What Winter Solstice Teaches

Prayer and Blessing

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ear Miracles,
A tiny musing on Solstice which is celebrated today and tomorrow throughout the world in many different and gorgeous ways. Now many of us are taught that Winter Solstice celebrates the return of the light and yes, this is true. But/and Winter Solstice is also the longest night of the year in many places, the night of deepest and most complete darkness.

In cold countries where at this time of the year sunlight is already at a much cherished premium, think about and feel into what this period of longest night is like. Longest night to feast, to make love, to look at stars and moon, to sleep and dream deeply. Longest night of liminal space and liminal time. And then the rising of the sun, returning of the light and how good and glorious those warming rays feel against face, shoulder, and skin.

But of course the sun does not return in full force on Winter Solstice or the days following. The ground in many places is still frozen hard and solid and will not begin to thaw for many months yet. Snow still lies in thick icing blankets on the ground and tree branches and roof tops, or here where I live and it is not so very cold, the skies continue on in their leaden gray state and the buds and blossoms for the most part stay hidden and curled up tight while the deer roam about nosing in the dirt for still-tender-from-autumn-acorns.

All of this is to say that we celebrate not so much or not simply a return on Winter Solstice but rather a nascent re-emergence paired with great endurance – for the sun teaches us endurance as it grows and waxes and strengthens throughout these bitter months and into its springtime adolescence and its summer time maturity. That endurance: new beginning followed by long periods of growth and strengthening is really what arcs across and through the land – a reminder, a returning if you will, we see painted in solar shine across the sky.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

The Best Fairy Tale Resources

Divination and Dreams

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ear Miracles: It is no secret that I love fairy tales and folk stories. I grew up on a steady diet of magical tales and mythic art, and my love affair with fairy tales has only grown deeper and more comprehensive over time.

Why do I love fairy tales? I love them because they take on the biggest questions and the most difficult conflicts in simple and accessible language. I love them because they are portable – you can take them with you anywhere! – and you can tell them and re-tell them again and again. And I love fairy tales because they reveal worlds that are just as real and vibrant as our own.

Myth and fairy tales give shape to the magic that is all around us, not only in the rocks and wind, in streams and trees, but also in the places we would least expect to find it: in urban landscapes, in the broken and forgotten and hectic places. When my students ask me what book I would recommend getting a deeper understanding of this or that aspect of the sacred arts, nine times out of ten I refer them to a fairy tale or piece of mythic art, and so teaching through fairy tales has become a mainstay of my work.

Given all of that, there are many resources out there for people who would like to learn more about the stories they grew up with and perhaps in the process learn new stories too!

Websites and Blogs

Terri Windling ~ one of my favorite sites and blogs period, Terri Windling is a writer, artist, and book editor. Her blog Myth and Moor is frequently updated and features gorgeous art and wonderful articles dealing with a wide variety of mythic art topics. She is also just a really lovely person!

Midori Snyder ~ another daily go-to for me, Midori Snyder’s blog In the Labyrinth features great book reviews, mythic art, and tales of her own creative work. Midori’s writing is so beautiful, I always learn something new when I visit her online home, and like Terri, she is just a delight!

Endicott Studio ~ featuring the Journal of Mythic Arts. While no longer active, the JoMA site hosts hundreds of great articles of fairytales, myth, and folklore, penned by some of the best authors and artists working in the fields today.

Sur La Lune ~ An online compendium of fairytales from around the world, cross-referenced and featuring art from many of the stories. Invaluable resource

The Interstitial Arts Foundation ~ they are dedicated to featuring and serving artists without borders, what we call in the tradition of the sacred arts working in the liminal.

These are but a smattering of the sites out there with fabulous information, most of them have links to other sites, which I encourage you to explore for yourself.

Books ~ there are hundreds of fabulous collections of fairy tales and books written about fairy tales and folklore too, but for the beginner, here are a few of my favorites.

