Magical Missives: How to Enchant Your Aid

Alchemy and Magic

W

ith all of the current events and weather patterns converging in the various ways that they have AND with the loving, compassion and deep feeling that is always inspired by the Full Moon in Pisces, we have seen the desire to give, pitch-in, help out, and aid in whatever ways we can at an all time high.

This is especially true in our Sacred Arts community. I mentioned it in the Full Moon letter but in case you missed it do you know how much our community raised in Hurricane Harvey Relief in 24 hours? $4500 – pretty remarkable right?!

At the time of writing this, Hurricane Irma is whirling her own path of destruction towards Florida. Hurricanes or not, we know that there is always stormy weather, hearts that are hurting, bellies that need food, and bodies that need shelter.

Fortunately, soulful seekers are not just up for the project; you all are ready and willing. Truly you all have some of the most generous hearts and wise minds I have ever encountered. And of course you also have something else: magic.

For while all people who are showing up and giving have good intentions, those of us practicing the Sacred Arts also know how to make ritual and ceremony; we know how to pray and bless; we know how to enchant.

This extends to the aid that we give – whether you donate a monthly sum to your favorite not-for-profit or are donating goods and money for a specific cause (like Hurricane relief) we know that the act becomes more powerful and makes a bigger, longer, impact when backed up by magic.

So here is one of my favorite ways to do that:

What you Will Need:

This is a Dedication of Merits ceremony so you will need to do something, usually physical, like exercise or garden or clean out your gutters.

This can be as simple as taking a walk down the street or organizing your closet or as complex as running a marathon. It can also be something that really frightens you but you are going to do it anyway – like public speaking.

The key word here is merit – whatever you do needs to challenge you in some capacity. (In other words if running a 50 mile marathon is easy for you it doesn’t count, maybe you need to do a load of laundry or figure out your back taxes or cook dinner instead).

So, pick out your activity that cultivates merit and the focus on where you wish to support and help – where do you want to enchant your aid?

Ceremony:

Before you begin the activity breathe in deeply, stating either aloud or in your mind: “I dedicate the merits of following act to (fill in the blank with the cause or intention you are focused on). May they strengthen, protect, and empower the aid that I have sent and may they bless me so that I am able to support this cause and all that I am dedicated to ever more fully.”

Do the activity!

As you complete the activity breathe in another breath, stating either aloud or in your mind:
“It is done and my merits have been dedicated. May I be blessed and a blessing in turn.”

Final Act: Your giving is in a direct relationship to your accepting. Accepting self-care, accepting rest, accepting pleasure and delight and beauty, accepting healing. We are called on to give, to help and to show up and we are only able to truly and fully answer that call when we also do the little and big things that nourish us. So your final act and way of sealing this particular magical deal? Take care of yourself my loves.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Choose and Be Well

Foundations

D

ear Miracles,

Someone dear to me asked that I write to my Lunar correspondents about how to gain perspective in troubled times.  Understandably enough. The month of August 2017 has given us whiplash – first, Charlottesville, then the remarkable eclipse, ending with Hurricane Harvey.

I have a few thoughts about all of this, but I decided it would be best to hold off before answering, and pull some cards from my classic Marseilles deck first, in the spirit of the Delphic Days we started over a year ago. I had my beloved lend assistance, since this is a concern we both have together.

What do we need to know in troubled times, I asked, and what is the appropriate way to respond?

The first card we pulled was the diagnostic card: the Tower Card. And then the answer to the second query came in two parts: Death and the Sun, Le Soleil.

I actually love the Tower card. It speaks to change – swift and absolute. There is nothing subtle about this card, no easing one into the difficult times. Rather, they land on your doorstep, on your television screen, in living color and undeniable.

The Tower also speaks to a core tenet of the Sacred Arts – that beauty is found in the broken places. And so it is. I have been privileged now to watch hundreds and hundreds of people sift through and stand knee deep in their broken places. Without fail they find treasure. It is always unexpected. Not always clearly applicable in the moment. But treasure nonetheless. I like this card too, because it tells you what you are dealing with straight up – it feels like the end of the world because in some ways, it definitely is.

In the Marseilles deck “Death” is simply “XIII”, that is, it is unnamed. In my experience with the card generally, and what I encourage my clients and students to see, is that Card XIII is nothing to be scared of, and can lead to very interesting and useful insights.

When we divine, we are looking for a way of understanding not only what might be, but also what is, and what has been. And whenever one is engaged in this project, it is much more useful to be led by curiosity as opposed to passionate feelings that are often called up by organizations that have their own agendas (hint: not concerned with what is best for you).

So as diviners we ask questions, and the interesting one to ask with Card XIII here is…why is it unnamed? Why is Death not written on the Card? Every other card in the Major Arcana has a title – for example, The Sun or The Tower. I will have more to say about this question below. But let’s begin with the final card that came up in the reading, The Sun.

What is the appropriate way to respond? we asked.

Under the brilliant rays of the sun, two people hold each other in a caring embrace. This was especially poignant to me as something literally needed for significant parts of my home state of Texas – to dry things up, to shine once more, to remind us that all was not lost.

The first thing many of us do in troubled times is look out for number one. It is so deeply an instinctual urge that very likely no human being is immune from it. Disaster looms and the first thought is: I’m going to get mine, I’m going to take care of me, it’s a dog eat dog world.

