Hearth and Home, Vol. 4: Make Space for Life

Foundations

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iracles,

The above photo gives you a glimpse of what our garden looked like right around Beltane, May 1st. We had entered into a period with our land where certain plants needed to be uprooted, soil turned, and bedrock prepared for the coming of new life. It has been deeply allegorical for where our family and our work has been too. Since the last New Moon I entered into the final month of my pregnancy and this week our second little one will be arriving at some point! Plants have rooted down in the garden while pictures have gone up onto the walls of the nursery, and baby clothes – some old, some new, – have been placed in drawers.

As is always the case with life, it doesn’t take much to get things started if you are willing to make space. Plants are placed into the ground, fed with water and the right amount of sun and moonlight, and with a little time and attention (and daily offerings to the faeries and our Holy Helpers) our stone and cardboard covered garden became a lush and beautiful wonderland – no small feat in South Central Texas during the hot month of June! The same has been true for the life of our family and home – a little attention here, some detailing there, making sure that we all have plenty of time not just for work but for rest and dreaming and creating – these have been the priorities as our family makes room for the newest addition.

My book and writing have also been reflective of this process: the completed manuscript was sent in to my publishers on May 1st. A few weeks later I received notes for the first round of edits and so dove into them. Fortunately there were not that many and the entire process struck me as a tightening and refining that felt fantastic. It reminded me deeply of stories I have been told about my great-grandmother.

She was a Cherokee woman who lived in rural East Texas and kept a chicken snake in her kitchen cabinet – to keep away mice or to startle visitors or maybe both – and one of the tales that has been passed down about her is that she would braid her long dark hair tight, tight, tight, into a braid, and then take a lit match and run it down her braid singeing off any errant hairs. This, she claimed, was how she kept her hair smooth and glossy. Editing felt like that to me. Taking the tightly braided words and then running a match over them – gently, but firmly, burning away the excess and the loose ends so that at the end of the day we are left with something more potent and refined.

It has touched me deeply how our community of soulful seekers has also been making space for life and what sings of life. Personally I have felt this in all of the well-wishes that I and the family have received from so many of you. I have experienced it too in the generous gifts that have been sent our way – some for the baby and some for me!

Over the past week as the news has been filled with the tragedy and the deaths of luminaries who touches the lives of so many, I have also been humbled to see how our community comes together to create space for hard discussions, thoughtful takes on controversial issues, and perhaps most meaningful of all, a sense of not assuming that we understand what another soul is encountering in their deepest hour of shadow. For these things too are part of life and cannot be overlooked, swept away, or ignored. I appreciate the nuance, and the time and thoughtfulness that seem to have become ever more endangered, that our community takes in feeling and thinking and speaking – we lead by example, it is the only way.

And amid the sadness that has been so thick in the air I hope that you too are making space for life, in all of its divine mess, radiant beauty, breadth and depth. As the below picture of my garden shows you, we do not, any of us, flourish in spite of the hard, we flourish right along side of it. That is what it means to make space for life.

In love and blessings always,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Protected: Star Stories: June 2018

Ceremony and Ritual

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magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Book Review: Six Ways by Aidan Wachter

Learning and Community

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ull disclosure: Aidan is a dear friend and colleague of mine and I was honored to be able to read some of the early drafting of his phenomenal book Six Ways and receive an advanced readers copy of it as well.

Aidan knows me well enough to know that I would give him real, honest, feedback when it comes to a review and that makes me especially thrilled to be able to say that I highly, highly, highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in magic and specifically developing a LIVED magical practice.

For that is really what Aidan is articulating in his work. His focus is much less on theory or abstract magical ideals (because really do we need more such books?) and much more focused on in the dirt and in the bones lived magic.

In Six Ways you will find a number of techniques that can be put to use by anyone no matter your level of skill or magical ability. That is useful. But to my mind what is invaluable is the way that Aidan allows his readers to “look under the hood” and see what actually makes a lived magical practice work – as well as what might get in its way.

For those who don’t want to just read about magic but actually want to live it, the is YOUR book.

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ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Books Are Our Friends

Lunar Letter

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iracles,

Happy Full Moon in Scorpio!

I have been deep in the Scorpio vibe over the past two weeks as I have been finishing up the manuscript for my forthcoming book Making Magic: Weaving Together the Everyday and the Extraordinary. I am SO pleased to announce that the manuscript is now finished and soon to be headed off to the publisher!

