What I Really Want

Lunar Letter

M

iracles,

This past Friday, I finally got a chance to watch the movie “Lincoln” by Steven Spielberg, which came out in 2012. Friday is movie night for us and it was my choice (we take turns choosing). I wanted to see the film but I also wanted our 8-year-old son Jasper to see it since he had been doing a reading unit on Abe Lincoln in school. So David made stove-top popcorn, and we all snuggled down to watch the movie, and then later talk together about what we had watched.

The stand-out moment for me was when Lincoln (played by the incomparable Daniel Day-Lewis) had a meeting with the abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens (portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones). Stevens accuses Lincoln of having a broken moral compass because he is all too willing to compromise and be satisfied with only the passing of the 13th Amendment. Stevens was the one who sponsored the Bill that sought to abolish slavery throughout the United States, and he accuses Lincoln of losing sight of the North Star, losing his compass, – which, in this case, is not only the passing of the Bill, and the freeing of the slaves, but also, and more importantly, equality of races in all measures, including voting rights. The problem was that a lot of the legislators, sad to say, weren’t ready to accept equality of the races (not to mention gender), but were fine with equality under the law. That is to say, they were OK with equality so long as it wasn’t too much and without condition. Yes, a sad commentary on human nature. Lincoln knew that Stevens’ Bill that would free slaves would never be passed on the grounds of Stevens’ own arguments, and so he asked Stevens to temper his arguments in order for the bill to be passed. He needed Lincoln‘s pragmatism if he really wanted to abolish slavery. For, obviously, if slavery were not abolished in the first place, there would be no chance later for full equality under the law and beyond.

Lincoln the idealist feels the gravity of the moment. His response is telling, and he eventually wins over Stevens. Yes, he says, we must know the North Star and have a good working compass but there are bogs and marshes – unpredictable pitfalls – that mark the way forward. A person who looks only at the North Star or only measures by his compass will find both to be of little use to him if he ignores the impassable terrain right at his feet. Stevens hears this and is persuaded by it. He does indeed temper his own arguments and in so doing the 13th Amendment passes and slavery is abolished in these United States.

This moment in the movie speaks to a timeless tension in our public and private lives that concerns social a political injustice, change, the ideals we have about the human good, and how exactly to get there together. Over 150 years later we are still working through this tension at the heart of our democracy. If changes are needed, what changes? Where? and How? And what will be the consequences of those changes? Are we prepared to accept the consequences? How do we argue persuasively for our beliefs while keeping one eye on our compass and one eye on the dodgy terrain at our feet?

Fairy Tales and the old stories that form the bedrock of the Sacred Arts also ask these questions in their own way, about our inner lives. Thus the other reason why this moment really caught my attention – besides speaking to a timeless tension in social and political life – is that it speaks directly to the power of the Sacred Arts. Why are the Sacred Arts so valuable to the Soulful Seeker? The Sacred Arts supports us in discovering our own North Star, our own best compass, and in circumnavigating the actual terrain of life. And they do it not by dint of perennial wisdom or conforming to a rigid doctrine; but rather by allowing us creative and free access to resources that are personal, practical and wise to the core.

Our broader spiritual community in North America tends to overlook and discount folk magic practices, ritual, and divination. We like things to be vaguely inspirational, white-washed, without dealing with the tough unremitting stuff of life, like grief, real suffering, and loss, anxiety about “low” things like money or relationships. Even divination practices like tarot and astrology tend to be handled in this way. But there is a great untapped potential in such discarded or mishandled things like the Sacred Arts, a potential we discover when practicing several in complementary ways. Brought together, the Sacred Arts are more than a pointer showing the soulful seeker the way forward. They are also a means to walk the path.

Over the years I have come to believe that you should always have not only a North Star Rite but also a North Star goal – a big promise that you make to the cosmos that speaks to the essence of who you are and what you are here, right now, in this wide, wild, world, to do. Writing a book was part of my personal promise. As some of you know, I was born with a cleft pallet, and so I understood from very early on that part of my promise was to use and find my voice. Seven years of speech therapy, two surgeries before the age of four, and 38 years later I can say with confidence: Done. And also: I’m just getting started. So that’s the level at which I was thinking: promises to the Cosmos that speak to your innermost essence and nothing less.

