But They’ll Say I’m Crazy

Foundations

M

iracles,

Blessed Full Moon in Virgo – the sign of sovereignty as well as physical and mental health. It is no coincidence that these qualities go together. Sovereignty is a certain kind of self-sufficiency. Without physical and mental well-being, self-sufficiency is diminished. In more extreme cases, the self-sufficiency that goes with sovereignty is altogether undermined. Physical and mental well-being are difficult topics to approach, not only for Sacred Artists but most people, because they strike at the roots of who we are and how we live, here and now.

When it comes to physical health there are the normal types of resistance. Perhaps the largest one is that it’s expensive. But even more, finding a good doctor – one who is not only competent, but who you feel really knows you, and can work with you – is actually hard. Finding a good alternative health practitioner is even harder. It takes time, and it takes energy. In magical work, there are a number of situations where the first piece of advice to a would-be client is that they need to go see a trained medical practitioner, a doctor….stat. They may need to have their blood pressure assessed, their cholesterol checked; they may need a healthier sleep regimen, or they may need to look into effective alternative treatments to over-prescribed drugs. None of these things sound remotely magical and yet – believe me – they make a HUGE difference in the magic we make and in the magic we seek out. Perhaps the greatest secret to magic (ready?) is that it lives where we would least expect it, and it is on the side of optimization, of taking care what you have already and bringing out its deepest hidden potential, tapping into the power currents that already lay sleeping inside of every part of our ordinary lives. In the middle of the mess is the shining one. So if you want more magic in your life, the starting point is clear: begin with a strong dose of self-care.

By far the biggest resistance I encounter around physical health check-ups is that they expose things that we would rather keep hidden away, unseen, undisclosed, and undiagnosed. I understand. There is no one who would rather curl up with her cats and children and be left to her own devices than me. And yet, it is also true that our relationship to the unseen translates across the board. Meaning that you cannot be in right relationship with the aspects of the unseen and the liminal that are spiritual if you are ignoring the unseen parts of your home, your family, or your own physical body. They are all of a piece. This is not to say that our ability to make magic and live enchanted lives is over if we have physical limitations. If that were the case there would be no magic to speak of! Rather, it is to say that it is the relationship we have with those limits, with the things we would rather not look at, that determines in large part what kind of enchantment we can experience every day.

And, as true as this is for our physical bodies, it is even more true for our mental health. For this is where the relationship between soulful seekers and health becomes particularly dicey – in the mental arena. Why? Because so many of the things we do and so many of the experiences we have can be and have been, branded as crazy pure and simple. For all of the advances that we have made when it comes to mental health, for all of the research that shows us that “healthy” behaviors, thoughts, and emotions are not so much divided from unhealthy ones by a sharp line but rather are found on opposing ends of a large and vast spectrum, the fear of being branded crazy, insane, and a kook runs widely and deeply through our community.

Chances are you have had special experiences that no one talks about openly, that you yourself don’t even know how to talk about openly. You feel alone, but you are not alone. Countless people have, around the world, and throughout human history, experienced things that today we do not talk about for fear of being branded “weird”. Often these experiences come unannounced at night during sleep, or when we are grieving, or when we fall in love, or in many other moments during waking hours. All of these moments touch upon the sacred, but our present habit of mind discounts and forgets them – sees past them, turns the other way.

I sometimes refer to my work as “normalizing” the so-called weird experiences we all have. What we take to be normal and what is in truth normal are out of whack, need to be brought back into alignment or right relationship. Because the experience of the sacred is a common human experience, perhaps another way to describe what I do in the Sacred Arts is about “communalizing” these experiences. I’m not a mental health professional, but I don’t have to be in order to know that most people feel connected to the dead in one way or another; most people have had experiences where they simply know things are so, most people have felt themselves move between the worlds at one point or another.

These are all common examples of Sacred Arts practices that we do not talk about and we do not teach our children about because we don’t want to be seen as crazy. And so, another generation of Sacred Arts knowledge is lost, and we have to cast ever further back into our lineage to find the people and teachings that spoke about these things openly and frankly. Our old ones usually will. They have nothing to lose in a society that often equates the aging process with going soft in the head. Our children will speak openly because they have not yet learned to censor themselves or conform to the current trend of societal norms. But in between the old ones and the children is a great swath of people who simply pretend that a good chunk of their experience actually never happens. That is until they talk to someone like me. Then the gloves come off and the sharing gets real and I am able to say, ah yes, so you have experienced this too? The relief at knowing that we are not alone, that we are not “crazy”, is so absolute that it is not surprising to find people moved to tears.

