When the Dog Bites

Ceremony and Ritual

M

iracles,

Have you ever seen the movie The Sound of Music? If not, you should. People make fun of it, and it is pretty cheesy in moments. It is also much edgier and more relevant than a lot of us may realize. The story takes place in Austria right before the rise of Nazism and the occupation of that country, and centers around a family of children, their overly stern and demanding father, and a bright-eyed governess. Usually billed as a love story, it is also (and perhaps more) a story about how easy it is to look away from or ignore a situation that is growing worse with each passing day. It is a story about betrayal – and the choice to betray or not betray the things and people that matter most.

One of the most important moments of the film is when Maria, the governess played by Julie Andrews, summons up the courage to sing to the frightened children during a violent thunderstorm. The song she sings is called My Favorite Things and is basically a list of the things Maria really loves.

It is not easy to summon up the things you most love in dark times.

Now, if you have seen the film you know where the title of this letter comes from…here are some lines from My Favorite Things: When the dog bites/When the bee stings/When I’m feeling sad/I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad!”

I like this song. I like the film version, and I like this version by the great Jazz musician John Coltrane even better.

Now every lunar cycle I pull cards from a few different decks that I know and love. I sit with the cards over the two week period, beginning with the New Moon to Full, and then from Full Moon to New. During this period, I make sure to pay attention to what comes up in my daily life and experience. This regular practice can be a useful learning tool to see and reflect on bigger patterns that one might ordinarily miss.

Last New Moon at the beginning of the month, one of the cards that turned up was The Singer of Courage – a card from Brian Froud’s The Faerie’s Oracle, which I adore. The Singer of Courage is a card that indicates that the querent is entering into a time when he or she will need not only courage but to be a singer of courage.

What does it mean to be a singer of courage?

The teaching of the Singer of Courage, The Sound of Music, and My Favorite Things is that courage looks less like an act of clenching teeth and powering-through (although there may have to be some of that), but more like someone actively remembering and holding firmly to the beloved and good things, the true things – especially when it is easiest to let these things go.

Many of you also are experiencing your own unexpected dog bites and bee stings – I know I have over the past two weeks. And this, in turn, brings you your own moments where you can and you must call up the courage to summon up the things you most love in hard times.

On this Full Moon and Lunar Eclipse, we have the opportunity to spot patterns – especially the patterns that we are most comfortable with, most reluctant to question or examine too closely. Our work here and now is to see what patterns are asking to be seen, to gauge which events no longer serve us and need to change. We can only meet them with our courage, a virtue that is very much not a superpower but a native, natural, rooted in our soul soil, power – one that we have access to all of the time. How do we access it? The song tells us.

We remember our favorite things. We recollect what matters most. Say it. Dance it. Sing it. These are the sacred ceremonies that the Singer of Courage will recognize and not fail to attend to. They are the medicine-bringing magic.

Want to get more in touch with your native power of courage?
This candle ritual can help you fire it up.

And you can also consider this prompt for your writing practice:
What are the places that scare me the most and how can I best meet them?

Soulful Seekers Spotlight

Since courage is our theme for this letter I want to give two shout outs to some courageous ladies I know. Elizabeth who runs Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has created an incredible series of scents that raises money for RAICES, a Texas not for profit that is directly involved in addressing the crises we are experiencing at our Southern Borders. Refusing to turn away from horrors requires a special kind of courage. Purview the scents and purchase here.

Jacquelyn Tierney is asking those who will be in attendance at my book signing in Santa Fe to call upon their courage and allow her to witness their lives and stories through the lens of her camera. Details are here.

xo,
Bri

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.

Magical Missives: A Mid-Summer Potion ~ The Golden Rose

Alchemy and Magic

M

iracles,

You are receiving your magical missive a bit early this week (so there will be no email on Sunday) because I wanted you to have this recipe available *before* Summer Solstice.

So in South Central Texas Mid-Summer is HOT. We have already had a couple of weeks where temps regularly exceeded 100 degrees – ick!

What’s a Sacred Artist to do? Make a potion of course! This is my current favorite Mid-Summer potion. I am giving you both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions because children love this too.

First, let me say a few words about Mid-Summer: like Christmas, Mid-Summer is actually a series of days and not a single event. There is Solstice which is tomorrow, but then there is also the Feast Day of St. John which is on June 24th – so basically the revelries continue through the morning of the 25th.

Many magical things happen during this time. Women gather herbs that are believed to be especially protective and healing – and then they wash their faces in the dew the hanging herbs have collected overnight – in order to see visions of their future.

Faeries are believed to run rampant, which means that wishes can be granted and treasures revealed.

