Hearth and Home Volume One

Learning and Community

M

iracles,

Welcome to the newest series I call Hearth and Home. You will be able to find it posted here on Canto, and sent with love to the Lunar Letter list. (Join in the fun here). The picture to your left is a drawing by my almost-seven-year-old son, Jasper, who wanted me to share it with all of you. And so it is that sharing is the theme of this new series.

First of all, I want to extend a warm thank you to so many of you. Everyone I have had phone conversations with over the past month has asked me how I am doing on the book and how I am feeling in my pregnancy – to say nothing of the private messages I have received on FB, Insta, and Twitter. They mean the world to me.

Writing a book and being pregnant at the same time has become for me deeply intertwined experiences. In brief, I am now five months pregnant, and my official due date is June 11th – right around the time the manuscript is due for Making Magic: Weaving Together the Everyday and the Extraordinary, to be published by Sounds True, in 2019.

The journey to get to this moment has been eye-opening and tremendous, and it has encouraged me to share more openly than I usually do with all of you miracles.

If we were visiting in person, I would invite you into my home, ask you to sit at my hearth, and I’d serve you Topo Chico with lime if it was a warmer day (which usually it is); or the tea of your choice or strong coffee roasted in high mountains.

Coffee, I should add, is a sort of medicine for me – not to help me wake up, but to help soothe my asthma. I actually don’t drink a lot of it; I nurse one cup slowly, the Arabic way I like to think (a nod of appreciation to Philz Coffee in the San Francisco Bay Area, whose charming owner is from the Middle East. They are a pretty famous outfit now, but when I started going, you could still see Phil in his awesome fedora working quality control – the BEST).

When I say strong coffee, y’all, I mean it. None of this new-fangled, hipster, light roast for me – no thank you! The blacker the roast the better in my opinion and my favorite is the Tres Estrella blend (Three Stars for those of you non-Spanish speakers) from Ohori’s Coffee in Santa Fe.) All of this is to say that you should not be surprised if, after an hour of this make-believe conversation, it would seem as though I have barely touched my coffee at all. I’d be asking you tons of questions (those of you who have had readings with me or worked with me one-on-one should be nodding your heads right now) and my darker-than-the-deepest-night roast coffee would be cold and forgotten!

I like to ask questions. At the end of the day, you will discover that one of the deepest truths about me is that I am a lover of learning. One of the most important things this means to me is that I do not have all the answers. I often tell my students in the Miracle Tree Sessions and Spinning Gold that I am learning right beside them – that’s not just a thing I say – it is something I deeply believe and know to be true.

Sometimes I encounter newcomers in my community who think of me as an expert or a guru of some kind. As Jasper would say: no way! Our intuitive gifts and our Sacred Arts practices do not give us a right to omniscience nor to omnipotence, and, in my opinion, it’s better that way: life is much richer and more overflowing with surprises, wonder, and goodness. Our gifts are the very expression of soulful seeking after beauty, truth, wholeness, and holiness. If we had all the answers already, there would be no need for these gifts in the first place!

Every day and all encounters, in every way, present little opportunities for learning, and this experience is part of the warp and weft of not only my own life-tapestry, but my family’s as well, and my Sacred Arts practice.

As I was thinking about my desire to share with all of you the various happenings, then, I decided that I wanted these more personal posts to reflect most of all this sense of a living-learning that makes up my actual life and practice. And I really want to do this with an eye to the end of giving all of you a glimpse of the way one gal, a Sacred Artist, interprets the meaning of living an enchanted life from the inside out, as well as offering a sense of the Sacred Arts in action, in the glorious mess and chaos and wild beauty that is life right here and right now.

So, for those who are interested in the more personal aspect of the Sacred Arts, I invite you to grab the beverage of your choice, kick back, and get comfy. Whatever else I may be accused of, brevity is not on the list!

The story for the past few months begins at three or four am, when I rise every morning to begin writing. I have always been an early riser (and now with a one-pound jelly bean shifting and twirling during wee hours, it is especially easy to get up) and so sitting down to write before everything else just made sense.

The house is quiet. The moon, in whatever phase she inhabits, shines through the window at my desk, and after I write, I perform my morning devotions, which involve rituals, chanting, prayer, and magic. As I write, I sometimes seem to sense the little one saying to me “Um, really Mommy? That sentence just will not do”, or “Oooh, that’s a good one!”

