Magical Missive: How Do You Honor Your Beloved Dead

Ceremony and Ritual

M

iracles, beloved dead

As promised, the next few Lunar Letters will continue a series I call “Magical Missives”. These are letters in which I share specific magic know-how for your pleasure and personal adaption. I know, I’m excited about it too!

For this Magical Missive, it’s only fitting that we work with our Ancestors and the Beloved Dead. After all, autumn is in the air, and we are nearing Dia de Los Muertos, or the Days of the Dead, as well as the day of Samhain/All Hallows at the end of October, beginning of November.

My goal here is not to overload you with information (we’ve got enough of that, don’t we?) but for you to walk away with a way to frame the work and some super practical ideas you can use to help you cultivate and enrich your relationship to your Beloved Dead.

I have seen quite a few articles advising people on the one true way to honor their Ancestors and/or to build the altars, make the offerings, etc.

The question I always ask and encourage you to ask, is: is this helpful to you? There are about as many ways to honor the Ancestors as there are Ancestors to be honored!

So in this missive I share with you how I do it and how I was taught, and how many locals in my city go about honoring their Ancestors, not as THE ONE TRUE WAY, but as helpful suggestions and enticements to you to get started in what is a wonder-filled deeply personal adventure.

Start Here: Discover and Reflect
So you want to cultivate your relationship with your Beloved Dead. Wait. Hold on. Why in the world would you want to do that?

Here’s why, y’all: your relationship to the Dead, paradoxically, nourishes and vitalizes your relationship to life. For real. If you want more vitality in your life, begin with the ways you are or are not honoring those who have passed away, those Beloved Dead.

If you are like most people who have grown up in the pretty conventional parts of the United States and Canada, you likely won’t even think it is possible, let alone desirable, to have a vibrant and active relationship with the Dead. You probably think building rich and creative altars for the Dead is, well, a little weird, a little morbid. In fact, you likely don’t even think about it at all. Honoring the dead with lovingly created altars is probably not even on your radar, except when we are hard-pressed to do it by necessity. And even then, many of us honor the dead as little as possible, and with as little as we can.

The truth is that honoring our Beloved Dead – as often as possible and with as much joy and love as we can – is a normal and deeply human preoccupation, something people have done in most times and places, all over the world from ancient times down to the present day.

The fact that we do and can relate to our Beloved Dead is one of those universal themes we see repeated again and again. Some of the earliest human habitations feature ritual burials placed lovingly, exactingly, right under where the current generation lived, slept, ate, and raised their children.

Traditions honoring Ancestors can be found in ancient Africa and Asia across the Mediterranean, throughout Europe, and of course in South and Central America as well as Mexico. The conventions around death in much of the U.S. and Canada and some parts of Western Europe are quite simply an aberration (and typically a sanitizing cover-up of more vibrant indigenous traditions that needed to be rooted out for political and religious reasons).

Despite our technological advancement, we seem to be the illiterate brothers and sisters of a wider world of humanity, peoples who are highly literate in the ways of death and honoring the dead.

Now different cultures have different rules and norms when it comes to how you relate to the Dead. The good news is that we can begin to learn again the ways we’ve forgotten and enrich our relationship with our Beloved Dead. But we have to be willing to listen and learn.

We have a great teacher in North America: Mexico and certain parts of the Southwest of the United States. Honoring the Ancestors and celebrating our Beloved Dead has become much more popular in recent years, especially with the release of movies like “The Book of Life” and “Coco.” Those of us who grew up with these traditions typically feel that this newfound popularity is well deserved.

Where I was born and raised, in San Antonio, Dia de Los Muertos is a big deal – the whole city celebrates it. In one area of town, a large community altar brings together people of all walks of life in a colorful a rich celebration of those Beloved Dead. Even if you are not Mexican, South, or Central American or of descent from those countries, you can learn from this tradition about your own relationship to mortality. For it strikes a deeply human chord, and resonates with the heart, with what’s true.

I always advise my students to first begin where they are. Do a little digging into your own background. I am not talking about taking a DNA test – although if you want to, go for it. I am talking about speaking to any living family members you have about death lore and death customs in your family. Maybe all has been forgotten, but maybe not!

You may be surprised to learn that you have more than you think you do. This, in turn, can lead to learning new things about your heritage and lineage deeper than modern memory, and it is a wonderful way to begin the process of honoring your Ancestors before you build a single altar!

Ancestors Alive: Who are the Ancestors?
Before we talk about how to honor your Ancestors let’s talk briefly about who the Ancestors are. Generally speaking, the term Ancestors simply means the ones who came before you and in common usage refers to relatives and family members (typically, but not always, related by blood).

You don’t need to go very far down this road before you discover that you probably have some ancestors that you did not know and did not hear stories about (and therefore have no relationship with) and you may have ancestors that you did not get along with while they were living and you do not want to have a relationship with them.

This is why I break the term of Ancestors up further and talk about our Beloved Dead. Your Beloved Dead are the people related to you through blood (family members) or spirit (the family members that you choose. The Beloved Dead can include well-known or even famous historical figures) that you have a deep relationship with and to. They are the ones you love.