So many of you have been with me on this journey, checking in, offering support, and the kindest words of encouragement and I am so thankful and deeply appreciative of every single one of you for showing up and being there.

At some point, when I am not dog tired, I will write at length about how the last leg of this phase of the project has gone and what I learned along the way, but right now I am headed out to enjoy the glorious weather and to make some sweet offerings of thanks and gratitude at my altar in honor of my Holy Helpers.

The above picture is a snapshot of *some* of the books that have been included in the recommended reading section of my book. When I was running a bookstore with my best friend in San Francisco her husband asked us one time to describe the kinds of books we wanted to carry in our store. We are both pretty articulate ladies (my son says we talk A LOT) but we flailed about for words. Finally we settled on blurting out in exasperation: these books are our friends!!!

I still feel that way today. The best books are more than words on paper, they are friends. And I am lucky to have so many, my wish is that you do too.

Now get out there and relish this deep and magical moon!

In love and blessings always,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Protected: Star Stories: May 2018

Ceremony and Ritual

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magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Hearth and Home, Vol. 3: Book Cover, Baby, and the Magic of Mercury Retrograde

Ceremony and Ritual

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iracles,

Happy New Moon in Aries and Happy Mercury Direct!

As you may know, one of the most effective things we can do when “Mercury Retrograde” or Mercury RX hits is to review, clean, organize, and make efforts at self-maintenance, inner and outer.

Here are just a few things that have been happening in my neck of the woods, under the auspices of the wandering planet:

1. Last week, we finalized the cover design for my book Making Magic, which you can see above. I was over-the-moon thrilled to find out that Sounds True had enlisted the brilliant art of Cassandra, who has done all of the art and site development for my website and is a beloved friend and my collaborator in the daily blessing collection. I received four images, but the above was the one that made the cut. We – including my husband and son and the creative design team at Sounds True and my fantastic editor – all agreed this one was just right. I’m so in love with it and I hope all of you are too!

2. One of the ways I’ve been working with that pesky Mercury RX energy has been to review and edit and re-structure the first manuscript of my book. I finished the chapters since the last time I wrote you, so the timing has been just perfect. For a couple weeks I have been in the refining part of what is a very sculptural act. The form is present, the various parts are mostly in the correct places, and re-arranging does have to happen. There are places where the work sings and others where life must be breathed into it anew. Even though the weather has been gorgeous I have been tied to my computer, and at the end of the day I feel covered in the glimmering dust of words and ideas and, of course, magic…

3. We have also been working with the frisky Mercury RX energy to get a ton of repairs done…our home is almost 100 years old and so there are little cracks here and crevices there that have to be taken care of. The magic of skilled handy people is a magic I have come to deeply appreciate – especially when I see them through the eyes of our seven year old – he knows that all handy people – the plumbers, painters, and masons are absolute wizards. He follows them around asking a million questions (I don’t know where he got the habit from…) and they are so patient and kind and they actually take the time to teach him little bits of their trades. We are also putting in some new landscaping (yes, more herbs and more roots for the making of more custom magical goodies)! This is part of my extensive Uranus into Taurus personal magic making protocol. I’ll be posting pics on insta as we go.

4. My belly is so big now I not cannot see my feet (sigh), and I am in the waddling phase. So many of you have written to me to ask me how I am feeling and how I am doing, and I am happy to report that I am feeling really well as I whoosh into the third trimester. The baby’s nursery is 90% there with the other 10% being the challenge of putting away all of the adorable clothes I have been gifted and lent by friends and family. Whatever else happens, this baby is going to be well-dressed, my friends! As I have told a few beloveds, we also have the car seat, so if the little man decides to come tomorrow we are ready to rock.

In other exciting news: just yesterday Jasper picked up his first real book to read just for pleasure. He has been learning to read over the last couple of years and has been working with the smaller books that are divided into various reading levels, but yesterday was the first time he pulled a book down from his bookshelf and started to read it just for fun, just for pleasure.

What was the book? My Spinning Gold students will not be surprised to hear that it is a collection of fairy tales; he decided to start with Sleeping Beauty…that thirteenth fairy is SO curious!

And so on that note I am sending love on the gorgeous spring breezes and the goodness of all growing green things!
xo,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Who’s Afraid of the Dark?