Thomas Hobbes, a political philosopher whose work still shapes the world today, said it like this: “life is nasty, brutish, and short.” He believed that men responded in kind to that reality, making life, and politics a zero sum game of winner takes all. It is easy to write off that idea as another irrelevant notion by a European man, but the man had lived through some serious devastation and war. He had witnessed events first hand that gave him this impression. And we have some sense of what he is talking about. But the upshot politically is that our common life all comes down to force – not justice, not something beautiful and good.

We can feel it physically when this attitude comes over us. Jaw juts out. Voice gets louder, harsher. Shoulders hunch forward, eyes narrow in suspicion, and we are just waiting and ready to drop down into fighting stance. We say things we would normally never say. We treat people in ways we would normally never treat them. We harden ourselves in every possible way; feeling and fearing that we cannot afford to stay tender. For to do so equals death.

We know this way of being; we have seen it in others, and if we are honest we have seen it in ourselves. But we also know something else. While a nihilistic, me-first, attitude is part of our experience it is not the only part, and we are certain that it is not the best part.

For what we also see is that saving your own skin is the last thing that actually counts in troubled times. What matters, what inspires, enlivens and teaches is having and helping each other, moving through it together. Not you or me, but we, all of us, together. We feel this physically too. It opens up our chest, we breathe deeper, our throats close up and our eyes fill with tears; we soften, letting tenderness in. The love found in helping where and when we can, even at personal loss, shines far brighter than the fear that would have us betray right relationship for a survival that is lonely, isolated, and apart.

I’ve heard multiple people from both sides of the political aisle say that Hurricane Harvey has been a kind of blessing because after the hatred, ignorance, racism, and division we saw in Charlottesville we needed to know that we, as a country, could come together. This strikes me as wrong for multiple reasons. I don’t think hurricanes work like that for one thing. For another it feels far too sentimental. I shudder to think of the attitude it could foster. Could precipitating a disaster be justified to ‘bring people together’?

But what I do find interesting is the yearning that I see across cultures, ethnic, and racial lines to be led by our better angels, not our worst selves. We know we have within us what is required to fuel more Charlottesvilles, for hate comes easy. We aren’t so sure, I think, that we have what it takes to mitigate a disaster like Harvey. We aren’t as sure any more that we can love that hard. So when we see that at least some of us can and do love that hard, I think a breath held by the collective is suddenly released. Maybe the sun will shine again after all.

Le Soleil – The Sun – recalls to mind the ancient Chinese concept of virtue, ren, which is a pictograph of a human being held within the number two, the number of relationship. This is a picture of humanity.

Our humanity – that is, who we really are – begins in at least two, in relationship, not with ourselves alone, egoistically conceived as prior to all other relationships. The starting point is right relationship, not isolated ego.

This is one part of the mystery held in the teaching found in many First Nation and indigenous communities, that life is made up of “all our relations” – people, creatures, rocks…all beings. Together.

In the Gospels, Christ drives toward the same idea, advising his people to be like the sun whose rays shine everywhere. Your deepest love is not partial. He doesn’t mean to say, um, be like a flashlight, shining on one thing (yourself) and forgetting about the others.

In Plato, the Sun was – playfully – the Good. Most of all, the Sun is fullness of vision and clarity of mind and consciousness – and consciousness is healing. This is the moment the sun returns after the troubling storm departs: now the rebuilding can begin.

When I see radically different groups of people, from different times, different parts of the world, and different cultures working hard to say something very similar, I pay attention. I think in all of the above examples there is an articulation of what it means to strive, together, to find wisdom and healing at the exact times they are most likely to disappear. I see that in each of the above examples there is a call to love, not as a way to avoid or escape the Tower crumbling and falling, but rather as a way to meet it, head on.

In a Delphic Days conversation, what I pull from my deck is not authoritative: you would also ask the question of your oracle of choice – whichever one works for you – and we would share and sort through the results, and let them guide us, as we move together slowly and collectively toward wisdom and healing, toward a perspective that counts.

I want to tell you, though, tenderly, that no useful perspective is forthcoming until we can recall out of the flooded lands and muck, some scattered old words back into our speech and into our reflections on our hardest experiences – until we can call some wanderers home again.

The disappearance of words in the mud of self-forgetting is surely an event in history. Since the time of Friedrich Nietzsche, it has been de rigueur to try to go “beyond” good and evil, to be the sort of people who create our own values.

Good and evil were understood to be bourgeois categories, guaranteeing mediocrity and stifling our (as it was understood) truly heroic and freely creative natures. We washed our hands of all self-righteous moralistic talk, disgusted with the moral absolutism and injustice it all-too-often inspired.

Case in point: the institution of slavery. We wanted a more just world, and in order to create it we knew we needed to stand on new ground, turn a fresh page, and cut out the language of good and evil that had been used to excuse and encourage barbaric practices.

The approach makes sense. It comes from the best possible place. The consequence, however, is that the concept and language of virtue has passed out of our line of sight, losing its currency in our ordinary ways of thinking and talking about hard experiences of life.

Virtue has even come to mean the opposite…sanctimonious hypocrisy, prejudice. Worse than that, the concept of virtue is becoming more and more language owned and used by some of the loudest and most hateful voices. I heard many people say many things about what happened in Charlottesville. I heard no one call it – for very long or at all – by its proper name: evil.

And here’s the thing that anyone whose lineage and life has been touched by slavery can tell you: You don’t erase the underlying thing by erasing the word. Even though we have lost the language of virtue, the phenomena of virtue or – what is more precise – the problems which virtue speaks to, are still there, everyday, practically unnamed and wandering about among us, homeless, sometimes with great harm and sometimes with astonishing grace.

