This is how the sacred heart is born

Lunar Letter

D

ear Miracles,

December 25th approaches closer and closer, a day much of the world celebrates as Christmas. For many of us, however, Christmas is a tough one. By the time it is over, who isn’t burned out on the whole thing? It’s not hard to see why.

Our world doesn’t “do” depth well. On the one hand, we are flooded in all directions (earlier every year) by tinsel and commercials. On the other hand, attempts to restore the ‘reason for the season’ so often rest on surface interpretations of the old stories supported by dogmatic religious trappings. Those of us seeking the radical re-enchantment of our daily lives are not satisfied with surface tellings or interpretations of any tradition or any story, least of all our holy stories.

But just as we refuse to be satisfied with a dogmatic acceptance of holy stories, neither are we satisfied with the opposite: a knee-jerk rejection of those holy stories, a rejection which, in its own way, is just as dogmatic.

No, you and I like to follow a path of deepest affirmation, and we like to go deeper and truer into the heart and root of things in search of real insight, real medicine, real magic. In light of this, in this month’s Lunar Letter, I offer you a retelling of the traditional Christmas story, as I have received it from my own family and as I have struggled with it in my own life of soulful seeking and understanding.

And so now let us begin. Curl up, snuggle down, read the tale quietly or out loud to your best beloveds.  Our story begins not once upon a time but once upon all time – then, now, always…

 

 

I.

First, imagine the moonlight.

And the moonlight on the sand and how sand can feel so cold, colder than ice, colder than snow, when you are alone, in the desert, in the dead of winter.

This is the story of the time I found myself walking on a wild, untrammeled road. I followed no one’s footsteps along this road. For when it comes to the one unique path we all must sooner or later travel, the one we must bear sometimes and somehow in fear and trembling, what footsteps can we follow? Indeed we follow the path our deepest hearts reveal to us, no matter were it leads. There is no other way.

My footsteps fell hard and heavy on that cold moonlit sand. At first I could think of nothing but the moment we had received word from our dear cousin, word that the tyrant – that greedy madman – would soon arrive to destroy us and our new life. We had to flee at once, flee or die. There would be no time for good-byes. We needed to move in the dead of night to escape detection by the tyrant’s many spies. So we swiftly gathered our belongings, just enough to sling over the donkey without weighing it down too much, and we were out the door.

An old story, as old as the sand that I walked on, but it’s also in today’s news. Look and you will see. I held my breath for many miles, though my heart hammered wildly in my chest. One foot in front of the other, into that dark night we fled, endangered, unwanted, refugees.

And we didn’t look back.

 

II.

As it turns out, one foot in front of the other is not exactly exciting.

You easily get the hang of it. The hardest part is trying to keep the fear and the boredom behind you. But after trudging in the cold with my unborn baby and my beloved companion, the fear finally caught up with us, freezing the surface of our hearts like a frozen pond I had seen once long ago as a little girl. I began to wonder if it was all only a dream — the fire within, the angel’s iridescent rainbow wings, the call falling like life-giving rain.  I began to long for rest, for the deep dreamless sleep. Then I realized something had changed in the air.

“Wait! Is that smoke?” I asked my companion, deliriously. “Do you smell it too?”

“Yes!” he said.  “Yes, oh yes!”

The cold desert wind carried the sweet scent of wood smoke. Where there is wood smoke, there is fire, we reasoned. And where there is fire, there could be a human being, and, hopefully, a human heart. And sure enough, off in the distance, we saw a faint yet shimmering light, a light which was indeed a fire, a fire in a dwelling.

Our spirits mounted the sky and soared with hope. We clapped our hands. Would there be words of welcome on the other end of that fire? As we grew closer, we could see that the dwelling was made of earth and wood, and through the cracks of several shuddered windows, firelight glowed. The rich scent of cooking food, fat sizzling in flame, made my head spin with delight. At first the door opened a crack. And then the crack widened, and a burly man appeared, heavily bearded, with a fur thrown over himself to protect against the cold. His cheeks were red from honey-flavored wine. Beyond him, inside, we thought we saw several figures moving quickly around, disappearing out of sight.

“Excuse us, sir,” we asked, in one voice. “Is there a place here. A place to rest, to lay down, our heads, to bring new life forward?

