer to the natural world at this time, often the first step in communion with the Otherworld. She does not state her desires until after the Fairy Godmother has arrived.

This is crucial because once you have stated your goal or desire, once you have made your petition, the ceremony is in full swing. Before you have struck any matches, made any songs, or done any magic, the ceremony is hot and going because your request, your desire, your prayer has been made.

The question upon which success now turns is…was it made correctly? Did you ask for what you really want? Did you petition for what you actually need?

When we wait and commune with the Otherworld we find that we often receive critical pieces of information and insights that allow us to refine our desires, goals, and intentions, so that our ceremony really does address what we need it to address. Succeeding in this, we can avoid those awful ceremony slips, and the change we create is actually the change we want.

So go ahead and let yourself wait…Fairy Godmothers show up on their own schedule, but they do show up!

xo,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Creating Ceremony Lesson One: Blood, Sweat, and Tears

Ceremony and Ritual

M

iracles, blood

I am sure most of you have heard the expression “blood, sweat, and tears.” We usually call upon it when we have made a huge effort at something. And, like many common turns of phrase, it hides a deeper meaning in plain sight.

Blood, sweat, and tears, are some of the most valuable prizes we possess. In countless fairy tales, a single drop of blood has the power to destroy the most powerful kingdom or overcome the finality of death, where the sweat of physical and mental exertion can show the true nature of a character. And then there are the tears. Tears turn into magical, life-giving waters. Tears heal and thaw out frozen hearts.

In fairy tales and folklore, blood, sweat, and tears are substances that become valuable once they have been shed for the sake of something…or someone else.

We see it in Cinderella. Once the little Cinder girl has realized that she really cannot escape the house…cannot escape her life and cannot go to the ball – which stands for all that is possible and hopeful for her – she begins to cry. Big, body-shaking, river-forming, tears.

The cry of the heart is the action that opens the door and opens the way. Cinderella begins to create her own ceremony. Her tears are what garner the attention of the common creatures around her, creatures whom she has cared for. And her tears are what call in her fairy godmother as well.

Cinderella engages in the first step of creating ceremony: she is banishing.

Banishing is an old word that basically means releasing, letting go or casting out. People often talk casually about ‘letting go’, in order to manage stress. But you’ll also hear on occasion someone talk about the need to banish a room that feels like it is full of funky vibes – they might cense the area with a sacred smoke or recite a prayer of protection to make the area feel cleaner and safer.

But before we talk about banishing rooms or objects, we have to look inwards at our own inner landscapes and ask what needs to be released and put down once and for all.

When we banish, we can take a few moments to acknowledge what is hurting or weighing on or frustrating us. And then we perform a ritual action to release it.

Banishing is the necessary first step in creating ceremony, the thing you do before anything else because it opens the road and it clears the way. When we drop whatever it is that we are clinging too tightly to, we are able to breathe a little easier and see with more clarity and objectivity. Clarity and objectivity of mind are qualities that must be in play if you want to create a ceremony that can really change things from the inside out.

There are lots of ways to banish. There are prayers you can recite. There are specially formulated incense blends that call on the elements of fire and water to assist with removing what is no longer needed. Some traditions call on making noise – like clapping, yelling, ringing bells, or stomping your feet – to clear the spaces both without and within.

Bleeding, sweating, and crying are all forms of banishing – and they are so powerful because they involve our physical bodies and the substances within them. Another beautiful (and simple!) way to banish is simply through breathing. Here is an exercise you can try:

  1. Take a breath in and allow it to move from the soles of your feet all the way up to the crown of your head.
  2. Before you release that breath think of one thing that you need to release and let go.
  3. Breathe it out and into the earth where it can be transformed into something good and useful once more.

There may be many different feelings that this exercise conjure, some very subtle. Each person will find responses in very different ways. But don’t be surprised if you start to tear up a little or have an all-out crying fest. In fact, that is usually a sign that you are on the right track to creating ceremony that really will change you from the inside out.

For more on Banishing, check out this article.

xo
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Protected: Star Stories: August 2019

Ceremony and Ritual

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magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.