But earlier this week I was talking with my beloved about our overarching vision for our work and community of soulful seekers. David, my incredible husband, celebrated his birthday a few days after Jasper celebrated his. As birthdays often do, this one led to some deep reflection for all of us. So there we were, talking about the vision, the BIG PICTURE, the North Star. My love and I were not talking about different individual projects or the day-to-day workload – we were talking about our vision for what a vibrant community of sacred arts and soulful seekers looks like, sounds like, and feels like.

Of course, there are more books that I want to write not to mention brilliant clients and students to serve, an enchanted household to tend to, and wonderful courses to create and teach. I can say, in all honesty, that things are so very full. In all seriousness, though, I was getting a bit stuck trying to say what that big picture looks like.

At this point, David asked me what my vision was for each soulful seeker in our community, and for the community as a whole. He wisely suggested that maybe I would be able to best understand my next big vision if I understood what I really want and hope for and expect for each of you.

And so, today, in celebration of our gorgeous Full Moon in Libra I am going to tell you what this Libra really wants for each of you. Ready? Let’s do this.

I want you to be whole. I hope, desire, and expect your lives to be whole. Whole does not mean perfect. Whole means connected so that you are not dealing with a broken heart over here and money worries over there and your mother on Saturdays only. Whole means that you see what is actually there — not what other people tell you is there and you react and respond with an eye to right relationship. Whole also means that you are aware of how connected we are, not just to one another, but to all creatures – in particular, specific, and measured ways.

I want you to be healthy. I hope, desire, and expect your lives to be healthy and lived with the understanding that health is much broader and richer than we normally think. To be healthy is not to be without wound, scar or sickness but rather to live richly and vibrantly in the best ways and means available to you alongside wound and scar and sickness. To be healthy too is to recognize the preciousness of the physical body as well as mind as well as heart and to discern in love and wisdom what and what not to expose yourself to. It is to eschew the toxic and to be firm in your right to be unmolested by any external forces.

I want you to be holy. I hope, desire, and expect your lives to be holy, for I firmly believe and see every day that the world is in need of holy people now more than ever. Holiness goes hand in hand not with grand cathedrals or religious sanctuaries tucked into mountains, but with and in the enchantment of everyday life. Kissing your love is holy. Packing your child’s lunch is holy. Tending your garden is holy. Painting a wall and feeding the hungry and swimming in the deep sea – all holy. I hope, desire, and expect that each of you will see holiness as your natural state and understand that it requires not for you to be pure, unbroken, or without a mark but that rather it is most easily found in exactly the places where you feel most marked up, broken, and not ready. I hope, desire, and expect that as we come to realize and see what holiness really is and can be we are both blessed and blessings in turn.

These are my compass points for our community. They are each a point of my own North Star. The Sacred Arts practices that support them are the exact same practices that have been called on throughout time – and can still be called on by us – to not only illuminate the impassable terrain at our feet but also figure out the best way through the terrain, and to actually get moving through it. I know that is true because I have lived it as many of you beautiful readers, have as well. We know that the way forward will have all kinds of interesting obstacles and detours along the way, and so it is especially of utmost importance that our vision of what is possible, and probably, and choice-worthy shine especially brightly for every single one of us.

That’s what I really want. What about you?

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Animalia Stellarum ~ Libra

Ceremony and Ritual

L

ibra resonates with the element of Air, and is a cardinal sign. The Sun is in Libra from September 22nd through October 23rd. Libra is the 7th sign in the zodiacal wheel, marking the second equinoctial point of the year when the hours of day and night are equal to each other and ushering in the first day of Autumn (in the Northern Hemisphere) and Spring (in the Southern). Represented by the Scales, Libra speaks to balance, justice, fairness, law, partnership, beauty, and love.

The Scales as Libra

Libra has the unique position within the zodiacal wheel of being the only inanimate object. Whereas all other signs are either animals, people, or some combination of the two, Libra has been viewed since Babylonian times simply as “the scales.” Ancient Greeks saw Libra as both the scales and also at times the claws of the Scorpion we know from the sign of Scorpio. In ancient Rome the scales were depicted as being held by the Goddess Astrea and sometimes even today Libra is depicted as the scales held by Virgo, but the core component has never changed: Libra speaks to balance and has long been associated with the the rule of law, culture, and civility.