One of my favorite forms of magic is potion-making. It calls to mind bubbling cauldrons and water-drenched buds, and potion making is at its best when the magic goes hand in hand with good taste. Don’t just trust me though, try it for yourself:

The Golden Rose – A Mid-Summer Potion

What you will need:
1 cup water flat or sparkling – I use Topo Chico
1 table spoon Saffron flavored simple syrup (I like Oak and Salt’s syrups)
1 table spoon Rose flavored simple syrup (or a splash of Rosewater)
1/2 table spoon Raspberry simple syrup
If you want a bit more zing to your potion add Lillet Blanc to taste
Finish with a splash of Orange Flower Water + a handful of rose petals
Ice

Significance:
Water is cleansing, healing, and nourishing
Saffron is wealth and abundance bringing, associated with treasure acquired through diligence (you try harvesting Saffron from the Saffron Crocus and see what I mean) – this is the “gold” part in the Golden Rose.
Rose is associated with love, romantic and otherwise, pleasure, sex, intimacy, and the Divine Feminine in her many, many forms.
Raspberry is resonant with themes of procreation, fertility, fecundity, flow, and creative work.
Orange Flowers are associate with joy, happiness, prosperity, wealth, and celebration.
I recommend Lillet as the spirit addition if you want one because it is an herbed apertif wine (stronger in alcoholic content than regular wine so do keep that in mind) and it is infused with oranges and other herbs that make it especially suitable for this potion.

Ceremony:
Make the potion and as you mix the ingredients together speak aloud your petitions, intentions, and blessings for yourself during this Mid-Summer celebration.

Final act:
Drink it up! Share it with friends and family! This potion is best enjoyed by moonlight, firelight, and in time of joy and celebration.

And if you want more Mid-Summer magic come and join the Feast Days for the Radically Reverent – it is free as always!

In love and blessings always,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Blessed be our ability to love again, anew, once more.

Daily Blessings

Blessed be our ability to love again, anew, once more.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Blessed be the knowledge that love will always be more than fear.

Daily Blessings

Blessed be the knowledge that love will always be more than fear.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Blessed be our love of ornamentation.

Daily Blessings

Blessed be our love of ornamentation.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Where do our prayers go?

Lunar Letter

D

ear Miracles,

As lovers of the sacred arts – people who dream magic and dance and weave, tell stories and sing together – we are lovers of something we feel is much broader, more luminous, higher or deeper, something more meaningful and more wholesome, than the affairs of a dusty and dim political world, a world so deeply scarred and fractured, as it sometimes seems, beyond repair. If we could live on the Isle of the Blessed, far away from the squalid disputes and the daily strife, how many of us would not choose to do so at once?  (Indeed sometimes you will find me preferring to live under a Magic Mushroom, with a good book of course.) But the scarred and fractured world is our world. It is the one world we have. And it requires our love – especially the love of those of us who are lovers of the sacred arts.

Who better to teach us about these matters than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?  In his Letter From Birmingham Jail, which I encourage you to read, Dr. King articulates the four steps for any nonviolent political campaign. Those four steps are:

1.    Collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist
2.    Negotiation
3.    Self-purification
4.    Direct action

An essential part of self-purification is self-examination. If I am physically threatened during a campaign, will I hit back? Do I have the inner strength to stand my ground, and in standing my ground, most importantly am I prepared to turn the other cheek? If I can put myself to the test, and say in all seriousness “yes, I am prepared to turn the other cheek” then I am ready for the campaign. If I cannot honestly affirm this, I have still had work to do.

On the basis of what Dr. King argues in his Letter, I suspect that he understood prayer to play a significant role in the process of self-examination.

This is because prayer here is much more than a mere entreaty to obtain something. We put ourselves to the test. Prayer and blessing call us out. By praying, we are expressing a desire not to hide, but to lay our cards on the table, to get real, to be honest with ourselves and with others, and to get with it.

The upshot is that direct action occurs long before any picket line is created or protest signs are made.  Prayer in this sense has a direct action all of its own, in the truest sense of the word, it is an action that works directly on us.

In other words, prayer and blessing that is only externally directed is not prayer or blessing at all. There is no blessing way in that. When tragedy strikes the understandable reaction among people of all stripes – among religious people and even among people who do not identify as religious – is to pray for a better outcome, to pray for healing, pray for light (even though sometimes what is actually called for is healing darkness), pray for love (even though what might be more useful is clear-eyed discernment), to pray and then…do nothing, change nothing, learn nothing.

As the Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard wrote, “the function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”  Prayers must go inwards too. They must put ourselves to the test, strike at the roots of who we are, what we think, what we say, how we treat one another and how we live.

In a world in which sometimes seems like a runaway train, these are the results – this is the action – that truly makes a difference.  May it be so!

And, for those of you who would like to get in on some group blessing, I am performing a FREE community altar for La Señora Guadalupe on her feast day, December 12th. Learn about her and send in a petition to be included in our family altar by going here.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.