The Medicine We Need

Ceremony and Ritual

W

e need to make sure we have all the medicine we need.”

My husband tells me this offhandedly, on his way out of the kitchen with the two boys, the screen door shutting firmly behind him. I open the cabinet, what looks for all the world like an altar to health and convenience and choices. Cough syrups and lozenges, prescription medication to manage my chronic asthma, tonics and tinctures in strange brown glass bottles sitting side by side the Tylenol and Motrin. This is, after all, the medicine cabinet of someone experienced with specialized medicines for serious chronic illness – but it is also the cabinet of a witch. I would expect some dark glass bottles and dried bundled of herbs and homemade balms and I am not disappointed.

I stare at the shelves running through the lists of things a family of four, with two active young children, might need to see them through the Winter. I know I can go to the store to pick up whatever I don’t have, but I don’t take that knowledge for granted the way that I did before Covid, before March of this year, before going to the grocery store became a fraught affair.

How to know, I wonder? How does one know what is needed? The irony of a professional diviner asking how one knows what is needed, how one knows anything really, is not lost on me. I have an answer. I wrote it down in my first book. Pay attention. That is what I have to do, what we have to do, ever and always, pay attention. I look again and wonder aloud: what is the medicine we need?

Candles flicker on the Ancestor altar and the air is full of the golden spice scent of marigolds. Soon I’ll add the sugar skulls. Soon we will write the names of the Beloved Dead on each one. There is one medicine we need, a medicine easily forgotten: the act of remembering. Remembering our Beloved Dead, our lineage of blood and choice, and all of the tangles and gorgeous colors it contains, the stories of our Ancestors.

My gaze drifts over to the charm bag that contains the first locks of hair from one of my baby’s head. We need the medicine of memory and also the medicine of possibility, of dreams, of aspirations. Those are carried in the words I write, the seeds we plant, the sparkle of a gorgeous boy’s eye when he wins the game, and the salty tears of defeat when the day was hard.

I tiptoe out into the garden under the waxing moon, sit on the wooden swing with my cup of steaming coffee and watch as the little opossum we rescued earlier this year noses about in the plants and then scurries up his favorite tree. When he was brought into the kitchen, furry body hanging out of our proud dog’s mouth, I thought for sure he was dead. Then I remembered that opossums are quite good at playing dead. Later that day I watched him move, thinking, mmm, surely his back is broken, this looks bad. A day of recuperation at our local Wildlife center, prayers to St. Francis, and now he is rummaging about the garden as if nothing happened. Resiliency then, that too is a medicine that we need to carry with us through the Winter.

This year marked my 40th birthday. I rang it in by standing in line for 4 hours so that both myself and my beloved could vote. A group of women stood behind me. They all wore black shirts with silk screened lace collars. The shirts said: “We are Ruthless” in a nod of respect to Justice Ginsburg’s recent death. They brought doughnuts to the party, knowing it would be a while before we could cast our vote. Commitment to the possibility of something better. There is medicine we need always, and with plenty of back stock.

The Full Moon is on Halloween. Every elementary school aged child’s heart swells as this undeniable, unbelievable, too perfect to be true, fact. It is proof among the dead grass, sticky caramel-kissed fingers, and October pumpkin-filled air, that magic exists. In this year of all years, that too needs to be carried forward. The magic of an October Full Moon hanging low in the sky as the goblins and ghosts come out for tricks and treats while witches wait for the new year to be ushered in.

Now I’m paying attention. Now I see what we need and I know what to do. In addition to the tried and true medicines of the body, I’ll gather up some further things: Remembering, Stories, Dreaming, Hoping, Resilience, Recovery, Commitment, Betterment, Magic. Pour them into brown glass bottles, braid them together while the leaves are still supple, make a balm with them for chapped hands and lips and souls. I’ll tuck them into the cabinets in between the pain relievers and the thermometers. Now we have the medicines we need.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Crisis Means You Have To Choose

Divination and Dreams

M

iracles, crisis

If there is a word that describes 2020 thus far it is the word crisis.

From Coronavirus to the economy, to the murder of George Floyd and the protests his killing has sparked, we have as a country and a world moved from crisis to crisis this year without taking a breath – and it’s only June.

There is no one I have talked to that is fine with it all, no one that is doing OK, no one that is unaffected. But I have noticed one group of people who are doing better than most.

I had started noticing them in mid March when we were in the throes of shelter in place orders and praying that our hospitals would not be overwhelmed. Those of you that I work with regularly have heard me mention this group as many of you claim membership in it. I have continued watching them through the protests, the demonstrations, and the grief, division, and hoped-for reconciliation that underlies it all.

Who are these people?

Survivors.

They are the members of our community that have survived trauma and abuse, long term illnesses, systemic oppression, domestic violence, drugs, and alcohol and they are the ones to watch right now.

This is ironic. How many of you, beautiful survivors, have I talked with and you have shared with me how, when the world seems sane and “normal” you feel anything but? My survivors tell me how they feel like such a hot mess all the time, how their inability to get it together, or keep it together (or at least fake it well enough to pass) has lost them jobs, relationships, and all kinds of opportunities on a regular basis.

Now look at you. The world is literally on fire in more than one quarter, it is burning. And yes, you are all affected by it, of course, you are, and yes, you are triggered by it, of course, you are, but you are also steady, calm, unwavering.

You, Survivors, are steering your ships with steady hands while others are flailing about and capsizing multiple times – why is this?

I think it’s because you know. You know these waters, you know what this part of the ocean holds. We are in crisis and you know, more than anyone else, what comes next because you have lived it.

Crisis.

I’ve written about this word before. Its ancient Greek root means “Crossroads” – its the place where we leave offerings to the Gods, where destinies are assigned, where you meet Old Scratch, and if he deems you worthy pick up no mean talent and the possibility of fame. The crossroads are where fate shows up because it is here we make our choices. For that is what crisis means, you have to choose.

This road or that.
Freedom or oppression.
Justice for all or justice for no one.
Standing together or falling apart.
Saving lives or taking them.

You have to choose.

Survivors know this. They survived because they got to the crossroads, knee deep in crisis, and they made a choice. To walk away, to confront and vanquish, to take the help, make the call, to dream of something better. Survivors know that crisis means you have to choose but they also know something more about the nature of choice itself.

Choice is not just about me, my wants, my desires, or thoughts or dreams. The choices I make are about my people and so they honor or dishonor my Ancestors, help or harm my fellow men and women, and creatures, they bless or curse my children. Every choice. There is not a lot riding on how we choose, there is everything riding on it.

Here is another thing Survivors know – trite but true: the only way out is through. No one gets to skip this part, no one gets to pick their road without first dealing a hand and getting one dealt at the crossing.

Ask any woman who has given birth and she will tell you about the moment when she hits the way and would strike any deal or make any bargain to turn that train around. But she can’t, she won’t, and she doesn’t because the fact is my loves, life demands our choosing again and again.

So we are in crisis, that’s the terrain right now. What is required is that we make a choice and choose well.

Onward, together.

XO,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.