I thought with rosy cheeks like his, he would surely have said “yes”.  But the man’s small eyes looked down at my belly, and then they fearfully darted to the left and to the right. He shook his head and muttered something of which I couldn’t make out because he spoke a different tongue. But just as quickly as he opened it, the heavy oaken door slammed shut, answering our question, leaving us to the desolate wastes outside. My beloved companion’s face became the color of ash and his brow darkened with rage and contempt.

“No! Don’t you do it,” I said, suddenly, discerning at once what he was about to do, and I gripped his hand, which was reaching for a sharp implement. “Don’t you dare. You think you are showing strength that way? Think again.”

“But how can he do that?” he said, jutting his jaw, grinding his teeth.  “How can he just shut the door on us that way? I’ll kill the bastard.”

“You can’t understand it,” I said.  “You can try, but it is dark fact of our nature. But I will tell you something, dear beloved, something I know for certain now. It is true we are now exiles, refugees, in this land. But I know one thing: I know how unbeatable the spirit within is. We are in truth built for rough terrain, you and I.  For where else but in rough terrain might we expect to find sacred heart?”

My companion sighed, and the light returned to his face, and he looked into my eyes finally. It was the familiar look of my constant companion, the man who refused to flee when so many others did.

“Where indeed!” he said, placing an arm around me. “Then come, we must keep moving.”

 

III.

In later times I would be known as Blessed Mother, Star of the Sea, Queen of Heaven, She Who  Carries The Light Of The World. But when I think back to that time, all of those grand puffed-up names make me chuckle a little.

No light tip-toeing demurely for this gal, who walked over rugged hills and sprawling seas of sand that seem to go on forever under moon and starlight. This girl didn’t walk on air, like a floating cloud, as I would be depicted in those marvelous Florentine paintings. No, she walked on her feet – her blistered, swollen, carrying a nine month pregnant belly, feet. And where was my golden royal train? Even though I was huge, heavy with child and all of the discomforts that come with the ninth month of pregnancy, in truth I was very small with the scent of sweat, exhaustion, the sour smell of rejection and fear.   But underneath all of that there was still the lingering scent of faith, of certainty, of energy and action.

Do you know I finally laughed, when we stepped into the barn? I did! Even after all we had gone through, I never expected it would be here that the sacred heart would come into the world.  I always thought there would be a shining palace, marbled, with stately grandeur, perfume-scented water running through the aqueduct-fed pipes and canals.  Even the trees and birds outside would bear the imprimatur of a stately cosmic royalty.

No, in fact, what we had was rather ripe, rather smelly, by contrast! Here was a tiny building, dark and dusty, with sleeping, shuffling animal sounds, scented to be sure with sweet hay, warm milk, smooth fur, but mostly surrounded by lots of very rich manure. As we bedded down in the corner of the barn, I saw the soft, drowsy, eyes of horse, cow, sheep and goat, eyes that sparkled like stars. It makes me blush and laugh again to say it now, but I heard the animals talking that night. And in this laughter, you know, that crazed tyrant who pursued us, who threatened to destroy us, that tyrant Fear Itself, was long-faded and long gone, utterly chased away.

Feeling the safety and the comradeship, the donkey immediately felt at home and nuzzled against the milk cow, whispering as it did so into her velvety ear.

“You know, dear cow, something very special will happen before this night is through. This one is a holy woman! You can tell. Look at her feet and hands!”

And the milk cow, nodding head up and down, lowed into the cold air.

“Yes, you are right. Oh, how wonderful. Here let us help her, she can lean against my side when the worst of the pain takes her and I can be solid and steady for her.”

Draught horse blew air out through his fuzzy, soft lips, and with eyes blinking, stomped impatiently.

“A child! A child! A living child! How special, how wonderful, we do not see enough children. I can stand still and strong so that she might grip my mane when the pain is at its hardest. I have heard the women folk say that pulling and stretching and pushing is what birth giving is all about.”

And the lady animals in the barn all nodded sagely and agreed that this was very true. The pig, with its very intelligent eyes and oh, so sensitive snout, began to push the leavings out of its manger, and carried one mouthful of clean straw at a time to create a soft bed.

“I will let the new child have my manger as a place to rest its little head, on this soft straw that smells rich and sweet, in the exact same way we cuddle up our new born babies to keep them warm and clean.”

A golden-eyed cock and a line of fluffy hens that surrounded him with contented clucks raised up their heads.