You might be interested to learn that I am handwriting the first draft. Yes, that’s right: handwriting. It is nearly finished, two chapters to go. There will be many more drafts to come, but the work has been steady and swift – every morning the next batch of pages, one after the other. I find that for me, handwriting the book at this early stage makes up in the feeling, depth and clarity of thinking for what it may lose in terms of speed and efficiency.

Once the entire manuscript has been handwritten, I will then type it out, molding it in slightly different ways as I do so, and then begin on the second draft. (A wise old teacher once compared this stage of the writing process to a momma bear licking her cub into shape.) Writing in this way is also easy because if I lose electricity – which actually happened a few times this Winter in San Antonio – or if a new idea comes to me, I just write it down. My handwritten pages are already festooned with hot pink post-it notes. It is all very high-tech.

The idea of handwriting the first draft actually began with a fiasco. At the end of December’s Mercury Retrograde, my seven-year-old laptop took a tumble and, as the Ancient Greek poet Homer says, bit the dust. In an instant, without a threnody of underwater goddesses to support me or announce the departure, I discovered that I had lost the nascent files I had created for the book. Oh, there was a moment of despair! But then, I realized that I had actually handwritten the pages first. So I went to my three-ring binder and saw that, indeed, the pages were still there in my spidery scrawl. No batteries or plugs were needed to access them; and, as long as I keep the sheets protected from the elements, they have just what I need to make the most solid start I can muster. And from that point, I haven’t stopped.

In my course Spinning Gold, I refer us to J.R.R. Tolkien  “eucatastrophe”, a narrative element he identifies in Fairy Tales. This tumble-down topsy-turvy destruction of my old trusty laptop is a little example of eucatastrophe, because – as a result of this loss – not only did I discover a better way to approach the writing of my book, I also decided to replace my laptop with a desktop which is much better for my posture and my health (my dear friend Theresa Reed – the Tarot Lady – who also happens to teach yoga was like DESKTOP. NOW. She is wise). Handwriting the first draft has also cut down on my screen time, which has been very healthy for me and for the wee one.

So both the book and the baby have forced me to take a fresh look at some of my daily habits. This, my friends, is one of the first steps of Sacred Arts in action; one that I have seen many of you do as well.  For me, as I have been writing the book, I have felt the need to allow my own ideas their own space, silence, and time for gestation and deep metabolism.

Reading too much, or the wrong things, taking in information without proper discernment, can muddy those waters. One becomes more sensitive here. Actually, our community of Soulful Seekers is full of sensitive folks – those who feel deeply, who take external information and stimulus in a deeply internal way. For me, as I felt a growing sensitivity occur on multiple levels, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, one of the biggest changes I’ve made has to do with my intake of news. My habit was to look at various news items on the internet, or an app on my phone, just as a matter of convenience.

I started noticing that I never really spent any time with any o of the items. Glancing, skimming, here and there, working with the general, most vague impressions of things. How could I not feel ashen blooms of anxiety on a regular basis? I want to be an informed citizen AND there had to be a better way, other than exposing myself to huge amounts of information, without being able to process or digest any of it effectively. I also noticed that in my community my students were experiencing something similar – so many of us are on media and social media overload these days.

So now I have put a stop to all of this glancing and skimming, and have migrated offline to ‘slow’ media and long-form writing – to my favorite weekly periodical the Economist, a British publication.  I’ll work through it, slowly all week, from cover to cover.

I don’t agree with everything there, but I like the style of thinking and reporting, its global scope and comprehensiveness. When I have the time to take a short break from my writing, my teaching and counseling work, and my devotions, I grab my strong coffee, usually in the afternoon (which I still haven’t finished, by the way, and since it has grown cold, I ask my sweet husband to warm it up for me); I turn everything off, I slow down and I take my time. I am happy to report that this way of approaching the news – looking to offline sources of long-form writing and analysis – has promoted some very good ‘mental’ digestion – has helped to build a kind of psychological toughness, and promotes the development of knowledge rather than merely fleeting impressions of things. I do the same thing with fiction – right now I am reading the Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich.

Once you begin to look at the basics, there is no stopping. One thing leads to another. We pay attention to one place and others unfold. (This is why, by the way, I teach about and encourage the interrelationship and wholeness that holds between all of the Sacred Arts.)