However, this begs the question about mental illness and really all illness, all imperfections. They aren’t really the kinds of things that you either have or you don’t in most cases. Mental disequilibrium, for instance, is something any of us can slip into and out of, from time to time. So what about those of us who have normal, magical and liminal experiences AND suffer from anxiety or depression or schizophrenia or limited range of motion or cancer or chronic pain or some other limitation – then what? Can we not make magic? Should we simply accept that some people can have enchanted lives but not everyone? Not us? If you believe the magazines and the Instagram accounts, what we often see is that magic is equated to perfection. So there is a message: in order to make magic, you have to be perfect. There are other messages too: in order to make magic you have to be rich or you have to be poor, you have to be a certain color, you need to be a lady or a dude…we have all seen the categories that are more noticeable for all that they exclude as opposed to those that they include.

It is thoughts like these that make me love, love, LOVE, my friend and student, Esmé Wang’s new book, the Collected Schizophrenias. Esmé is known and beloved to some in our community and to others, her name might be brand new. She is an award-winning fiction writer who also happens to suffer from a chronic illness and schizophrenia. Esmé is lovely. She is always beautifully put together. She went to Yale. She has great taste in luscious red lipsticks. She loves her dog and her husband. She writes beautiful, true, words and she teaches people around the world how to work with their limitations. She also suffers from one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses out there. Esmé doesn’t get to worry about whether she is called crazy or not – that’s already happened. What Esmé does get to do and what she does beautifully every single day is getting to decide how to live with ALL of the parts of herself, including the stuff she would rather not see or deal with or think about. Over the years I have watched her show up, make use of the Sacred Arts, and stand in her own sovereignty. She is one of the sanest, most talented, and most dedicated people I know. I was honored that Esmé included a chapter about our work together in her book (the final chapter, entitled Beyond the Hedge), but I am more excited about the book as a whole because it does what the best books do – it tries to understand something complicated – in this case, mental illness – from the inside out. That is a worthy task, one that can benefit our entire world and one that is especially of good use to our community of soulful seekers. I think Esmé’s book has teachings for all of us who have ever deceived ourselves about our experiences on the shaky grounds of “but they’ll say I’m crazy.” Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Maybe that too is a part of real sovereignty.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Animalia Stellarum ~ Virgo

Ceremony and Ritual

V

irgo resonates with the element of Earth, and is a mutable sign. The Sun is in Virgo from August 22nd through September 22nd. Virgo is the 6th sign in the zodiacal wheel, marking the point of the late Summer moving into early Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and late Winter moving into early Spring in the Southern Hemisphere. Represented by the Maiden, Virgo speaks to purity, cleanliness, devotion, clarity, physical health, work, and sovereignty.

The Maiden as Virgo

If you have been waiting for a star story that gives women the central role then read on, for the sign of Virgo is all about the ladies. Virgo literally means “Virgin” and is a constellation that has been associated with the feminine and various Goddesses since we started listening to stories about stars. “Virgin” of course is a matter of interpretation, while the word still is taken today as referring to a sexually untried, “pure” woman or girl, the much older and more apt definition of Virgo is “one who is sovereign,” meaning that here we have a woman who is not owned, sold, bought, or belonging to a man (or another woman for that matter) but rather belongs to herself and herself alone. She may or may not be sexually active, may be of any age, and may be involved in the fields of spirituality, commerce, agriculture, or arts and culture as she likes because again, she belongs to herself.

As such, the essence of the Virgin is one that belongs to all woman and men. We all have within us a feminine aspect that will not be owned or claimed by another, and the Maiden becomes both a phase of life, that thrilling time of transition between child and woman, and a cultivated attitude that, again, men, women, and all other genders have access to as well.

Sovereignty then, is one of the key features of this particular sign, and perhaps a better way of saying it is knowing how to have an ongoing relationship with Sovereignty and what it means to you to belong to yourself first and foremost. Two more qualities that come up immediately, and that Virgo is strongly associated with, are cleanliness and purity. While the ideas of cleanliness and purity have been taken out of their original meanings and applied to some truly horrific ideas (like so-called racial “purity” or ethnic cleansing), the root idea with both terms is that one can be left alone, unmolested, undisturbed, and uninterrupted. Another way to think about what it means to be clean and pure is found in the idea of wholeness.

These truths are reflected in the strong association between the constellation of Virgo and the great Goddesses of old. For this sign is exclusively associated with the some powerful Goddesses including the Sumerian Shala, Babylonian Ishtar, Greek Demeter and Persphone, and Roman Ceres and Proserpina. In each case these Goddesses were significant figures in their time and place that spoke to universal themes while especially emphasizing fertility and harvest, as is best indicated by the sheaf of wheat motif with which they are all pictured.