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition translated by Jack Zipes

The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm All-New Third EditionTranslated by Jack Zipes

The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales edited by Maria Tartar

American Indian Myths and Legends edited by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz

African Folktales edited by Roger Abrahams

Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

Beauty – a retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley

Briar Rose – Jane Yolen

The Wood Wife – by Terri Windling

The Innamorati – by Midori Snyder

Coyote Speaks – by Ari Berk and Carolyn Dunn

Faeries – by Brian Froud and Alan Lee

Good Faeries/Bad Faeries – by Brian Froud

Brian Froud’s World of Faerie – by Brian Froud

And no list would be complete without a mention of Baba Studio’s Fairy Tale Tarot (out of stock, but beautiful nonetheless).

There is also Goblinfruit, an online poetry ‘zine that is simply breathtaking.

And finally, two magazine recommendations for you: Faerie Magazine and Fairy Tale Review

What are your favorite fairy tale resources?

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

On the limitations of typeology and hype

Purification and Cleansing

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ear Miracles: I have seen a trend lately — maybe you have seen it too — a need to categorize ourselves and reduce our brilliant complexities, annoying contradictions, and divine paradoxes to one noun, three verbs, a list of adjectives, a “type”, a “goal”, a “feeling” or a “skill”. These exercises are usually accompanied with various forms of mind mapping, frenzied list making, vision boarding, and the rest. No one appreciates a fun “what is your type” quiz more than I do and yes, knowing that according to Myers-Briggs I am an INFJ can and has been useful to me. Just as knowing that I have a specific set of goals, ways in which I want to feel, and values for myself (all derived through thoughtful systems created by people I like and respect) can also be useful.

However, do you observe-at the end of yet another mind map or vision board or archetype quiz-that you feel a little empty, maybe even a little sad, and no closer to the real, shining truth of who you are?

The desire to categorize and put a name to the divine mess and beautiful labyrinth that is our unique and core being is ancient. I believe all of this work springs from the imperative to Know Thyself and None Too Much — inscribed above the Oracle at Delphi’s seat. In the case of the Oracle, one had to know oneself to both understand her often Sphinx-like pronouncements and also to apply them correctly to one’s life. (To see a tragic case of inappropriately applied knowledge please read Oedipus Rex by Sophocles). It is an ironic imperative because “know thyself” does not happen all in one go, once and for all, finally it is over and I KNOW! Instead, knowing ourselves is the work of a life time, a gradual unfolding, a process of rising, flourishing, decaying, dying back, and then waking up the next day to do it all again. Time, contemplation of one’s life and choices, and alignment of your will with your actions and thoughts are all time tested methods of coming to deeper self-knowledge.

For those of us who recognize a power that is greater and more absolute than our individual selves there is the acknowledgement that true self-knowledge must also come from conversation and consideration with that Great Spirit and the purpose to which our lives are tied. Does it feel strange to consider that you might have a divine and unique purpose right here and now? I know it can feel a bit off — but why else would there be a you? A completely unique person who has skills, abilities, vulnerabilities and weaknesses that no one else has in quite the same way? If you are spending time at my online sanctuary then you already feel this – – most likely in your bones, your heart, and your mind — you know that you are both precious and purposed. I know people who are here to create beauty, to care for the defenseless, to impart wisdom, and bring families closer together through their personal dramas and foibles. I know teachers, visionaries, and mystics. I know writers, poets, and protectors-and no two of them are the same.

If you have found a system that helps you truly know yourself then rock on and good job. But if you feel that you have not gone as deep as you could have — it may be time to stop asking: Who am I? And start asking:

Why am I here?

Why now?

Why this unique combination that is so decisively me?

To what end?

These questions cannot be answered with a catchy list and they may well keep you up at night.

Truth often does that!

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

The Wisdom of Wild Things-what nature knows and you do too

Purification and Cleansing

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ear Miracles: Over the weekend before last my parents bought a small farm north of San Antonio. I say farm because that is what the land was cultivated for, by an old German Jewish family before it was subdivided by a “group” and sold with the intention of creating a residential development. My dad purchased the farm with a friend of his and they learned what the family who had owned the land for generations raised there — goats, two field crops like winter rye/hay/alfalfa, and a few cows. We aren’t sure what we are going to do with the land yet…there has been talk of bees, goats will probably make an appearance, and my little boy may get to live out one of my few unfulfilled dreams of having his very own pet horse.  (Lucky kid, lucky mama). When I was talking to my dad and asking him why they weren’t making any decisions about what to raise as of yet he responded that he needed to take some time to get to know the land. It struck me as marvelous and simply right — that before making any changes to a piece of land time must be spent getting acquainted with it, listening to its dreams, desires, and fears too.