We have seen virtue and its opposite on display in August, first in Charlottesville and then in Houston. We have seen it; but few of us have the language to speak to what we have seen. Which means that we also do not have the capacity to think and feel through those events with as much integrity and clarity as we might otherwise be able to. Which means in turn, that our actions in response may not be as rooted, clear-sighted, helpful, healing, and loving as we would have them be. That means that things like Charlottesville will happen again and again and again. And when we are at the point where we look to a massively destructive storm to make us feel better about ourselves, I think we need to re-assess what’s been given up and whether the trade off was worth it.

It is no coincidence, to my way of thinking as a Sacred Artist, that the Marseilles “Death” card Number XIII is unnamed. On the one hand, we know what it is. Death doesn’t need to be introduced. The Holy Names are sacred too – better to leave such things unnamed, the things that surpass all comprehension. But just look at the dismembered body parts strewn about under the sway of that sharp scythe. Death is unnamed because that is what fear does: it unnames us, freezes us, renders us mute.

Now flip this over and you can see something. Finding the true name of a thing, like your own true name, is not in fact dis-membering, but re-membering, bringing it back together, unifying, whole-making and holy. This is the challenge of the Death card. Do you know your name? Do you know yourself? Do you remember? This is why in my tradition we make such a big deal about remembering our Beloved Dead; in remembering them, we remember ourselves, we remember our capacity not just for fear but for love.

Perspective will come, then, when we can finally see that – after all – even though we don’t like to speak in absolutes, and we don’t want to be unjust people, we are not at all beyond the problems of good and evil, we are not beyond taking a stand for the good and for what is right, and perhaps even not beyond naming them for what they are in fact.

Maybe it is time, then, to humbly and simply welcome our homeless wanderers – those problems of good and evil – home again in our thinking, give them a place to reside, to clothe and nourish them, help them re-enter society – to educate them, to learn the lessons of the past, for the sake of our future together. Maybe they too are like ancestors and maybe it is time we start to remember them as such.

I suspect that when we do that we will know with more certainty that we are here to love hard and that we will be able to see with more clarity the ways and places that hate seeps in like so much poison and stop it in its tracks.

In the aftermath of August, we hear some popular speakers saying things like “human beings are “wired” to fundamentally good.” So attractive, for it offers a simple solution to life’s problems, but it is a silver bullet solution. I submit that this view, far from expanding our sight, in fact narrows our vision, blocks perspective – by obscuring what may be staring us in the face.

My thoughts have lately been with a specific client base that I have, and wondered what they would think about some of these popular speakers and their claims. These clients have been with me a very long time. They are mostly African-American, women, and in between the ages of 55-65. They are church-goers, and they have a deep memory: they remember the Civil Rights movement, they remember some of the events that made it necessary and that still do. I heard them say in their calm, alto voices, “People are fundamentally good? Bullshit. People make a choice to be good.” I love these clients of mine. They are not on Facebook. They are brief and polite in their email exchanges. They strongly prefer to speak on the phone. They don’t want to take a web-based anything, but they very much appreciate a straight up card reading. And they call it like it is. They have taught me so very much.

Sacred Artists and Soulful Seekers get relationships. We get awareness and paying attention. We are down for those projects. We even understand the need to choose love over fear. But we shy away from remembering that there is good and evil in the world for all the understandable reasons. But my “church ladies” – as I think of them – would have us remember something else: everyday we make choices, and if you have lost the language that describes what you are choosing then how will you make the best choice? How will you choose good? How will you choose love? How will you look at hate in the face and give it a name so that it might be vanquished, not forever, but for today?

Here is what’s known: Towers fall, Death comes, and the Sun will rise once more.
Here’s what’s not: How will you choose? Where will you stand? You or me or us, together? Fear and self-preservation? Or the much harder path of love that doesn’t turn away and something that, once upon a time, was called good?

Remember yourself.
Choose and be well.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Animalia Stellarum ~ Virgo

Ceremony and Ritual

V

irgo resonates with the element of Earth, and is a mutable sign. The Sun is in Virgo from August 22nd through September 22nd. Virgo is the 6th sign in the zodiacal wheel, marking the point of the late Summer moving into early Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and late Winter moving into early Spring in the Southern Hemisphere. Represented by the Maiden, Virgo speaks to purity, cleanliness, devotion, clarity, physical health, work, and sovereignty.

The Maiden as Virgo

If you have been waiting for a star story that gives women the central role then read on, for the sign of Virgo is all about the ladies. Virgo literally means “Virgin” and is a constellation that has been associated with the feminine and various Goddesses since we started listening to stories about stars. “Virgin” of course is a matter of interpretation, while the word still is taken today as referring to a sexually untried, “pure” woman or girl, the much older and more apt definition of Virgo is “one who is sovereign,” meaning that here we have a woman who is not owned, sold, bought, or belonging to a man (or another woman for that matter) but rather belongs to herself and herself alone. She may or may not be sexually active, may be of any age, and may be involved in the fields of spirituality, commerce, agriculture, or arts and culture as she likes because again, she belongs to herself.

As such, the essence of the Virgin is one that belongs to all woman and men. We all have within us a feminine aspect that will not be owned or claimed by another, and the Maiden becomes both a phase of life, that thrilling time of transition between child and woman, and a cultivated attitude that, again, men, women, and all other genders have access to as well.