For the Sumerians, Shala was the Goddess of the Harvest and the Furrows, meaning that she was both Maiden, waiting to be impregnated with seed, and Mother, aligned with all that is fertile and ripe. The Babylonian Ishtar was a great Goddess associated with the gifts of agriculture, love, sex, fertility, and marriage but also war and queenship. She too was imaged as both a brave maiden and loving mother whose name was called on during the harvesting of cereal crops and grains.

This theme continues with the ancient Greek pair of Demeter and Persephone. Here we see that the Maiden/Mother roles have been split in two, literally, with Demeter functioning as the great grain Goddess and Mother of all agriculture (as well as the keeper of Sacred Law) and Persephone embodying the Maiden who experiences violation and, in turn, learns (at hands of helpers like Hekate) what Sovereignty really is all about.

The association with these ancient Goddesses speaks to several other qualities of Virgo. One is the impulse we feel under Virgo’s influence to practice our spirituality in a more intentional manner. Virgo encourages us to build altars, become part of a church congregation, and/or develop a daily practice that is full of meaningful devotions. All of these Goddesses had temples, priestesses, and acolytes and in a very real way Virgo calls up the inner Priestess within all of us.

In slightly different terms we can also see here the emphasis on health. Sovereignty itself was a Goddess at one point and, like the other Goddesses mentioned here, She had a strong relationship with the land. What we see in the stories of Virgo is a reminder that the health of our bodies is connected to the health of THE body of the earth. This sign, already associated with the element of earth, reminds us to tend to the literal ground beneath our feet and also to take care of our physical bodies. For this reason Virgo has long been associated with the medical professions.

Finally, we see in the stories of the various Goddesses that Virgo is the Maiden but also the Mother – that this sign occupies the space in between both of these qualities and encompasses them as well. Once upon a time the Maiden and Mother were not so very cut off from each other. This meant, practically, that as women aged they still had the energy of the Maiden readily accessible, and that for women who chose not to have children or were not able to have children, they were not excluded from the particular mysteries of Motherhood – the Goddesses reflected all to everyone not just a chosen few. As our stories became split and splintered so did the role of Maiden and Mother, hardening into two extremes instead of the flowing relationship they once possessed. Practically speaking we are all still finding ways to repair and heal from this particular rift, so it is quite fortunate that we need only look up into the sky at the stars of Virgo (the second largest constellation btw) to remind ourselves what wholeness actually looks like.

The Maiden as Animal: By Sara Magnuson

In discussing the human-animals of the zodiac in particular, we’ve established that the vastness of our minds is the main characteristic that sets humans apart from other animals. As the Earth Maiden, Virgo shows us the merging of our intellectual capacity and our instinctual/animalistic body. Virgo takes us out of the mind and moves downward into the body, acknowledging our physicality. Virgo is the initial connection between mind and form. The Maiden also exemplifies the ways we are similar to and aligned with other animals, rather than pointing out where we diverge.

All animals learn how to exist in their surroundings by observing (watching, listening, smelling), trying/experimenting, and then processing those experiences so that their body and mind will react appropriately in the future. It is in this way that Virgo shows us our similarities to other animals. Those born under the sign of Virgo are keenly observant and process newly-discovered information not just in the mind, but down into their earthy being. Virgos don’t just know something, they feel it in their body. Typically fast learners, once they have mastered a task it’s embedded in their muscles and bones and they quickly move through it with ease. A Virgo reading a book or listening to music is not just taking in the words or sounds, but sensing the narrated world or the vibrations of the melody as if they were in it, feeling it, creating it. The mind of Virgo is very sharp, but the influence of the element of Earth keeps them especially attuned and connected to their physical senses.

We have seen the virgin and maternal aspects of Virgo described above, as well as the ways in which she is seen as the Maiden and the Mother. The association with virginity gives an innocence to Virgo that can be mistaken for apathy or naiveté and betray the deep wisdom they have obtained with their apparent wide-eyed idealism. Such is the way of many animals – seemingly innocent and naive, yet full of knowledge. For example, a Squirrel may not appear to be a wise creature, as they are skittish and approach everything as if they’ve never seen it before; yet the Squirrel has an understanding of how to exist in its environment that is deeply rooted in its body and goes beyond pure intellectual reasoning. The Squirrel knows what to expect from familiar circumstances because of previous experience, but it is prepared and understands that each encounter can bring new variables. As the Squirrel moves slowly out of the bushes toward the open ground under my bird feeder, as it has done a thousand times before, it is still cautious and filled with trepidation. It is processing all that it already knows and taking in any new information, integrating it all together. It is this ongoing collecting of wisdom that gives Virgo a motherly quality juxtaposed with a surface level innocence.