Foundations

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o go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark.
Go without sight,
and find that the dark,
too, blooms and sings, and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.”
– Wendell Berry

Miracles,

Several years ago at a conference centered around divination, I was approached by a publisher who had heard about the collection of Daily Blessings – a collaborative project between illustrator Cassandra Oswald and myself.

Now the person who approached me worked in acquisitions for a large company that publishes a number of different card decks. They were intrigued by the notion of publishing a deck of blessings that could also be worked with as a divination tool. I knew that many people in my community were waiting for the Daily Blessings to be published because I received (and still do receive) requests every single week for exactly that – so I was game.

Then I showed her a few samples, and I’ll never forget what happened next.

She actually flinched, even cringed.

Her reaction was automatic and visceral. The blessings were great, but the white-on-black artwork was too…how shall we put it? Depressing, dreary, dark – some of the words that she used.

One of the most challenging blessings, as you can see above, is…black itself, without any white at all.

Would I be interested in taking the blessing phrases and working with a different artist in order to make a deck that the company would take to market?

(Depressing? Dreary? Since when has black meant these things…?)

She showed me artwork along the lines of what she was thinking: light pastel watercolors done up in what I think of as the high fantasy artistic tradition.

(Oh. No. no. no.)

I would have loved to say yes. But how could I?

The reaction to the darkness the daily blessings elicited that day has given me much thought. She is a smart woman with her thumb on the pulse of the burgeoning spiritual and “New Age” movements. She knows that the typical charge in our Sacred Arts communities is “love and light” not “love and dark”. She understands that many in our communities refer to themselves as “light workers” who illuminate and dispel darkness and “dark” negativity. She sees how culture, media, and entertainment have taken darkness and blackness and aligned them mostly with the scary and the unknown – sometimes in an exotic and alluring way, but mostly in just a one-dimensional frightening way so that darkness is bad and is meant to be banished or destroyed.

So, when the acquisitions person from the big, impressive, publisher wrinkled her nose at my beautiful black blessings, I knew that this publisher was not the right fit for me, and my response upon being asked to work with a different artist was a simple: “No thank you, I’m not afraid of the dark and neither are my people.”

I could not be interested in ‘using’ another artist for many reasons (as if artists are to be used). I had a working relationship with a talented young artist already for this collaboration, and the artistic style she and I had chosen was not accidental. Her concrete artistic choices have become an integral part of the daily blessings – separating them is unthinkable.

When I first approached Cassie with the idea of the Daily Blessings, I did not have in mind 365 unique and original art pieces. That came from her, as only one with her gifts and unique sensibility could conceive.

But I did have in mind the idea of white images and text on a black background. I wanted us to visually represent the concept of blessings written upon the dark like stars in the night sky. Dark is most essential to those little points of light. Even in an aurora, the darkness supports the luminous.

My love affair with real darkness is one that I come by honestly and it runs in the family. I like to think in truth a love of darkness runs in all families in different ways, shapes and forms. Some of my earliest memories are waking up at my grandparents house when everything was still very dark outside, usually around 3 or 4am. I would creep from my grandmother’s bedroom into my grandfather’s bedroom, because I knew he would be up – and if he wasn’t awake he would be getting up soon, for he was a military man and came from a farming family; and he kept the early morning hours found in both traditions.

Sometimes I would nudge him awake and ask him to play the guitar for me, and he would, in the darkness, play his acoustic guitar and sing me songs – starting with gospel standards, moving into honky-tonk and blues.

Sometimes he would already be up, sitting in the living room; and I would go and join him and sit with him, in the darkness and the quiet. As I’ve written elsewhere, he showed me about black and dark: life-giving, nurturing, and nourishing, and as sources of blessing – not as something to be feared. My mother inherited the same trait and can be found sitting in the darkness, cup of coffee in hand, most mornings, engaged in her own prayers and rituals.

I was the first to go to college in my immediate family. Now the college itself was a unique one; but just being there for me was a culture shock. Another student told me once that he thought I didn’t belong there – because I was strange: I didn’t seem cultured and intellectual, or I was blonde with brown eyes (not blue – imagine!), or I was an outspoken woman (as opposed to…), or – worst of all – I refused to give him money to buy booze for a party (as if I had any to give). But you know, I sometimes feared he was right; maybe I didn’t really belong there.