Sovereignty then, is one of the key features of this particular sign, and perhaps a better way of saying it is knowing how to have an ongoing relationship with Sovereignty and what it means to you to belong to yourself first and foremost. Two more qualities that come up immediately, and that Virgo is strongly associated with, are cleanliness and purity. While the ideas of cleanliness and purity have been taken out of their original meanings and applied to some truly horrific ideas (like so-called racial “purity” or ethnic cleansing), the root idea with both terms is that one can be left alone, unmolested, undisturbed, and uninterrupted. Another way to think about what it means to be clean and pure is found in the idea of wholeness.

These truths are reflected in the strong association between the constellation of Virgo and the great Goddesses of old. For this sign is exclusively associated with the some powerful Goddesses including the Sumerian Shala, Babylonian Ishtar, Greek Demeter and Persphone, and Roman Ceres and Proserpina. In each case these Goddesses were significant figures in their time and place that spoke to universal themes while especially emphasizing fertility and harvest, as is best indicated by the sheaf of wheat motif with which they are all pictured.

For the Sumerians, Shala was the Goddess of the Harvest and the Furrows, meaning that she was both Maiden, waiting to be impregnated with seed, and Mother, aligned with all that is fertile and ripe. The Babylonian Ishtar was a great Goddess associated with the gifts of agriculture, love, sex, fertility, and marriage but also war and queenship. She too was imaged as both a brave maiden and loving mother whose name was called on during the harvesting of cereal crops and grains.

This theme continues with the ancient Greek pair of Demeter and Persephone. Here we see that the Maiden/Mother roles have been split in two, literally, with Demeter functioning as the great grain Goddess and Mother of all agriculture (as well as the keeper of Sacred Law) and Persephone embodying the Maiden who experiences violation and, in turn, learns (at hands of helpers like Hekate) what Sovereignty really is all about.

The association with these ancient Goddesses speaks to several other qualities of Virgo. One is the impulse we feel under Virgo’s influence to practice our spirituality in a more intentional manner. Virgo encourages us to build altars, become part of a church congregation, and/or develop a daily practice that is full of meaningful devotions. All of these Goddesses had temples, priestesses, and acolytes and in a very real way Virgo calls up the inner Priestess within all of us.

In slightly different terms we can also see here the emphasis on health. Sovereignty itself was a Goddess at one point and, like the other Goddesses mentioned here, She had a strong relationship with the land. What we see in the stories of Virgo is a reminder that the health of our bodies is connected to the health of THE body of the earth. This sign, already associated with the element of earth, reminds us to tend to the literal ground beneath our feet and also to take care of our physical bodies. For this reason Virgo has long been associated with the medical professions.

Finally, we see in the stories of the various Goddesses that Virgo is the Maiden but also the Mother – that this sign occupies the space in between both of these qualities and encompasses them as well. Once upon a time the Maiden and Mother were not so very cut off from each other. This meant, practically, that as women aged they still had the energy of the Maiden readily accessible, and that for women who chose not to have children or were not able to have children, they were not excluded from the particular mysteries of Motherhood – the Goddesses reflected all to everyone not just a chosen few. As our stories became split and splintered so did the role of Maiden and Mother, hardening into two extremes instead of the flowing relationship they once possessed. Practically speaking we are all still finding ways to repair and heal from this particular rift, so it is quite fortunate that we need only look up into the sky at the stars of Virgo (the second largest constellation btw) to remind ourselves what wholeness actually looks like.

The Maiden as Animal: By Sara Magnuson

In discussing the human-animals of the zodiac in particular, we’ve established that the vastness of our minds is the main characteristic that sets humans apart from other animals. As the Earth Maiden, Virgo shows us the merging of our intellectual capacity and our instinctual/animalistic body. Virgo takes us out of the mind and moves downward into the body, acknowledging our physicality. Virgo is the initial connection between mind and form. The Maiden also exemplifies the ways we are similar to and aligned with other animals, rather than pointing out where we diverge.

All animals learn how to exist in their surroundings by observing (watching, listening, smelling), trying/experimenting, and then processing those experiences so that their body and mind will react appropriately in the future. It is in this way that Virgo shows us our similarities to other animals. Those born under the sign of Virgo are keenly observant and process newly-discovered information not just in the mind, but down into their earthy being. Virgos don’t just know something, they feel it in their body. Typically fast learners, once they have mastered a task it’s embedded in their muscles and bones and they quickly move through it with ease. A Virgo reading a book or listening to music is not just taking in the words or sounds, but sensing the narrated world or the vibrations of the melody as if they were in it, feeling it, creating it. The mind of Virgo is very sharp, but the influence of the element of Earth keeps them especially attuned and connected to their physical senses.

We have seen the virgin and maternal aspects of Virgo described above, as well as the ways in which she is seen as the Maiden and the Mother. The association with virginity gives an innocence to Virgo that can be mistaken for apathy or naiveté and betray the deep wisdom they have obtained with their apparent wide-eyed idealism. Such is the way of many animals – seemingly innocent and naive, yet full of knowledge. For example, a Squirrel may not appear to be a wise creature, as they are skittish and approach everything as if they’ve never seen it before; yet the Squirrel has an understanding of how to exist in its environment that is deeply rooted in its body and goes beyond pure intellectual reasoning. The Squirrel knows what to expect from familiar circumstances because of previous experience, but it is prepared and understands that each encounter can bring new variables. As the Squirrel moves slowly out of the bushes toward the open ground under my bird feeder, as it has done a thousand times before, it is still cautious and filled with trepidation. It is processing all that it already knows and taking in any new information, integrating it all together. It is this ongoing collecting of wisdom that gives Virgo a motherly quality juxtaposed with a surface level innocence.