“We will crow and cluck the news of the sweet child’s birth to the highest heavens! It will be the sweetest crowing and clucking you ever did hear!”

A goat stomped and butted her head, not wishing to be left out of the fun.

“I will share my rich milk with the new child and his parents, for they carry exhaustion in their bones and this will revive them.”

And a small lamb raised what sounded like a plaintive baa baa, but was actually saying,

“I will go out into the fields and find my mother the ewe and tell her so that she might tell the others and they might tell the shepherds to come and help us celebrate.”

The doves that lived in the rafters cooed to one another knowingly.

“We are in for a long night of it, let us make sweet and soothing music to aid these people in the work that is to come.”

And so it was that I heard each animal working out amongst themselves what part they would each play. And as the first wave of agony rolled through my belly and gripped my spine, I nodded my head, for I had a role to play as well.

 

IV.

 I hear that now we are taught that women forget the worst of their labor because of hormones or gooey baby gazes. I’m not sure about all of that, all I know is that I slept it off, falling into a deep and delicious sleep as soon as the Little Light of the World arrived and was put to suckle at my breast. When I finally awoke, I smiled and nodded, gesturing to the faithful grey donkey, the solid milk cow, the strong draught horse, the intelligent pig, bright eyed rooster and chickens, enthusiastic goat, devoted lamb, and gentle doves.

“Look, Yossef! We are surrounded by angels as soon as we entered the stable, they surround us still!”  I said to my beloved companion. He laughed and clapped his hands at my words. Then his look became somber.

“Miryam, there are several strangers outside who’d like to see you and the little one. They look familiar yet different. I’m afraid they…well, should I allow them?”

“Really, my love? After all we’ve been through? Of course.”  I shook my head. When will he ever learn?”

When they stepped into the stable, it was clear that none of them spoke our native Hebrew.  One of them sounded like a delighted goose when he talked. The other sounded like chirruping cicadas high in the trees at summer’s zenith, and the third sound like soft bells tinkling. I didn’t need to know exactly what they said. I could see it in their faces and eyes, and we recognized each other at once, all struck with wonder.

During our journey we had stopped at three places before finally, blessedly, arriving at the barn with the animals. We had been rejected and turned away three times by three men. Now those same men stood before me. And with tears in his eyes, the first – you know, the burly one – held in his outstretched hands gifts to us and in honor of the new child.

“I am sorry,” his eyes said. “We have wronged you. I know that now.  Please accept our humble gifts for you and this shining baby.” Yossef and I stared in amazement at the man,  at the fact that so closed and frozen a heart had melted in this way.

“Yossef, wisdom has descended upon these men,” I said, gesturing to all three. “They allowed their hearts to be pierced. Please make them a seat next to me.”

Now most stories say the gifts were frankincense, myrrh, and gold. But those would come later when the wonderful and wise magi who traveled from afar arrived. But I will tell you now, that the gifts of these wise men were not only the most meaningful, but they would prove most useful to us in the years to come.

What did they give us? Vanilla, and two foreign spices I can no longer live without. They called them “chile” and “chocolate”.  Have you heard of them? The vanilla was for warmth and compassion; but the chile was for spice and adventure, and the chocolate for the sweetness that lives hand in hand with the bitter. Let me tell you, in the days and years to come, we would needing a lot of vanilla, chile and, most of all, chocolate.

And so it was early, early in the quiet desert morning, moon gone to nothing, a few stalwart stars still shining bright in the just-coming-into-dawn sky. What better place than this, I ask you, could sacred heart come into the world? Coming into being, breathing in first blessed breath, among all of us together – creatures, companions and friends.

This, then, was how, one foot in front of the other, sacred heart is born. Then. Now. Always.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

New Moon Notes – Sagittarius Edition

Lunar Letter

W

hoosh! That is the sound that I always hear when December begins. Though this year it was more crackle and pop because we have been enjoying weekly fires at our hearth.

Although December is one of my busiest months out of the year, I have gone into this month with a clear and solid intention to Slow Down and Enjoy. So far, so good! And lucky for us, the gorgeous New Moon in easy, breezy Sagittarius on December 11th supports exactly that vibe.

Sagittarius moons, whether New or Full, tend to bring out the inner free spirit in all of us. This is a wonderful time to plan a mid-winter adventure (and if you can do it outside all the better) or have a rousing philosophical/theological conversation with someone near and dear to you – after all, Sagittarius is the sign of philosophy and religion among other things or travel to a new and distant land or to a familiar face and friend.