The mental-physical integration of new facts and knowledge with previous experience allows Virgo to be practical, resourceful, patient, and methodical. This process can also cause Virgo to be worrisome, controlling, and even a bit OCD. Learning to bring intellectual thoughts into the physical form and trusting the mind-body connection can help with Virgo’s anxious or domineering tendencies. It is this same act of integrating, however, that gives Virgo the ability to learn and adapt and allows them to live well in community with others. Virgo encourages us to take our knowing into our physical form and listen, trust, and act from our entire self.

Call on The Maiden When…

  • You desire more sovereignty
  • You want to cultivate a sense of order and peace
  • You are ready to take your words and ideas seriously
  • You wish to deepen your sense of purpose through service
  • You need more devotion in your life
  • You desire order and structures that make sense
  • You need better boundaries
  • You are working on cultivating a sense of personal responsibility
  • You wish to have greater clarity around your work in the world
  • You would like to have insight into your physical health
  • You are ready harvest the fruits of your labors

Be Wary Of…

  • Rigidity – Virgo’s qualities of clarity and organization are wonderful to have on hand and available but Virgo can also become too rigid or fixed in its attitudes towards these things. Sometimes Virgo can send off the vibe that everything must be in its specific place or we simply cannot function. This makes for a clean house but also a home that is sometimes empty of spiritedness or fun. Virgo does best when it fully integrates the gifts of Leo and remembers that fun and messes also have a place in our lives.
  • Intolerance – As the Maiden, Virgo is fixated on purity and devotion but sometimes this attitude develops into a “my way is the only way” mind-set. Virgo can come off as intolerant of mistakes, messes, and ways of seeing or going about life that do not fit into their predetermined framework of “the way that things should be.”
  • Passive-Aggression – In direct opposition to Virgo’s ability to be rigid and intolerant (more than pretty much any other mutable sign, with the possible exception of Aquarius), there is also a flip side of Virgo being too easy-going and accommodating. Virgo loves to serve and sometimes in serving others can lose sight of herself. When this happens Virgo responds often in a passive-aggressive manner, not wishing to create significant conflict but also needing to express their deep dissatisfaction.

Questions to Ponder for Virgo:

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

  • What does Sovereignty mean to me? What is my relationship to Sovereignty?
  • What am I devoted to and how do I express that devotion?
  • What is my body and physical health telling me about my overall approach to life?
  • What is the role of organization and cleanliness in my life?
  • Where do I love to serve others?
  • What does right relationship to work look and feel like?
  • Where do I need more clarity?
  • What am I ready to harvest?

Active Imagination Practice

When we talk and feel into intuition things can get very foggy and vague quickly. This is because intuition belongs to the Otherworld, the liminal world and it works according to the rules and customs of that world not our highly analytical, extremely audio-verbal waking experience. Thankfully there is one immediate and direct way to begin experiencing your intuitive guidance, and yes, we all have intuition, the path of this experience lies through and within your own blessed body.

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 the presence of your shields and note if any areas or zones of the body need especial attention at this time.
Engage with the your breath again.

Ask in your mind and heart for your body to show you what YES feels like for you.
Pay attention specifically to what area of the body comes alive upon YES and what that life feels like: an opening, a heating up, a tingling, something completely different?
If when you first ask you feel that you do not receive a response in and through the physical body then, remaining engaged with the blessed body breath, allow yourself to remember a time in your life where you were asked a question, given an opportunity, or made a decision and the answer was YES.
Remember the specifics of the situation — the people involved, the time of day and season of year, the specific content. Then focus on the memory of your YES, what did it feel like in the body? Where did it happen in the body?

Once you can see, sense, touch, know, and feel your YES, then we turn our attention to NO.
Ask in your mind and heart for your body to show you what NO feels like for you.
Pay attention specifically to what area of the body comes alive upon NO and what that life feels like: an closing, a cooling, a tensing or contraction, something completely different?
If when you first ask you feel that you do not receive a response in and through the physical body then, remaining engaged with the blessed body breath, allow yourself to remember a time in your life where you were asked a question, given an opportunity, or made a decision and the answer was NO.
Remember the specifics of the situation — the people involved, the time of day and season of year, the specific content. Then focus on the memory of your NO, what did it feel like in the body? Where did it happen in the body?