The mental-physical integration of new facts and knowledge with previous experience allows Virgo to be practical, resourceful, patient, and methodical. This process can also cause Virgo to be worrisome, controlling, and even a bit OCD. Learning to bring intellectual thoughts into the physical form and trusting the mind-body connection can help with Virgo’s anxious or domineering tendencies. It is this same act of integrating, however, that gives Virgo the ability to learn and adapt and allows them to live well in community with others. Virgo encourages us to take our knowing into our physical form and listen, trust, and act from our entire self.

Call on The Maiden When…

  • You desire more sovereignty
  • You want to cultivate a sense of order and peace
  • You are ready to take your words and ideas seriously
  • You wish to deepen your sense of purpose through service
  • You need more devotion in your life
  • You desire order and structures that make sense
  • You need better boundaries
  • You are working on cultivating a sense of personal responsibility
  • You wish to have greater clarity around your work in the world
  • You would like to have insight into your physical health
  • You are ready harvest the fruits of your labors

Be Wary Of…

  • Rigidity – Virgo’s qualities of clarity and organization are wonderful to have on hand and available but Virgo can also become too rigid or fixed in its attitudes towards these things. Sometimes Virgo can send off the vibe that everything must be in its specific place or we simply cannot function. This makes for a clean house but also a home that is sometimes empty of spiritedness or fun. Virgo does best when it fully integrates the gifts of Leo and remembers that fun and messes also have a place in our lives.
  • Intolerance – As the Maiden, Virgo is fixated on purity and devotion but sometimes this attitude develops into a “my way is the only way” mind-set. Virgo can come off as intolerant of mistakes, messes, and ways of seeing or going about life that do not fit into their predetermined framework of “the way that things should be.”
  • Passive-Aggression – In direct opposition to Virgo’s ability to be rigid and intolerant (more than pretty much any other mutable sign, with the possible exception of Aquarius), there is also a flip side of Virgo being too easy-going and accommodating. Virgo loves to serve and sometimes in serving others can lose sight of herself. When this happens Virgo responds often in a passive-aggressive manner, not wishing to create significant conflict but also needing to express their deep dissatisfaction.

Questions to Ponder for Virgo:

Virgo, the Maiden, shows up in everyone’s chart – there is no such thing as “I don’t have Virgo” because it is a cluster of stars in the sky and it is always there. Wherever Virgo occurs in your chart these questions will help you get to know it better.

  • What does Sovereignty mean to me? What is my relationship to Sovereignty?
  • What am I devoted to and how do I express that devotion?
  • What is my body and physical health telling me about my overall approach to life?
  • What is the role of organization and cleanliness in my life?
  • Where do I love to serve others?
  • What does right relationship to work look and feel like?
  • Where do I need more clarity?
  • What am I ready to harvest?

Active Imagination Practice

When we talk and feel into intuition things can get very foggy and vague quickly. This is because intuition belongs to the Otherworld, the liminal world and it works according to the rules and customs of that world not our highly analytical, extremely audio-verbal waking experience. Thankfully there is one immediate and direct way to begin experiencing your intuitive guidance, and yes, we all have intuition, the path of this experience lies through and within your own blessed body.

Sit or stand where you are comfortable, close your eyes, and take a long deep breath.
Take several more long, deep breaths and with each inhale imagine the air filling your lungs and moving through your body down into your feet. On each exhale, push the air out through your core and imagine each muscle relaxing, from your toes to your head.
Affirm and acknowledge the presence of your shields and note if any areas or zones of the body need especial attention at this time.
Engage with the your breath again.

Ask in your mind and heart for your body to show you what YES feels like for you.
Pay attention specifically to what area of the body comes alive upon YES and what that life feels like: an opening, a heating up, a tingling, something completely different?
If when you first ask you feel that you do not receive a response in and through the physical body then, remaining engaged with the blessed body breath, allow yourself to remember a time in your life where you were asked a question, given an opportunity, or made a decision and the answer was YES.
Remember the specifics of the situation — the people involved, the time of day and season of year, the specific content. Then focus on the memory of your YES, what did it feel like in the body? Where did it happen in the body?

Once you can see, sense, touch, know, and feel your YES, then we turn our attention to NO.
Ask in your mind and heart for your body to show you what NO feels like for you.
Pay attention specifically to what area of the body comes alive upon NO and what that life feels like: an closing, a cooling, a tensing or contraction, something completely different?
If when you first ask you feel that you do not receive a response in and through the physical body then, remaining engaged with the blessed body breath, allow yourself to remember a time in your life where you were asked a question, given an opportunity, or made a decision and the answer was NO.
Remember the specifics of the situation — the people involved, the time of day and season of year, the specific content. Then focus on the memory of your NO, what did it feel like in the body? Where did it happen in the body?

Once you can see, sense, touch, know, and feel your NO, then we turn our attention to MAYBE.
Ask in your mind and heart for your body to show you what MAYBE feels like for you.
Pay attention specifically to what area of the body comes alive upon MAYBE and what that life feels like: a calming, a cooling or heating, a settling in and down, something completely different?
If when you first ask you feel that you do not receive a response in and through the physical body then, remaining engaged with the blessed body breath, allow yourself to remember a time in your life where you were asked a question, given an opportunity, or made a decision and the answer was MAYBE.
Remember the specifics of the situation — the people involved, the time of day and season of year, the specific content. Then focus on the memory of your MAYBE, what did it feel like in the body? Where did it happen in the body?