The inanimate nature of Libra gives us our first clue about how this sign works, for as we enter into the 7th house of the Zodiacal wheel we embrace the equinox – when the hours of light and day are equal – and we experience the shift from a focus on the individual to a focus on the collective. Law, culture, civility, balance, and the possibility of harmony that balance suggests are not physical in the way that a woman or a lion are, but they are animating and life-giving forces that make civilization and existence possible for all.

The scales of Libra are first associated not with a Goddess but with a God, the Babylonian Shamash who was the Sun God and also the advocate for truth and justice. Shamash, and his Sumerian counterpoint Utu, both speak to the revelation of law and justice and Hammurabi, who wrote his famous code of laws, was said to have the laws revealed to him by Shamash. The connection between law and justice was reflected in the fact that Libra’s original ruling planet was not Venus but Saturn – a planet associated with time, law, and learning. The masculine influence that we see in the sign early on also speaks to the androgynous aspect of Libra. Though often interpreted as ultra feminine because of its later association with Venus, Libra and those with the sign prevalent in their chart often blend masculine and feminine qualities in various ways; just another way that the scales bring balance and harmony between apparent opposites.

For the ancient Greeks, Libra was seen as both the scales and as the claws of the giant Scorpion, Scorpius. The association with the sign of Scorpio makes good sense. For Libra’s scales admit of the struggles that occur whenever people come together in any kind of partnership, and also remind all that harmony and a lasting peace is possible; that while your struggle may be a part of your story, it is not meant to be the whole of it. This observation speaks to another component of Libra, that of marriage and partnership. The scales of Libra are associated with balance and with harmony but what is often forgotten or overlooked in that association is that both balance and harmony actually require tension – neither is possible without some tension and struggle. So it is with our relationships. Marriage and partnerships, both romantic and otherwise, rely on creative tensions and the work of bringing two (or more) people into balance with one another.

The ancient Romans associated Libra with Astrea, the Goddess of Justice and Law and also the starry sky. Within the sky, the constellation of Libra is surrounded on all sides by constellations that are chthonic in nature, and so many of the stories surrounding Libra speak to its ability to shine the light and purity of law and order into places that are shadowed and chaotic. In this way Libra is seen as a “civilizing force” who does not forget about so-called demonic forms like celestial serpents and scorpions but instead encourages right relationship with them. The sign later became associated with the goddess and planet Venus with the idea that women are also civilizing forces, specifically through sex and marriage. Venus’ association with Libra also speaks to the sign’s appreciation of art, beauty, and culture, generally speaking.

While it is common to think of law today as merely a list of do’s and dont’s, a deeper understanding reminds that most civil laws started out their life as sacred laws and that law is one of the reasons why we do not live entirely in a “might makes right” society. Law speaks to the intersection of what we want and what we need. The forces that help navigate those tricky waters are rooted in discipline and love, and Libra advocates for both – not only in our own lives but shared with one another in friendship and community.

The Libra as Animal: By Sara Magnuson

We have come to the one zodiac sign that is not depicted as a creature, but rather as an object – The Scales. It is appropriate then to consider what is the balancing force between all creatures; from insect to man, what is the great equalizer? My spiritual experiences and studies with Nature have led me to see it is the Heart that almost all creatures possess. (The only creatures that do not possess some kind of heart also do not have a circulatory system, like Coral, Sponges, Jellyfish, and the most microscopic of beings.)

What does the heart do? It is the center of the circulatory system. It moves life-giving fluids throughout the body. It is the creator of internal rhythm. It beats without conscious prompting. It takes in the depleted life-giving fluids, restores them, and pumps the freshly nourished nectar back into the labyrinth of the body. All Animals with a circulatory system carry an organ that performs this function. For our purposes, we’ll use ourselves and the human heart as it relates to The Scales of Libra. Let’s first think about how the heart actually works.

{Warning: brief and fairly painless biology lesson ahead…}
An organ made of muscle, it is divided into four chambers – upper/lower and left/right. In the structure alone there is the representation of The Scales. Our heart moves blood equally through all four chambers; that is to say, our life-giving fluid is processed in a contraption that is built in a balanced manner. This contraption, this series of chambers, serves as a place of replenishment; a place where oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor take up equal space; a place of filling, of providing, of giving and taking, equally. Balance.

