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.

Hearth and Home Vol. 22: Go and Help Your Brother

Foundations

I

have been editing my second book, Star Child, all week so I have stars and Zodiac signs on the brain. This Hearth and Home is brought to you by the sign of Virgo, the sign most devoted to being of good help, and the sign that the New Moon occurs today.

“Go and help your brother.”

These are words I utter every day, usually several times, to my oldest son. Sometimes the help is given gladly. Sometimes the heavy sound of sneakers trudging across the wooden floorboards follows my request and I can tell he is a little annoyed. And almost always there is a response and the needed help is given.

You can’t really read the news anymore, you can just doom scroll your way through it and it makes me wonder about help and the stories of help and where they are. For it is exactly in times such as these, in crisis times and fear-ridden times, that we most need to look for the helpers, as Fred Rogers reminds us. Earlier this year when I returned to social media, I was able to highlight the helper stories and share them far and wide, but the stream has slowed to a trickle, the waters are drying up.

“Go and help your brother.” It has become a mantra of sorts, the theme of 2020 is not a word or an image, at least not for me, it is this: Go. And. Help. Your. Brother.

I thought I was uttering it as a suggestion, sometimes a snapped command, to my oldest child but it turns out I have been saying it to my own soul this entire time. What is needed right now? What medicine can begin to heal the wounds and the hurt places? Offering Help. To our brothers, our sisters, our loved ones, to men, women, those in between, and creatures of all kinds. Go and help. It is not a request or a suggestion, it is an inner imperative of the heart. Something we must all do in all of the ways, in all of the times, that we can.

More than that, these are the stories that need to be told, stories of helpers, everyday people, showing up with care and kindness. Their names and their roles are often obfuscated by the bigger events that are happening so I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of them, helpers I have had immediate and direct contact with over this year.

Doctors
Artists
Nurses
Grocery store clerks
Postal Workers
Lab techs
Teachers
Epidemiologists
Ministers
Truck Drivers
Scientists working on vaccines and therapeutics
Priests
Storytellers
Workers in warehouses, slaughterhouses, and fields
First Responders
Witches
Farmers
Professors
Writers
Police
Tarot Readers
Protestors
Grandparents
Shamans
Ranchers
Astrologers
Educators
School Administrators
Stockists
Therapists
Rootworkers
Parents
Children

I see this list as a litany. I say the names and the titles, many of which bring individual beloveds to my mind and I bless them for the ways they show up, the ways they try, for going to help their brothers, for helping me, my family, my friends, my clients, and students, my loved ones.

Being of good help is a theme we find in every major spiritual tradition as well as in the Sacred Arts. The four Tarot cards pictured above, all the Knights in the tarot, are often interpreted as helper figures showing up in our lives in different ways and with different qualities. So it is for us as well, we can show up to help in different ways and with different abilities and qualities at our disposal.

It is easy to think, in these latter days of Dharma as the Mahabharata calls them, that you can’t help. If you don’t know how to start an IV line or hold a line for justice or calm of a line of angry and frightened shoppers then really, what do you have to offer? Bit if there is one thing that 2020 has taught me it is this: That there is always a way to go and help your brother. I am grateful for the lesson.

I want to thank Jacquelyn Tierney/House of Divine Style Stock Photography for making this image available to me. I actually worked with it as a writing prompt which was so much fun!

And now for news from the home front:

Our September has gotten off to a busy start! The highlights include: editing Star Child, planning for the Story Threads class that begins in a few weeks, doing a guest teaching on blessing ways and prayer for a dear friend (I’ll be sharing more about this later), and keeping up with the school schedules of our body.

THE Most Frequently Asked Question of 2020 is: Did you remember to put an extra mask in your backpack?

Mars Retrograde is giving me all kinds of fantastic ideas and so I am doing my best to write them down and take as many notes as possible. We are all spending more time outside because the Gods smiled on us and we are actually having a lovely, cool, September…so far!

We work in the garden, planting seeds, feeding the wild birds and chickens, and leaving offerings for the faeries. We are headed into our favorite time of year and so, we are already talking about the Feast Day of Archangel Michael and how we might arrange the Ancestor altar this time around, and of course, the most important question: WHAT IS HAPPENING FOR HALLOWEEN?

Answer: I don’t know, honestly but we will make it magical, and that is what matters.

As always, from our family to yours, we wish you a beautiful and magical month full of goodness!

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.