There is a bit of Astro inspired tension brewing in the squaring off of dreamy, sensitive Neptune in Pisces and strict and stringent Saturn in Sagittarius. These two powerhouse planets have already had one exact square at the end of November and are headed into two more over the course of 2016.

Different astrologers talk about this tense face-off in different ways but the phrase I use is: Dreamtime (Neptune) meets real-time (Saturn). This is the best time to bring any dreams that are really speaking and calling you into clear and present physicality. Find what is of use in your meditations, visions, art-making, and dreaming and bring it into the waking world so that all may benefit. Saturn, if you work with its energy, will inspire you with the discipline and structures needed to accomplish this fear, and Neptune will call in the juicy inspiration that keeps you moving.

At the same time, IF you have been supporting any illusion or delusion that is keeping you back and not allowing for liberation, prepare for that to be blown to bits by this celestial event. You have time to align yourself with the changes ahead and the following questions to consider on this bright, dark, new moon might help:

Where do I hold myself back and why?

What story/event/encounter from my past am I stuck in and how might I release it?

What do I need to know about my deepest dream right now?

How can I bring my art more fully into my community, my local place, and my world?

What do I need to know about my relationship with time and time management?

As you consider these questions you may discover that as the year comes to a close you are ready to release one, or one hundred ideas, habits, notions, and beliefs that are not only no longer useful but maybe positively harmful. I find this is true for me and that I am always especially aware of it at the end of the year. That’s why several years ago I created a Banish and Burn community ceremony. This annual tradition is open for registration once again. Last year we have over 300 participants – won’t you join us in creating more space for deep grace? Register HERE.

Adventures in Soulful Seeking

I wrote a Litany for Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose Feast Day is on December 12th. I’m also hosting a free community altar open to all petitions, prayer requests, and blessings, go HERE to send in your words, thoughts, and heart deep desires. Here is a wee bit of the post:

“Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in Mexico City in 1531 to an indigenous man known to Spanish and English speakers as Juan Diego but known in his own tribal tongue as Cuauhtlatoatzin – which translates to something like “Talking Eagle”. Guadalupe is variously understood as the New World Blessed Virgin Mary, as a Catholic overlay of Tonantzin, the Nuahatl Goddess of life, fertility, and mothers, and as the patron Saint of Mexico. I understand her to be all of this and more. Having lived almost all of my life in “Guadalupe country” here is what I can tell you about Her.

Wherever there is a need for nurturing, mothering, calming, nourishment – there She is.
Wherever there is a need for healing, soothing, anointing and blessing – there She is.
Wherever new mothers, new fathers, and children of all ages need care and support – there She is.”

Read the full post HERE.

In other news, for those of you enrolled in an online class and wondering how to get the most out of said class without living your life online, I’ve got some tips for you.

In my family when we gather for Thanksgiving and Yule we always say a blessing before we break bread. Here is one that I wrote for Thanksgiving this year – feel free to use it yourself whenever you have need.

Speaking of prayer, November’s Full Moon letter asked a tough question: Where Do Our Prayers Go?

Out and About

‘Tis the season for awesome gift-giving, and I have some great recommendations for you:

First of all, the good things in life CAN be free. If you are receiving this letter you are already one of my beautiful subscribers, but did you know that you can encourage a friend to subscribe and they will receive a very special Wonderment reading from me? It is a little gift I give to all new subscribers and (so I’ve been told) delivers amazing clarity, insight, and inspiration exactly where they are most needed. Simply direct your people to my site and click on the “lunar letters” tab to subscribe. Share sacred arts and share the love.

Desiring something extra special? A year of candles lit each and every month on the Full Moon, followed by personal reports and plans of actions might be the perfect thing.
Snag that here (and save an extra $100 in the process – this is the only “sale” I ever do and it happens once a year, through the month of December).

Have an inquiring mind in your life who cannot get enough of all things sacred arts? Consider gifting then with one of my self-study courses on the sacred arts.

For the people in your life who love all creatures great and small, check out Sara Magnusson’s course Animalia. Spaces are very limited and Sara’s work is always superb. While hanging at her site, do yourself a favor and peruse the other delightful offerings at Candlesmoke Chapel, the shop she runs with her husband Joseph.