So I’ve also become aware of some unhelpful ideas when it comes to book writing. I know many of you are writers yourselves, and probably a few of you would like to publish a book one day too. One of the ideas I had when this process started was that I would have uninterrupted days where for hour upon hour all I could do was write. Conversely, is the fear that if we don’t have long stretches of uninterrupted hours, there would be no way I would ever finish the work.  But after actually having a few of these halcyon days of zero interruptions over the Winter, I realized that for me at least, having long stretches of time to do nothing but write was a kind of hell.

I love writing so very much. But I also love and have a duty to teach my Spinning Gold and Miracle Tree students, I love my one-on-one sessions, I love creating rituals and ceremonies for my Witch In Your Pocket and Lunar Lights clients, and so on. I love every part of my work. I realized I have watched it feed and nourish the writing in some unexpected ways. It turned out, devoting all my time to writing choked out one of the more important sources of inspiration for my writing, which, after all, is said and done, is all of you. What I discovered is this: I don’t need all of the time, I just need the right amount of time.

As I tell a story of magic with pen on paper there is another magical tale growing inside of me. I am one of those lucky and blessed women who seem to have easy pregnancies (though I do feel that I made up for it with my first labor which was thirty-six plus hours). This pregnancy has been markedly different from my first because now it is not just two who are affected by the little one; it is also our first child, Jasper.

This pregnancy is also different because I am thirty-seven, whereas I was twenty-nine when I was pregnant with Jasper. During my first pregnancy, I discovered how pathologized pregnancy is, at least here in the US (I cannot speak to other traditions in other places). You are often made to feel almost as if there is something wrong with you for being pregnant – that you are fragile and must be hawk-eyed by every doctor and nurse, that you require much medical personnel doing medical things around you all of the time. Because of some of the health issues in my family, my husband and I both chose to have our first child and this next child in the hospital. And I love my Ob-Gyn – she is the bee’s knees and does not make me feel like a sick person at all.

But, the culture around pregnancy and pregnant women have A LOT of shifting to do and that is ESPECIALLY true if the woman is over thirty-five. As I reflect on this, I think there are bigger ramifications that it speaks to. I wonder if this is part of what happens when we have any kind of liminal experience, which pregnancy and birth definitely are; but so are others, like divorce, physical illness, recovery from addiction, or mental breaks – each of these events have undeniable physiological realities and may require medical treatment and intervention.

But to think that the only reality they carry is medical – that there are not other, more subtle realities also at work and that there are not other, more magical treatments and supports that are also appropriate – seems very short-sighted to me. It does not gel with any of the traditions that I am familiar, nor with one’s deepest sense and experience of things. A pregnant woman needs both her physical and metaphysical needs attended to in various ways. She also has a specific kind of access to magic and the liminal that can be of benefit not just to her but can and should be to the benefit of the entire community. So yes, lots of room for improvement here.

Of course when Baby Saussy (whom we are calling Sausalito for the time being) kicks and moves and twirls and tumbles, I am not concerned with the fact that large parts of the culture pathologize pregnancy. I am much more interested in talking to the little one, engaging in my morning rituals of prayer and chant and magic, and writing up some information on making magic that supports conception, safe pregnancy, and then the wonderful, wild, ride that is being a parent.

I am also deeply aware, even more than usual, of the large percentage of our community who cannot or have chosen not to have children. I have written to you all before and I know that for many of you, reading this brings up all the stuff – excitement and love for me and my family (which I am so grateful for) but also sadness, depression, even anger too. I get that. I want you all to know that when it comes to this momma, you are seen, you are beloved, and you are held as precious. My beloved and I are so grateful that our boys have a large community of men and women who they can call on for guidance, inspiration, mothering and fathering in all of the different ways that mothering and fathering can and do happen. You all are a vital part of our lives.

When it comes to magic, my big effort over the past month has been to say thank you. I was gifted with a wonderful gratitude jar and card set for Yule. Every day I write down something that I am grateful for and I also text it to my best girlfriend. Sometimes the things are what you would expect: grateful for a healthy baby, grateful for an amazing husband, and sometimes they are not: grateful for the pain that gives me information, grateful for hot water – what an incredible luxury that is!