When you have completed this meditation, record your body’s responses. Make note of your physical and emotional feelings for each question. Reflect on how you can listen to your body in everyday life. If you don’t feel you have clear signals for yes, no, and maybe in your body after completing this exercise, revisit it weekly until the answers feel solid to you; be patient and know that your mind and body are meant to talk to each other.

Altar and Ritual

The Maiden, and the Goddesses of agriculture and harvest with whom she is associated, are most often depicted with a sheaf of wheat, so to honor her we must make bread!

The art of bread making (yes, it is most definitely an art) is ancient and brings us back to our common ancestral roots; for making bread is a very grounding experience. It is essentially a quite simple process of blending and waiting, but the physical act of combining the relatively few ingredients leads to the creation of something nourishing and wonderful!

For those of you that think making bread is too technical or delicate, it doesn’t have to be. Provided below as a simple and easy method of creating a “no-knead” bread that keeps the sacred process alive but does not require any baking experience. In this recipe we are also going to add some sacred herbs to create a most exquisitely magical bread.

(If you already have your own favorite bread recipe and/or are experienced with making bread using other methods, feel free to follow what you know and try adding some sacred herbs.)

IMPORTANT – do not use a bread making machine! The purpose of this exercise is to create this nourishing, sacred bread with your own two hands.

This “no-knead” method is taken from the book, “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. A highly recommended resource if you’d like to start making your own bread.

This recipe will make four 1-pound loaves that you will bake one at a time over several days.
You will need a 4-5 quart glass bowl or plastic container, a baking stone (pizza stone works great), and a boiler tray.

Ingredients:

– 3 cups lukewarm water
– 1 1/2 tablespoons of granulated yeast (2 packets)
– 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt
– 2 teaspoons total of dried herbs (4 teaspoons if fresh); use herbs that have a magical significance for you, but make sure they are edible and tasty!
– 6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour (do not pack when measuring)
– Cornmeal (for sprinkling on the baking stone)

Step One: Mix and Store the Dough

– Put the lukewarm water in the glass bowl and add the yeast and salt. Gently stir to dissolve, but it doesn’t have to be completely dissolved.
– Add the herbs to the water mixture.
– Add all of the flour at once.
– Mix with a wooden spoon if you want a good workout and/or doing it all by hand is especially important to you. It’s also perfectly ok to use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix until it is uniformly moist without any dry patches.
– Cover loosely with a lid, cloth towel, or plastic wrap, but you do not want it to be air tight.
– Allow to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse or flatten on top (about 2 hours).
– You can technically use the dough at this point, but since the dough is quite wet it will be easier to handle after being refrigerated for at least three hours or even overnight.

Step Two: Shaping and Baking

– Sprinkle your work surface and the baking stone with a generous amount of cornmeal.
– Take out your refrigerated dough and lightly sprinkle the whole surface with flour.
– Pull up and cut off a grapefruit-sized piece of dough from the bowl.
– Add a little more flour as needed so the dough won’t stick to your hands.
– Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. The bottom of the loaf will start to appear to be a collection of bunched ends and the top will be very smooth. Be careful not to over-handle the ball and the whole process should take about a minute.
– Place the shaped ball on your work surface and allow to rest uncovered for 40 minutes.
– Place the baking stone in the oven on the middle rack and the boiler tray on a rack below.
– Preheat the oven, with the baking stone and boiler tray inside, to 450 degrees. Allow a full 20 minutes for preheating.
– Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour and, using a serrated knife, slash a 1/4 inch deep cross, tic-tac-toe, or any other pattern into the top of the loaf.
– Place the loaf on the baking stone and pour 1 cup of hot water into the boiler tray. Be sure to do this relatively quickly so you can trap the steam in the oven.
– Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch. Avoid opening the oven to check on it for at least 30 minutes.
– When you remove the loaf from the oven, it will audibly crackle, or “sing.” Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
– The remaining dough can be stored and used as needed for up to 14 days.

About my Co-Author:

Sara Magnuson is a crafter of spiritual supplies, a reader of cards, a diviner of animals, and the co-founder of Candlesmoke Chapel. Her personal practice is eclectic, animistic, and ancestral. The guidance she provides is based in the messages of Nature and its role in how we move through this world.

 

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Prayer for the Solar Eclipse

Lunar Letter

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ay we shine.

And as we shine, we know that we journey, one foot in front of the other, carving out the regular cycle of our stories, the circular motion of cell and breath and life, and that during this journey there will be interruptions.

We trip and we fall as we wander our course, sure as the Sun and Moon also trip over themselves in their giddy rush to meet one another once more, falling into each other’s limned embrace.

And as we rise up with our skinned knees and elbows we might, if we are brave, we might, if we are something close to wise, say “thank you” – hearing within the interruption a call to attention and awareness, discovering grace in the fall.

Seeing too the patterns to which we have clung and agreed and perpetuated knowingly or not, and taking the moment of rising to decide if we still wish to walk in this particular way on this particular path, knowing that the choice resides within, as does the answer.

And as we choose, righting ourselves once more, traveling our path with greater purpose, we no longer fear the falling, the missing of the mark, or the wandering off the course and into the wild and star-filled woods. Rather, we welcome the moments of panic and loss, recalling the freedoms that they hold alongside our own true commitments, knowing that they bring us ever closer to the embrace of our own deepest Beloved.