Then again, there may be a few on your list who are more interested in what’s happening in the heavens as opposed to down on earth. A gift certificate from the radiant Heidi Rose Robbins makes is an excellent choice.

Speaking of gift certificates, my wonderful friend and co-conspirator Theresa Reed has gift certificates for her tarot readings and she is giving away all kinds of swag this month on her Facebook page.

Everyone likes a little sparkle from time to time, and if you are going to give jewelry why not give something that has truly been customized by someone with both talent and mojo. Check out Aidan’s work (I’m partial to the Sacred Heart for obvious reasons).

Have a friend who is into the tarot? Camelia Elias is offering a class that sounds fun and fabulous for all of those who want to make the cards their own.

If you have loved ones who love to smell good (and really, who doesn’t) then get thee to Shelley Henry’s beautiful site and shop her catalog of scents.

Another gifted herbalist and potion make, Jen Rue of Three Cats and a Broom has something in the store that is sure to delight.

And, if you know people who need help with their boundaries, Randi Buckley’s course on Healthy Boundaries for Kind People might be just what you are looking for.

Although Advent has technically started, you can still snag a seat in Deb Smouse’s Advent Series (I did it last year and truly enjoyed myself).

Words and Wonderings

Some of my favorite quotes over the last few weeks:

And for adults, the world of fantasy books return to us the great words of power that, in order to be tamed, have been excised from our adult vocabularies. These words are the pornography of innocence, words that adults no longer dare to use with other adults, and so we laugh at them and consign them to the nursery, fear masking as cynicism. These are the words that were forged in the earth, air, fire, and water of human existence. And the words are:
Good.
Evil.
Courage.
Honor.
Truth.
Hate.
Love.

–From Touch Magic by Jane Yolen

All human beings by nature stretch out towards knowing.” Aristotle, from the Metaphysics

Folklore means that the soul is sane, but that the universe is wild and full of marvels.” – G. K. Chesterton from The Dragon’s Grandmother (You can read the entire piece here).

We all have the same kind of dragons in our psyche, just as we all have the same kind of hearts and lungs in our body.” –Ursula Le Guin

Really interesting article on Believing What Isn’t True by Richard Feynman. This might tick some folks in our community off, because Feynman, who is a scientist, calls out subjects like astrology and magic as prime examples of gullibility. However, I encourage each and every one of you to THINK for yourselves and that includes questioning certain suppositions found in the sacred arts AND in modern science too. Enjoy!

Feast your eyes on this gorgeous book art by early 20th century Czech artists.

Lovely and thought-provoking essay on the Heroine’s Journey by Theodora Gross – this will be of especial interest to all Spinning Gold students!

Was one source of early feminism found in various Native American tribes and their societal structures? This article makes exactly that claim.

I’ll be back closer to the full moon (which falls ON Christmas) but for now, we are all wishing you beautiful new moon blessings!

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Litany For Guadalupe

Prayer and Blessing

S

weet Miracles,

Many of us are now feeling the approach of the holiday season. No matter what you do (or don’t) celebrate and who you do or don’t celebrate it with, this is a time of year that can be full of joy and delight or a time of year that feels lonely, isolating, and depressing. Some of us can even feel all of these things at the same time! A litany or traditional spoken prayer is one way to begin to soothe the rough and raw places. And what better blessing for this time of year than a Litany for Guadalupe?

Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in Mexico City in 1531 to an indigenous man known to Spanish and English speakers as Juan Diego but known in his own tribal tongue as Cuauhtlatoatzin – which translates to something like “Talking Eagle”. Guadalupe is variously understood as the New World Blessed Virgin Mary, as a Catholic overlay of Tonantzin, the Nuahatl Goddess of life, fertility, and mothers, and as the patron Saint of Mexico. I understand her to be all of this and more. Having lived almost all of my life in “Guadalupe country” here is what I can tell you about Her:

Litany for Guadalupe

Wherever there is a need for nurturing, mothering, calming, nourishment – there She is.
Wherever there is a need for healing, soothing, anointing and blessing – there She is.
Wherever new mothers, new fathers, and children of all ages need care and support – there She is.
Wherever there is loss, sadness, gaping holes full of the howling winds of grief and sorrow – there She is.
Wherever there is joy, laughter, good food, families gathering, friends speaking, old ones remembering – there She is.
Wherever there is rich black dirt, red roses, chile, cinnamon, chocolate, bread – there She is.
Wherever Death has come, unbidden, unasked for, unexpected, unwanted – there She is.
Wherever it is the very simple things that are most needed: clean water, clean air, clean food – there She is.
Wherever creatures, any creatures, are harmed and then helped – there She is.
Wherever there is trying, working, struggling, failing, getting back up again, victory – there She is.
Wherever there is heartfelt prayer in voice, body, gesture, art making of all kinds – there She is.
Wherever there is storytelling, remembering, recollecting what matters most – there She is.
Wherever there is art, creativity of all kinds, carrying beauty from soul to world – there She is.
Wherever there is seeking for fairness, justice, and truth – there She is.
Wherever there are those who feel unseen, unheard, unwanted, disregarded – there She is.
Wherever there is quiet, silence, stillness – there She is.
Wherever there are blessings waiting in broken places – there She is.
Wherever there is a scarred and sacred heart, pierced and bleeding – there She is.

Wherever we are told She is not supposed to be/go, whomever we are taught are not as deserving or worthy of Her most blessed presence – She is especially in those places and with those people, (Our Lady does not much care for “rules”.)

Wherever there is love, and there is love everywhere, there She is.

So what might you say to Nuestra Señora – Our Lady? Whatever is upon your heart and on your tongue. She is first and foremost Mother to the World and all creatures, you and I included, who dwell within it. Bring it all to the table – there is space here.

 

Blessings of the season to you and yours~

 

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

For La Señora

Prayer and Blessing

L

ady of the stars, beauty bearing scars.

With mantle green and blue, and the form of mountain,

Rich red earth skin, from you all life fountains.

You carry our prayers, our loves, our fears,

Holiest of women, you carry our tears.

With work-hardened hands you heal,

the woman in the boardroom, the man in the field.

Mercy. Mercy. Mercy. Mercy, your words always say,

For I too know loss and there is a better way.

Our blood goes in the earth and our tears reach the skies,

As surely as night turns to day and death again to life.

Lady of the Stars, beauty bearing scars.

Holder of the Sacred Heart, witness to the soul,

with eyes that speak the truth and arms that know to hold.

Hold onto us and we to thee, until this world is covered,

in your love and deepest peace.

Amen

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Of Bones and Blessings, Cursings and Curings and Walking in Between

Lineage and Legacy

D

ear Miracles: On this day when the veils are especially thin I am thinking of the old saying that in order to know how to heal you must also know how to hex or in order to cure you must be able to curse. Or how about this one from a 14th century Scottish man referring to a local cunning woman:

 

“She was either a witch or a woman of God.”

Indeed.

Any way you slice it, the line between benevolent and baneful magics is ever present and thin — but on days like today it is especially so.

I remember reading in Brian Froud and Alan Lee’s Book Faeries about the Scottish tradition of the Seelie and Unseelie Court — the belief that the Unseelie court of faerie ruled the dark part of the year from Samhain until Midwinter.

The Unseelie court was believed to be composed of the more mischief-making or in some cases downright harmful and deadly faerie creatures. In honor (and fear) of their reign, farmers would leave untouched any crop that had not been harvested by the evening of October 31st-it was considered forfeit — an offering for the faeries and not fit for human consumption.

This is just one of a plethora of traditions found around the world that recognizes the change in power and energy as the life/death/life cycle circles around and around spiraling into the heavens and down into the dark earth. It is those apparently opposing forces that are also at play with the curing and cursing dynamic.

Curing and Killing in Plant Medicine and Magic

01ec8988171811e3bd0922000a1f9039_7As a student of Ancient Greek, among other things, the issue of cursing and curing comes out of language — as is well known in entheogenic circles, the Greek word for poison is the same word for medicine (pharmakon) — where, etymologists may be able to see, we get current words like “pharmacy.”

Many of our natural poisons have incredibly potent healing properties. Consider the digitalis derived from Purple Foxglove (Digitalis Purpurea) that can stop a heart or assist in curing congestive heart failure, the highly toxic Black Henbane (Hyosyamus Niger) that traditionally has worked with to induce visionary trance and the sensation of flying but also as a topical analgesic to relieve pain and swollen joints.

Monkshood (Aconitum) is deadly in the right dose but has been used medicinally for thousands of years, and Belladonna (Atropa Belladonna) is the source for the drug Atropine.

Perhaps most famously, snake antivenins are usually composed from the original venom itself.