Later as I was pruning my garden I noticed a climbing spinach vine that shooting up like there was no tomorrow. A few weeks ago this little spinach had started coiling around the white wire fencing I have around my vegetable patch to keep our dog out of the squash and peas. I wanted to train the spinach to climb up the chain link fence — a perfect lattice! — and not to trail hither and yon on the temporary dog fence. So I unwound it and twirled it around the chain link fence. When I checked back on the plant’s progress a few days later I saw that it had untangled itself from the chain link fence and gone back to coiling around the white wire fencing, a pointed remark that it would go its own way, thank you very much! I shrugged because it wasn’t that big of a deal and who is going to argue with spinach anyways? Then, earlier this week I noticed that the little guy was starting to climb up the chain link fence after all — it had created a nice foothold for itself on the dog fencing, had started to flower and was ready to stretch out more. Left to it’s own devices it is doing just fine.

I am not a romantic about nature. Raised on 10 acres in South Central Texas I have seen my share of dead creatures, killing creatures, and hostile wildlife — including prickly flora and lethal snakes. I have watched how year after year people who cultivate land have to beat back lavish vines like honey suckle and ruthlessly weed out Johnson grass in order to get their gardens to grow and not have their trees choked out. I have heard stories about the lady who has pastured chickens and might lose 100 birds in one night when a thunderstorm and cold front blow in all at once. But I have also seen many “praise Jesus” sunsets and thunderstorms and baby rabbits in the field to know that there is infinite wisdom in our natural world — that often watching nature “take its course” teaches us as much if not more about ourselves than about that concept that we erroneously see as outside of ourselves and call nature. I say erroneously because we are all a part of it–not standing outside and looking in, but inside, in the leaf, the fruit, and seed.

I work with people who are often weary with trials and worries and concerns. Their hearts are heavy and their fears are real. Sometimes there is sound advice I can deliver through the use of intuition, sometimes a devotional candle needs to be lit or an elaborate ritual constructed — I do not see these things as taking place outside of nature either — blessings and praise and ritual beauty are all found in the natural world. What I almost always find though is that deep within a person’s own heart there is a wild knowing that is full of wisdom-that already holds the answer. We just need to make our ears keen enough to hear. So my petition for the week, with apologies for riffing on St. Paul: “May you have eyes to see and ears to hear…your own blessed wisdom.”

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Define your End Game

Purification and Cleansing

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ear Miracles: We are often told that it is the journey and not the destination that matters. And our journeys do matter, absolutely; but they are NOT the only thing that matters and so if you are feeling more lost than enlightened in the woods asking the following may be of use:

Why do I do what I do?

The ancient Greeks’ had a word, telos. One translation: “for the sake of which”, as in, I do this work for the sake of…and of course you are the one who fills in the blank. Maybe you do your work for the money, for love, for family, for bread on the table and flowers in the garden. Many of us do our work because we felt called to offer up a specific gift, to be of service in a particular way. The point being that you get to define your rightful work, the work of your heart, and the act of defining and articulating that work — clearly and specifically — to yourself and to others is an act that carries with it momentous medicine for tired souls and worn spirits. Some argue that clearly stating where you desire to end up, where you would like to arrive, does not allow for maximum creativity and flow I think that because our destinations can and often do change, we have encouraged a culture where we often try to forget about them all together, we focus on process in part because process has been ignored during times in our collective history and in part because process is where most of us stay for a long time, the journey is where the work is done and because of this it is a bright and vital part of our experience. But this forgetting of our end, our final destination, is a deadly forgetting because knowing why you do what you do allows you to do it with more grace, beauty, and integrity. Your journey is enriched when your destination is known.

Ritualists of all stripes know that magic begins with clear intention, a wise petition, a heart felt prayer…and each of those things contain the seed of the destination, that which through one’s art and magic might manifest. So…today my petition for you is to define your end game and remember, your words carry magic.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.