And so, burnished by shadow and bruised by our falling, we shine ever brighter.

Image credit: The above image comes from the book Sun and Moon, which I first heard about from the fabulous Arts and Culture blog, Brainpickings. Sun and Moon is published by indie publisher Tara Books, dedicated to giving voice to marginalized art and literature, and featuring the work of ten Indian folk and tribal artists illustrating ancient stories about Sun and Moon.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

The Ways of Life and Death in Stories and Soulful Seeking

Sacred Arts

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iracles,

People turn to the Sacred Arts when they are ready to get real. What I see over and over again is that those drawn to the Sacred Arts and the stories that have carried them down through time do not come from any one specific area of life. I could not do a marketing profile or customer avatar for them if I tried. Of course this makes sense – the Sacred Arts have been practiced and developed by all sorts of different people through all times, so in a very real way they belong, and they call to, all of us.

But whether it is a college professor, a doctor, a lawyer, or a potion brewing witch that I am speaking to, here is what I have seen and heard: the return to the Sacred Arts comes about because each individual is ready for an experience that is more real. The sense that we are sleeping through life as surely as the Miller’s Daughter slept through the transformation of straw into gold is no longer acceptable. We have been jolted awake and the world of weak fantasy no longer has a hold on us.

Frequently what jolts us into wakefulness is a vision of beauty, the breath of Enchantment on our cheek, a plain, every day, occasion that turns into something no less than a straight up miracle. But sometimes the things that jolt us awake are painful, traumatic, and the causes of great and deep suffering. Stories work with both sets of experience as well as the mundane moments when the Otherworld just shows up unannounced in the form of a Fairy Queen washing clothes or a cat that talks.

Stories that deal with pain and suffering are actually much more common than we think. Many of our best beloved stories have bloody parts that were deleted by later adapters and collectors in order to “protect” children. In some of the oldest versions of Cinderella, for instance, the evil step sisters have their heels and toes sliced off in order to squeeze into those damn glass slippers. (Of course, in the oldest version of Cinderella the slippers are not glass at all but warm, fur-covered moccasins – how far we have drifted from that older than old telling). In the Tale of the Handless Maiden, a perfectly sweet and innocent young girl’s hands are chopped off by the Devil, and Handsel and Gretel are two young children who find themselves starved, neglected, abandoned, and then almost cannibalized in turn.

So many of our stories deal with pain and suffering because they are experiences that we all have, and, as I said earlier, they are experiences that season us so that we are ready to wake up and get down to business. Among my clients and students, few experiences carry the power of wakefulness that Death does. This is what the sister stories of Medea (from Ancient Greece) and La Llorona (from Indigenous Mexico) speak about. They tell us about Death and the many ways it comes in and makes itself at home in your kitchen and at your table. They speak to us of the destruction that occurs when oaths and vows are broken. And, more than that, they challenge us to find a different way, tell a different story, and make a different ending.

The Sacred Arts speak to Death and contain many rituals for the moments of Death that we all experience, as well as ceremonies and healings when Death approaches and for the aftermath Death leaves behind. Soulful seekers understand that Death is part of a natural cycle of Life and as such we honor it and create magic to help us relate to it in ways that are healthy, whole, and holy.

Our next guest teacher introduction is something of an expert on Death. Martha Jo Atkins. Dr. Atkins founded the Children’s Bereavement Center in San Antonio, Texas. She has, in her own words, always had an affinity, curiosity, and comfort around dying. She is also a magical woman who understands the needs to create meaningful ritual and ceremony around the roles that Death plays in our lives. Listen in to a clip of our conversation and learn more.

Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Sacred Arts, Faery Tales and the Wild

Ceremony and Ritual

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Miracles,

You return from that trip to an exotic place – or perhaps to the wilds of nature. There to greet you on the front porch steps is your life again, waiting for you. Then what?

You discover something unsettling.

It’s like you’ve never left in the first place. For awhile you feel fresh again, but then all the bills are there, the push and pull and tensions of everyday living are. still. there.

Ugh! What’s happening? We try to get away and refresh, and maybe it works for a little while, but then the same problems crop up – and repeat themselves.

Since the days of Rousseau (and actually much earlier), all too often we’ve accepted the view that the natural wild is a realm “over there” away from where we live, from our lives.

To begin our journey then, our really soulful work, we believe we must somehow make a big leap, if it were even possible, over into that realm and start from there.

In truth, not only is no such leap is necessary, but the leap itself can actually makes things worse. For the wild – the true wild – is a property of the heart and the real inferiority found in us and in nature, within relationship; and it is found in those encounters where we least expect it. That can happen to us wherever we are – in the car, in the doctor’s office, at the bank, on the street, in the city, the country, the mountains.

Now many important lessons can be learned by stepping outside the human realm and into nature, or outside the familiar to a realm that is foreign and different. Don’t get me wrong.

For the Sacred Artist, it is simply a matter of where you begin. As the old stories teach, the exotic realm is not the wild at all, and not a starting place, but a kind of abstraction. Where the true movement begins is right where we are.

The story of Sir Gawain and Lady Ragnelle – the guiding story of Module IV of Spinning Gold – speaks directly to this, and how it plays a role in a life that manifests real enchantment.

It begins with the scene of a deep betrayal, and as a consequence the land of the kingdom in the story dries up, crops wither away, and there is no longer water, moisture, or vitality of any kind. People are not able to have children, all of the food crops and animals are destroyed, the living land turns into one perilously close to death. Spiritually, psychologically and pragmatically, we lose the power to manifest our dreams, desires and intentions.