The part of our heart that we can physically feel is the mechanism that keeps the valves of these chambers opening and closing with precise regularity. This mechanism is extraordinary and can function completely on its own. The beating of our hearts is controlled by two bundles of nerves – one coordinates the top half of the heart and one coordinates the bottom half. In layman’s terms, our hearts have their own batteries that can, technically, continue to operate without stimulation from the brain. These two bundles of nerves create their own independent electrical impulses and are affected by our nervous system.

There’s a lot of electricity moving around in our bodies and it’s the nervous system that coordinates all that action, voluntary and involuntary. Part of our nervous system controls all the involuntary actions of our organs and bodily functions and another part controls our “flight or fight” response. The nerves that create the electricity necessary to make our heartbeat are influenced by both responses from our body.

Just like The Scales, an equilibrium of tension and harmony is created within our heart. All the parts and pieces working together come in 2s – two sets of chambers, two sets of valves, two batteries, two actions from the nervous system. The function of the heart is all about that balance.

{mini biology lesson over}

At rest, our hearts beat at a regular tempo all on their own. Exercise causes a need for more oxygenated blood, so our hearts beat faster to keep up. Our thoughts and emotions also cause a reaction in our nervous system, thus affecting our heart rate. The batteries that control the flow of life-giving fluids through the chambers of the heart can speed up or slow down based on our thoughts and emotions. Think about that for a second.

I am someone who experiences panic/anxiety attacks in certain circumstances. If you have ever experienced this, you know that it feels like your heart is going to jump out of your chest. The cause of this feeling is ultimately based in thoughts and emotions. If I take long, deep, diaphragm-filling breaths, and tell myself I’m not really going to die, my heart rate slows down. If I am freezing cold and I can envision myself next to a warm, toasty fire, my muscles, including my heart, relax. When I feel like I may be in danger, my heart races until safety is clear. The physical feeling of my heart beating, independent from my conscious decision, influences what I decide to do.

Do I give in to the feeling that I’m freezing cold, that I cannot defend myself, that my car is going to careen off this bridge no matter what I do?

No. I do not give in to those feelings, but I would not have a barometer to gauge my reaction were it not for my heartbeat.

We see the memes all the time – trust your heart, follow your heart, listen to your heart. Whether we know it or not, our Heart is our Scale. The work comes in not basing decisions solely on what the scale says. Libra asks us to work with all the functions of our body, including the mind, to weigh out our actions. Libra asks us to pause and consider our physical response with equal reverence to our mental response.

Call on The Scales When…

  • You wish to find a lover, deepen a relationship, or bless a marriage
  • You want to go into any field dealing with law, justice, and/or community
  • You are ready to harness the creative power found in tension and stress
  • You wish to have more/deeper partnerships – romantically and otherwise
  • You are ready to debate, discourse, or speak in public
  • You desire harmony
  • You need to charm or persuade someone to see your side of things
  • You wish to have clarity amid the chaos
  • You would like to win a court case, or have success in mediation or negotiations
  • You are ready for balance

Be Wary Of…

  • Indecision – When the Libra project is rocking the scales are in balance with one another but when things go sideways the scales get wobbly and uncertainty prevails. What this looks like in real time is Libra not knowing which way it wants to go – do we have Chinese or Thai for dinner? Do we go see an action movie or a foreign film? Art museum or ballet? This can be especially confusing for those around Libra because much of the time Libra can seem very confident and sure of what it wants and what direction it wishes to pursue. The indecision often comes from a desire to please everyone and make everyone happy and, ironically, leads to a place where the exact opposite occurs.
  • Co-dependency – Libra likes to be liked and so sometimes Libra’s opinion is determined too much by the opinions of others. Naturally interested in harmony and balance, Libra may hide its true opinion of things and people in order to “go along and get along.” This is especially true in intimate and romantic relationships where Libra will go to extremes to keep a relationship intact, even if it is clearly not good or healthy for all parties involved.
  • Bossiness – As a cardinal sign Libra can come off as bossy. Because those with a lot of Libra in their charts tend to be good with people as a general rule, the bossiness is not as noticeable as it might be with say, an Aries, but it is still there and present. When those around Libra wake up to the fact that they are being subtly manipulated or charmed into doing something they don’t exactly want to do, the results can be the opposite of harmonious.