I had no idea what I was getting into, but college finally worked for me. When papers were due, I would go to bed early-ish, somewhere around 9pm, and get up at 3am – the same hours my grandfather and mother would get up. And then, when the parties were over, the drunks were in bed, the bars were closed, I would stealthily make my way across campus to one of the common rooms where I could write and work without being disturbed.

No one was awake. It was me and the all-black maintenance crew who was headed up by an older man – small, tough and protective – who reminded me very much of my own grandfather.

Being awake before anyone else, in the dark, talking to the janitors, was one of the times in college when I felt most at home and also missed home the most.

Good, black, dirt is an essential medicine in my family. We love to grow things and so we need the humus-rich soil that allows growth to happen. Good, black, coffee has pulled me out of a serious asthma attack on more than one occasion. To me and for me, going into the dark has always been restorative, it cleanses of too much light and too much noise, it allows me to be still, to be (as the Baptist hymn says) just as I am. Darkness calms and soothes.

I know I am not alone. Darkness asks us to rely on senses other than – deeper than – physical sight. Our delicately tuned body comes alive in the darkness in a way that it does not during the day. Paradoxically, it is in the darkness that one is best able to hear ones inner voice, to listen to the ‘Holy Helpers’, whatever they happen to be; to hear the calls and heed them, and thereby to really know and remember one’s own heart.

It is in the dark that I find rest, I find wonder, and fathomless mystery.

I do not think it is coincidental at all that when left to our own devices, all mammals preparing to give birth seek out one thing in common – a dark place in which to labor and bring forth new life.

A few weeks ago we were driving in the car with our little boy, who was chattering about colors – all the ones he liked and did not like. He blithely declared – freely, lightly – that he did not like the color black. We were surprised, and asked him why.

He knew the answer and went on to explain that in movies dark things are always scary and bad. Out of the mouths of babes!

So we asked him to help us think about darkness and black outside of movies – in his own experience, in nature, in people, in stories, in his art work (much of which is dark charcoal on paper), on the piano that he loves to play, on our black kitten, or in the ink mommy and daddy use to write, what about raven feathers found on hikes and dark woods, what about night skies full of stars? What about his darker skinned friends at school and mommy’s dark eyes?

And isn’t there such a thing as being blinded by too much light, of having too much sun?

(Too much light, by the way, is harmful to the health of everyone, as we live in a world that is increasingly saturated with artificial light and darkness itself has become an endangered species.)

He said “oh, yeah!” In his own life, he truly loves the color black, loves darkness, loves night time. It’s everywhere, and in people and creatures that we know and love, and it is not like the movies say it is.

And then he wondered…why then are the dark things so often portrayed as only scary, only fearsome, only bad?

Why, indeed!

Our language and our ways of thinking reflect this back to us every single day. The way we think as Sacred Artists and spiritual people does not match up with our living experience: between the two there is a wide and deep gap.

The challenge of the real dark: we all admit of darkness – physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. To deny the dark, the real and blessed dark, pits us against ourselves, against an essential part of who we are. The dark places us directly in front of what we do not know; it places our own ignorance before us, and that is something much easier to run from than to dive into.

To deny the dark is to deny the tough-as-nails problems of life. How could we expect to find a meaningful spirituality that looks away from these problems? Or how could we expect to work on the tough-as-nails problems of life by denying that they even exist?

So why work hard on bridging the gap between our thoughts about and our actual experience of the dark?

The answer has two parts:

It’s probably more comfortable not to do anything, at least for a while. But you know what happens when you put off important things. Eventually, those chickens do come home to roost – and as those of you who have raised chickens know….they can make quite a mess!

No matter how good our intentions, sooner or later, denying the dark – as opposed to accepting what is in our actual experience – comes back to bite us on so many levels, too many to innumerate. It is a wound we keep on perpetuating that cuts and slices into places, ideas, creatures, and people that we love and hold dear; a wound that cuts and slices into us too – for it is not grounded in truth, insight, or wisdom.

The second part of the answer is this. To be true to what is real, to real people and real life…the reward for this direct honesty in thought and life is a magic that is real. That is, it is nothing you have to make up. It will have and hold both light and dark, gravity and grace, as do I, as do you, as do we all.

In this embrace is the real beauty of our lives, and it makes life most worth living. Why accept anything less?

In love and blessings,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.