On the 1st of January, I created a big gratitude altar for my Holy Helpers complete with tons of flowers and good candles and their favorite foods. I did not ask for anything. I just spent time saying thank you for what has been given. It felt so good. The shifts felt in my life and family over the past thirty days because of that practice have been noticeable and it is now a regular part of my monthly rituals.

So ending this first letter on that note seems just right to me. Some things that I am grateful for right now and that I would love to share with you:

My beloved husband and the amazing not for profit he runs alongside managing all of the operations for my business.

My son’s fantastic art-making (see above) and the fact that I get to live with artists and musicians.

My allowance of one cup of coffee – which I will shamelessly nurse throughout the day and ask my husband to heat up for me again and again and again.

This book.

This service.

This blog.

The fact that Tarot and Photography are talking to each other.

Open roads.

And each one of you.
In love and magic,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Mommy Magic: 8 Ways to Celebrate the Day of the Dead with the Whole Family

Ceremony and Ritual

F

or soulful seekers who wish to honor their Ancestors and Beloved Dead at this time of year and who also have young family members who may be frightened by some of the more macabre images running rampant, it can often feel like an either/or situation.

Either you give in to mass market Halloween trappings and squeeze your more soulful work and offrendas in sideways or you go all out in creating your ancestor altar and alienate your children in the process because really, why do you have to be SO weird?

Growing up in San Antonio and the Southwest where we celebrated Dia de los Muertos and honored our Ancestors before it was cool, the idea of hiding your practice away from your family members or not involving your younger family members in the celebrations strikes me as a bit odd.

After all, for millions of people world over, Dia de los Muertos (and the many other names it is known by) is a Feast Day during which we honor and commune with our Beloved Dead. We remember the loved ones (including animals) that we have lost – especially those we have lost in the past year – but we remember by having a party and of course we want to include our children in the festivities; this is a family affair!

The Feast Day/family celebration atmosphere often gets lost in translation when we talk about this holiday – there is more of a focus on the somber and scary and less of one on the bright, colorful, cheer that we experience when we take special time out of our day to honor the ones who have gone before. But I’m here to tell you that the Ancestors LOVE a good party and they love it when the little ones participate too. So here are some ideas to get the family party started:

1.) Make sugar skulls. There are molds that come complete with instructions and there are even kits. Traditionally the skulls are decorated with brightly colored icing and colorful pieces of foil. A piece of foil is affixed to the top of the skull’s head and you can write down the name of the ancestor you are honoring.

Of course, you’ll want to make a few extras so that the kiddos can nosh away. Traditionally you would take these skulls and offer them to your ancestors at the gravesides on November 2nd after taking a bite from each of them so that, for another year, the person named lives within you too.

 

2.) Create an Ancestor season tree. A season tree is an idea I got from a Waldorf craft book years ago – the general principle is that you place some bare branches into florist foam that is nestled into a pot, sprinkle dirt over the foam (plant some wheatgrass seeds in the dirt if you are really ambitious) and then decorate the tree as the seasons change with appropriate items.

The ancestor tree is very similar but on the branches we have affixed pictures of our ancestors. Near the bottom of the tree we start with the oldest ancestors and then move up in chronological order, the crown of the tree can feature pictures of current family members. This is a great craft that also segues naturally into discussions of family trees.

 

3.) Build an altar. Kids love altar building for the most part. A traditional Dia de los Muertos altar is established in the living room or the dining room where much of the family congregates naturally. Choose what ancestor(s) you would like to honor and remember that it is perfectly acceptable to honor a deceased pet. Decorate the altar with paper flowers, sugar skulls, and your ancestor tree. Make beeswax candles with a kit like this to light upon the altar. Include foods that the people or animals loved in life and objects that you inherited from them upon their passing.

You can also incorporate seasonal themes into this altar – our Dia de Los Muertos altar always has a pumpkin or two on it! Paper or cloth prayer flags and some fresh flowers, especially marigolds, are all traditionally included too.

 

4.) Bake some pan de muerto Day of the Dead Bread – it is delicious.

 

5.) Put the Feast back into feast day! Create a dinner on October 31st or November 1st that honors the traditional food ways your family’s ancestors practiced. This is a great project that you can actually start early in October – get your kids to do some research into who their way back people were, where they lived, what crops they grew and what animals they domesticated. Many of the deepest rituals happen around food.