Once you can see, sense, touch, know, and feel your NO, then we turn our attention to MAYBE.
Ask in your mind and heart for your body to show you what MAYBE feels like for you.
Pay attention specifically to what area of the body comes alive upon MAYBE and what that life feels like: a calming, a cooling or heating, a settling in and down, something completely different?
If when you first ask you feel that you do not receive a response in and through the physical body then, remaining engaged with the blessed body breath, allow yourself to remember a time in your life where you were asked a question, given an opportunity, or made a decision and the answer was MAYBE.
Remember the specifics of the situation — the people involved, the time of day and season of year, the specific content. Then focus on the memory of your MAYBE, what did it feel like in the body? Where did it happen in the body?

When you have completed this meditation, record your body’s responses. Make note of your physical and emotional feelings for each question. Reflect on how you can listen to your body in everyday life. If you don’t feel you have clear signals for yes, no, and maybe in your body after completing this exercise, revisit it weekly until the answers feel solid to you; be patient and know that your mind and body are meant to talk to each other.

Altar and Ritual

The Maiden, and the Goddesses of agriculture and harvest with whom she is associated, are most often depicted with a sheaf of wheat, so to honor her we must make bread!

The art of bread making (yes, it is most definitely an art) is ancient and brings us back to our common ancestral roots; for making bread is a very grounding experience. It is essentially a quite simple process of blending and waiting, but the physical act of combining the relatively few ingredients leads to the creation of something nourishing and wonderful!

For those of you that think making bread is too technical or delicate, it doesn’t have to be. Provided below as a simple and easy method of creating a “no-knead” bread that keeps the sacred process alive but does not require any baking experience. In this recipe we are also going to add some sacred herbs to create a most exquisitely magical bread.

(If you already have your own favorite bread recipe and/or are experienced with making bread using other methods, feel free to follow what you know and try adding some sacred herbs.)

IMPORTANT – do not use a bread making machine! The purpose of this exercise is to create this nourishing, sacred bread with your own two hands.

This “no-knead” method is taken from the book, “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. A highly recommended resource if you’d like to start making your own bread.

This recipe will make four 1-pound loaves that you will bake one at a time over several days.
You will need a 4-5 quart glass bowl or plastic container, a baking stone (pizza stone works great), and a boiler tray.

Ingredients:

– 3 cups lukewarm water
– 1 1/2 tablespoons of granulated yeast (2 packets)
– 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt
– 2 teaspoons total of dried herbs (4 teaspoons if fresh); use herbs that have a magical significance for you, but make sure they are edible and tasty!
– 6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour (do not pack when measuring)
– Cornmeal (for sprinkling on the baking stone)

Step One: Mix and Store the Dough

– Put the lukewarm water in the glass bowl and add the yeast and salt. Gently stir to dissolve, but it doesn’t have to be completely dissolved.
– Add the herbs to the water mixture.
– Add all of the flour at once.
– Mix with a wooden spoon if you want a good workout and/or doing it all by hand is especially important to you. It’s also perfectly ok to use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix until it is uniformly moist without any dry patches.
– Cover loosely with a lid, cloth towel, or plastic wrap, but you do not want it to be air tight.
– Allow to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse or flatten on top (about 2 hours).
– You can technically use the dough at this point, but since the dough is quite wet it will be easier to handle after being refrigerated for at least three hours or even overnight.

Step Two: Shaping and Baking

– Sprinkle your work surface and the baking stone with a generous amount of cornmeal.
– Take out your refrigerated dough and lightly sprinkle the whole surface with flour.
– Pull up and cut off a grapefruit-sized piece of dough from the bowl.
– Add a little more flour as needed so the dough won’t stick to your hands.
– Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. The bottom of the loaf will start to appear to be a collection of bunched ends and the top will be very smooth. Be careful not to over-handle the ball and the whole process should take about a minute.
– Place the shaped ball on your work surface and allow to rest uncovered for 40 minutes.
– Place the baking stone in the oven on the middle rack and the boiler tray on a rack below.
– Preheat the oven, with the baking stone and boiler tray inside, to 450 degrees. Allow a full 20 minutes for preheating.
– Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour and, using a serrated knife, slash a 1/4 inch deep cross, tic-tac-toe, or any other pattern into the top of the loaf.
– Place the loaf on the baking stone and pour 1 cup of hot water into the boiler tray. Be sure to do this relatively quickly so you can trap the steam in the oven.
– Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch. Avoid opening the oven to check on it for at least 30 minutes.
– When you remove the loaf from the oven, it will audibly crackle, or “sing.” Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
– The remaining dough can be stored and used as needed for up to 14 days.

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.