A betrayal occurs or is experienced: someone tells us “not to quit our day jobs” or that our “sister is really the talented one” or that our art making, prayer making, sanctuary building, word crafting, is a “nice hobby”.

Sometimes the betrayal happens within: every time we tell ourselves that there isn’t anything worthwhile or relevant or meaningful in the creative work we are called to do, anytime we stop ourselves before we even start by getting busy cleaning or talking to a friend or doing five errands all before noon, then we too feel that icy wind blowing across our soul soil and snuffing out our creative spark. Creatively we feel “stuck”, “frozen”, “bored”, “dried up”, “numb” and “dead”.

And so, in order to right this wrong and bring life back to the land, Sir Gawain, bravest and truest knight of the Round Table, is given a specific task: he must learn the answer to a singular and shining question.

And so must we, in our own context, learn the answer to the question.

Failure to do so results not only in the loss of life for the land, but also in the loss of Gawain’s own life. (So you know, no pressure).

Gawain goes into the wild, and it takes him the traditional initiatory time, a year and a day, to discover the answer to his question, an answer that comes at a wild and wondrous price as those familiar with the tale know. Without spoiling the ending of the tale, I can assure you that both life and true wildness return to the kingdom.

The quest, the traveling into parts unknown, and wondering through the deep wild wood, are all necessary steps along the way to retrieving the fuel that can keep the creative spark burning and it is this way for us as well.

Like Gawain, we must brave the icy wilds, go on a quest and find the needed answers that will provide fuel for our brilliant and bright spark to burn once more.

But the wilds need not literally be wilds – like literally wilderness area. For it is only when he returns, that the real magic begins to move: he has an encounter that changes everything and restores wholeness.

Gawain’s story and teachings focus specifically on the Sacred Arts of Ritual and Ceremony and concrete practices you can try out.

The story, like all the fairy stories we encounter, speak in particular ways as helps in breaking down the idea that there is this world of here and now and another world of dream and magic that we can yearn for but never fully participate in.

The practices we learn in the Sacred Arts of Ritual and Ceremony, as well as others, help us weave the worlds back together through stories and the Sacred Arts.

Those soulful seekers who practice the Sacred Arts can attest to not only more creative vision and ideas, but more creative vision and ideas that become concretely manifested so that they may be shared with the world. We should expect this result. For if we can learn to see gold in straw, then we can certainly remember the ways to care for a practical intention or a project from start to finish, so that it is able to emerge fully whole and intact.

And it is those concrete manifestations of your creative brilliance that turn anywhere you are, and everywhere you are, into terrain that is wild and overflowing with wonder.

The next Spinning Gold guest teacher I would like to introduce, Ryan Edward, is all about the intersection between the Sacred Arts and creativity. With several Tarot and Lenormand decks to his name, Ryan’s work has been published by US Games and is beloved within the Sacred Arts community, and for good reason: his work is quite gorgeous and his skill is matched only by his kindness. In fact, as a professional designer, he sees the the creative work of design as a form of the Sacred Art of Divination. Intrigued? Give it a listen!

Bri

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magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Magical Missive: Fast Action Fire Power

Ceremony and Ritual

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iracles,

This is an old-fashioned recipe that comes straight out of the Hoodoo and Conjure tradition. It is for anyone who has experienced misfortune and needs to turn their situation around stat! But it is also appropriate for anyone starting a new venture who wants to call fast acting luck to their side.

What you will need:
1 red or beeswax devotional candle
blend of the following dried herbs:
• alkanet leaf
• crushed vanilla pod
• spearmint leaf
• pen & paper
• green & red loose glitter
• olive oil or a Fast Luck oil like this one

Significance:
Alkanet leaf is a traditional botanical ingredient in ceremonies where luck, action, or power is sought out. It is also a botanical used for its red dye and the color red has its own set of associations that also speak to power and good fortune. Alkanet is also a traditional ingredient used in New Orleans style Fast Luck oil.

Vanilla Pod is both sweetening and warming and whenever you create a ceremony to bring something quickly you want to include warming ingredients.

Spearmint leaf has a sharp, aromatic, scent that is used to cut through messes and also cut through delays bringing clarity an decisive action along in its wake.

Glitter to decorate your candle and make it pretty!

Ceremony: General Instructions for dressing vigil candles

If you are working with a paraffin candle, poke holes in the top of it – I like to make 3 or 4. You may use an ice pick, screwdriver, knife or other tool for this.

If you are working with a beeswax devotional candle as I do, then you are going to have a much harder time poking holes into the candle. Instead you may proceed without the holes.

Combine your herb mixture. Sprinkle 2-3 pinches of your herb mixture onto the candle.

Drop 3-4 drops of oil onto the top of the candle.

Add any curios like magnetic sand, small bits of pyrite, or lodestone gravel and finish with glitter.

Note – you do not want to “drown” your herbs in oil nor do you want them to be so dry that they catch fire when you light the candle wick.

Write out your petition and anoint the petition paper with the oil you used to dress the candle.

Place petition underneath candle, bless the candle with focus and sincerity for the manifestation of your desire.

Knock the candle 3 times to “seal” it, and then light it, allowing it to burn undisturbed.

Obviously do not leave a flame unattended unless it is in a fireproof container.

Final act:
After your candle has finished burning, you may look at it and see what shapes you find in the glitter and debris. These may be construed as signs and give you information as you work to read the candle.

In love and blessings always,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.