Knowledge of the Poison Path (as Dale Pendell terms it) is sought out for many reasons — people want to understand these plants and poisons that have held such allure through time and history, people want to experience hallucinations or get high for recreational reasons, devotees wish to engage in ritual usages –some of which are millenia old, but as Aldous Huxley famously wrote when high on Mescaline, derived from yet another potent plant — Peyote (Lophophora Williamsii), the doors of perception are opened.

The Poison Path is a rich place to begin any consideration of the relationship between curing and cursing because our first and truest teacher — Nature — often combines these elements in the same being. A little too much of that and you are sick or dying, but just the right amount and you can be saved, pain-free, wholesome.

What I have learned in my own practice is that these poisons/medicines have the ability not only to cure or kill, they can pierce through our current perceptions and reveal new possibilities that were hidden behind a veil of illusion.

The idea of being pierced is as old as cupid and even older, I feel it finds one of its most beautiful expressions in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ In Catholic and folk-Catholic-magic traditions the sacred and pierced heart is a requisite for curing or cursing — I believe that in magic period a pierced heart is a requisite because the pierced and sacred heart represents a heart that has been cut, punctured, wounded in some way and yet is still vital, still beating, still blessing, sacral, and sacred.

This sacred heart — often depicted as wrapped in the crown of thorns worn by Christ during the Passion, is pierced by the suffering of humanity as well as the sufferings, large and small, that we all experience in our daily lives. As the heart is punctured so too our sense of safety and security, as the heart is punctured so too our sense of isolation that is questioned, as the heart is punctured so too our moments of selfishness illuminated and called out for what they really are. The pierced heart is experienced by the one who sees beyond the veil — through life experience, through innate wisdom, through plant magic, and most essentially through ineffable mystery.

It is a theme we see in baneful magic again and again — the piercing and puncturing of a heart to wound, curse, or in some cases sting into regret and recognition, and yet having a pierced heart is absolutely emphasized in healing and love work as well.

For me, the iconography of the pierced heart has always spoken not only to the relationship between cursing and curing — but also to the relationship between life and death. And what better time or season to celebrate the way that those two forces dance with each other?

Living in the Southwest where the harvest cycles definitely do not follow that of the Celtic year, I know our own land wights and spirits are on a slightly different calendar, but we have our own versions of the life/death energies — and one of the most popular dualities right now if that of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe: Our Lady of Guadalupe & her skull sister Santisima (or in some areas Santa) Muerte-Most Holy Death or Our Lady Most Holy Death.

Our Lady of Guadalupe and Santisima Muerte

10546008924_86b22e825c_zThese two are actually sister figures — both based on ancient Nahuatl Goddesses. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Catholicized incarnation of Tonantzin while Santisima Muerte is a Catholic-folk and increasingly so-called “narco” saint based on the Lady of Death, Mictecacihuatl. In Nahuatl-Aztec culture Tonantzin was an earth and fertility Goddess, bringing life giving rains to the hills, valley, and canyons, and bestowing life giving properties on the land and the people. To include our sacred plant theme, some believe that Tonantzin is specifically affiliated with the Agave plant and its various ritual and ecstatic uses. Like the Summerian Inanna and her skull sister Ereshkigal — Tonantzin had a relationship with her own shadow sister, Mictecacihuatl, the Lady of Death. In Meso-American culture death was highly esteemed because the ancestors were seen to be guiding forces of both wisdom and prophecy. Therefore the Lord and Lady of Death had to be propitiated whenever someone passed beyond the veil so that they would accept their soul and as it were, make a home for them. Mictecacihuatl possesses the guise of Santisima Muerte — who has interestingly become increasingly allied with those involved in the illegal drug and arms trades in Mexico and the US-Mexican border — but she is also known throughout the Southwest simply as La Huesera –– the bone woman — and is venerated as such, the Mother of death who sings life into the bones so that the cycle may spiral out yet again.

I am always interested in ideas that are apparent opposites but underneath share a solid unity with one another. In the case of hexing and healing or cursing and curing I believe that this foundation is strongly present and the folk magician should at the very least understand the relationship — perhaps as the winds blow from the otherworld into our own they will carry a bit of wisdom with them to aid us in our efforts.

May you all have a beautiful Halloween, Blessed Samhain, and delightful Dia de los Muertos!

A version of this article was printed in Amulet Magazine’s Fall 2013 issue.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.