Questions to Ponder for Libra:

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

  • What does partnership mean to me?
  • Where is the harmony present in my life, where do I wish it to present?
  • What does balance look like for me and how do I bring myself into balance?
  • What is my relationship to law and discipline?
  • What are my strengths when it comes to negotiating and speaking?
  • What is the role that culture plays in my life?
  • Whose opinion am I most concerned with?
  • What does peace mean to me?

Active Imagination Practice

The idea of balance has a lot of baggage attached to it. Some people say there is no such thing as balance. Others say that there most definitely is, but that it is hard to define. Libra however encourages us to embody balance and that is what this exercise will help you do!

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 both sides of your body.
Feel into the right side of your body and allow yourself to observe what the sensations are.
Beginning with your right toes and right foot and moving, breath by breath up through your leg, hip, tummy, waist, rib cage, chest, back, fingers, arms, shoulders, neck, face, all the way up to the top of your head.
Take a moment to note what you have observed…is there pain in any of the areas? Is there soreness or tightness? Is there space and brightness?
As you are ready, lift up your right foot. You can brace yourself against the wall or a table if you need to, or simply lift your right foot a couple of inches.
See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel the sensations that occur when you release some of the support the right side of your body provides for you. What does your balance feel like here?
As you are ready, put your right foot back down.
Engage with your breath again.
Feel into the left side of your body and allow yourself to observe what the sensations are.
Beginning with your left toes and left foot and moving, breath by breath up through your leg, hip, tummy, waist, rib cage, chest, back, fingers, arms, shoulders, neck, face, all the way up to the top of your head.
Take a moment to note what you have observed…is there pain in any of the areas? Is there soreness or tightness? Is there space and brightness?
As you are ready, lift up your left foot.
See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel the sensations that occur when you release some of the support the left side of your body provides for you.
What does your balance feel like here?
As you are ready, put your left foot back down.
Engage with your breath again.
See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel the mid-line of your body – how has it changed since you tried balancing on each side?
What have you learned?
Now, ask yourself again: what does balance mean to you?

Altar and Ritual

Libra the Scales marks one of the two equinoxes of the year, when the length of day and night are equal – Spring or Fall, depending on your hemisphere. It is during these times of equinox, these times of balance, that farmers rotate their crops.

The land that has been planted full, the soil nurturing sacred food for many months, has been harvested by the time Fall comes and the farmer’s earth is in need of replenishing.

The harvested land is turned and mixed and massaged. New crops are planted that help return nutrients to the soil. The loamy earth gets a break from all its hard work with a refreshing change that shakes up the old and welcomes the nourishing new.

As Libra shows us, this is a time of year for consideration, examination, and thoughtfulness in order to bring things into balance.

For this altar exercise, we invite you to “rotate your crops” in your sacred space.

Stand at your sacred space and really look at what’s there. Pay a little bit of attention to each item. Feel its energy and reflect on what this object means to you.

Is it still serving its purpose on your altar?
Or has it done its job and is ready to be “harvested?”

Take the items you feel have served you well and can be removed and set them aside. Once you have them all together, decide if you want to repurpose them in some other way, gift them to someone else, donate them to a charity/thrift store, put them in the recycling bin, or graciously put them in the rubbish bin. Be mindful of how you choose to move these items on in the world and do what feels right to you. Thank them for their service.

Now return to your sacred space. You are looking at the items you feel are currently serving you and working well for you. Take a deep breath and feel the gratitude for these objects swell within you. Thank them for their continued service.

Take a moment to acknowledge the balance that comes with moving out the things that no longer work for you and showing gratitude for the things that do.

Now take everything off of your altar.
Gently remove each item, including any cloth or covering.
Take off any flowers, plants, bowls of water or earth, old incense burners, etc.

Meditating on the balance you want to achieve, clean each item from your altar. Wash or replace the cloth/covering, get fresh flowers, water the plant and prune off any dead leaves, refresh the bowl of water and/or earth, clean off or replace the incense burner, dust off each item and feel it in your hands.

Take a deep breath and observe everything before you. Look at it all with fresh shiny eyes! How do these items want to hang out together? Listen to the way they fall into balance with each other.

Begin rebuilding and rearranging your sacred space.

Balance does not have to mean balance between left and right, or top and bottom. Place the items on your altar in a way that feels balanced and aligned with your purpose.

When you are finished, take a step back and take a deep breath. Light any candles or incense and feel the space come alive.

Thank these items for their service to you and thank the stars of Libra for facilitating the process of finding balance in your sacred space.

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.