 

6.) Go visit the graveyard together. Demystify places of death by going to visit them together in broad daylight. Graveyard are fascinating places for children and in my experience, children are much more frank and understanding about death then they are given credit for.

 

7.) Speaking of graveyards, here’s a bonus: read the Graveyard book together – perfect for the season!

 

8.) And if you are in the mood for a family-friendly film about this time of year, I cannot recommend the Book of Life highly enough!

No matter how you celebrate enjoy the season or as we say down here: Feliz dia de los Muertos!

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Mommy Magic: How to deal with bullies

Ceremony and Ritual

W

hen I was in high school my best friend’s kid sister tried out for the middle school cheer leading squad. This is Texas and we take cheer leading seriously…way too seriously if you ask me. The kid sister was extremely talented — a great dancer with amazing moves and a smile that lit up the room. But…she was also a little shorter, and chubby, and – good heavens alive – was not a blonde. So…because her looks “didn’t quite fit” she did not make the squad, and there were many other girls who did not make it either.

They were given a pat on the back, some were ushered into mini-vans by angry parents who had invested time and who knows how much money into gymnastics classes and cheer school, and they were also given a consolation poem. I can’t remember the whole poem but I do remember the first line… “if you cannot be a tree, be a shrub.” She tearfully showed me the poem and then started crying all over again.

Well. It was clear that this was totally not acceptable, that these children were being bullied by the very people supposedly put in place to help them.

One of my favorite teachers says: “if you cannot change it, make it holy” and that is exactly what we did. We went to my house, a car load of crying girls, took the stupid poems and set them on fire in the kitchen sink. Then we scattered the ashes to the four directions and took turns telling each other what we liked about ourselves and one another.

That little ritual did not change the fact that none of the girls I was taking care of hadn’t made the team. It did not magically make the next day totally OK for them. But there was healing, and laughter, and they woke up the next morning knowing that life would go on and that their worth was not determined by whether or not they “made the team.”

If you cannot change it, make it holy.

If you have a child that you love and they are experiencing a hard time…at school, in life, with their teachers or their peers, please know that you are not alone. And while there are excellent practical resources for parents and caretakers, I like to focus on the more magical and holy-making possibilities.

So, whether your child is experiencing bullying, mean behavior, or simply going through an award and difficult time, here are some sacro-magical approaches that can help:

Sweeten  it up — Sugar has a long and storied use in magic. You can work with sugar in a variety of ways to make life a bit sweeter for your child, my favorite method? The tried and tested sugar jar.

Burn it down — Very much as we experienced with that silly “consolation prize” sometimes the most effective magic is a deep and true banishing. I love setting things on fire and scattering the ashes (and the issues) to the four cardinal directions.

Look in the mirror — Anyone who has read Snow White knows that mirror magic is a real thing. If you have a child who is having a hard time with self-esteem/self-love, the tried and true practice of affirmations may not be enough. What if instead they saw a beautiful blessing or charm inscribed directly onto their bathroom or bedroom mirror? Use washable marker in a color they love and if you feel fancy add the planetary glyph for Venus or Jupiter.

The Power of Touch — For children who experience high stress situations and/or children who are incredible sensitive, shy, and empathic, a talisman is an excellent tool. It provides a literal touch point that can remind and re-orient your child throughout the day to what matters most and what brilliance they bring to the table.

Keep it clean — One of the best ways magically minded parents can support their wee ones is by keeping the house spiritually clean. Take the cleaning one step forward by working with a floor wash or spray that is imbued with qualities your child needs the most such as clarity and success if they are having trouble in school or protection and empowerment if they are being bullied.

Light through the night — Lighting a devotional candle for your child is never a bad idea. You can make a ritual of selecting the right candle, dressing it with your favorite ritual oils/herbs, and then lighting it. Beautiful. Simple. Bright.

 

Mommy magic is a new series here at Canto. The questions and topics come from moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and caregivers who have school-age children. Traditionally many magical systems belonged under the provenance of women and it was understood that these magics, these “medicines of the home” as one elder named them, were for the betterment of the household and all who dwelled within. That is our focus in this series: practical, how-to, magic-making that encourages healing, wholeness, and blessing.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.