There are more levels of Ancestors you can work with, but for starters, we will just talk about the Beloved Dead – they are the ones you will honor during this time of year and they are the ones who will be represented and nourished at the altar.

And while we are on the subject, let me remind everyone that our pets and animal familiars are also included in the category of our Beloved Dead! It is completely traditional to honor deceased pets and animal companions on the altar and to work with them throughout the year. So do include your wild ones when considering who your Beloved Dead are.

While there are many ways to honor and work with your Beloved Dead during this time of year and throughout the rest of the year, in most cases, the first step is to build them a house so to speak. This house is what we call the altar.

Altars, Altars, Everywhere
The first thing you will want to do before you place a single thing on the altar is deciding who and which Beloved Dead you wish to honor. Yes, you may have only one individual on the altar if that is the only Beloved Dead you have. Yes, you may have lots of individuals on the altar if you have lots of Beloved Dead. A couple of rules of thumb that are useful to keep in mind are:

  1. As I was taught it is inappropriate to honor the Beloved Dead that has not been deceased for at least a year. This means that if your Aunt or your beloved cat died in March or April they would not be included on the altar you build in October. There are exceptions to this and ultimately you have to do what feels right and in alignment for yourself.
  2. It is not appropriate to put the pictures of the living on the altar with images of your Beloved Dead. The exception is babies that have not yet been born (ie, ultrasound pics) may be placed on the altar. It is also customary to put items that belong to the living, especially the living you wish the Ancestors to bless and protect on the altar, just not their actual image. For example, you could have a charm bag that you made for one of your children on your Ancestor Altar but not the picture of the child. Again, consult your own best lights when following these guidelines.
  3. Family members can usually happily share an altar space together. This includes in-laws, so you may include all the Beloved Dead in one place. The exception to this is if there was a serious rift between certain family members. If there was, and you wish to honor both of them then it is a good practice, at least as you begin this work, to give them each their own space.

Keep in mind that the altars and offerings we make for our Ancestors are basically proxy centers for working directly with their graves. It is still typical in many places to go and feast right at the Ancestor’s grave. If you can do that then I highly suggest it. Pick one Beloved Dead to honor each year when you follow this protocol unless you have a bunch of family members buried in the same place in which place you can have a complete fiesta!

With these points in mind, the next thing to do after selecting which of your Beloved Dead you will honor during this season is to decide where you would like to place the altar. When thinking about your altar you mostly just want to have a place where you can set up a picture, candle, glass of water, incense, and a bit of food without having it majorly disturbed. It is quite traditional to place these altars outside and if you have young children or cats that may well be the best choice.

Once you have established where your altar is going to go ahead and cleanse it. You can get directions on that here.

Elements to Include
Once again, you will be the best person to determine what you want your Ancestor Altar to look and feel like but my recommendation is that you start very simple and grow your altar in cooperation and relationship to the Ancestors. The essential elements you will need to include are:

  1. An image or object to represent the Beloved Dead you are working with. Pictures when available are often used but other objects can be as well. For instance, I have the strings from the last guitar my grandfather played as well as his guitar pick on my altar. This is also where the use of sugar skulls comes in to play. The custom is to make (or buy) a sugar skull for each Ancestor you wish to honor. You write the name of the ancestor on the foil strip that is on top of the sugar skull’s head to designate that is is the stand-in for that particular ancestor. This is also why some altars have lots and lots of sugar skulls. Once the Days of the Dead are over you can remove the sugar skulls and set them out around your home where the late autumn rains and snows will melt them into the ground ensuring you have a sweet year ahead.
  2. A candle – any kind of candle works although beeswax is a traditional choice. Nowadays in San Antonio, I mostly see the glass-encased paraffin candles.
  3. Water – a glass or bowl of water is a mainstay on an Ancestor Altar because water is seen as both refreshing to the ancestors and it also creates a barrier between the living and the dead so that nothing gets confused.
  4. Incense – Copal resin is the scent of choice for many of us in the Southwest and Mexico but choose something that is pleasing to you and if possible that has resonance with your Beloved Dead. The presence of incense carries over into the marigold flowers you often see on Dia de Los Muertos altars – these flowers are associated with the dead because they have a pungent and sharp odor that allows the dead to find their way to the altar. For in several traditional understandings our Beloved Dead does not have possession of the senses we do. In fact, the only sense that is left fully intact is their sense of smell which is what they use to find their offerings and places of honor. This is why having a scent is so very important.
  5. Offerings – Offerings for the Dead call upon what they enjoyed in life. Where I live we make a special bread called pan de muerto which is offered, but we also offer up elaborate food: usually I whip up a batch of drinks using my family’s secret margarita recipe, add chips, salsa, cerveza, enchiladas, and tamales. I might make a big pot of chili and I always give my maternal grandfather a can of Big Red as that was one of his favorite indulgences.Offerings of tobacco and alcohol are also common. Some schools of thought encourage such offerings to be left out, but I have found that as long as the individuals being honored did not have a destructive addiction to their favorite substance it is fine to include it on the altar.It is fine to create a small plate of goodies and put that on the altar and then eat the rest of them yourself. A bunch of my family members are buried in a nearby military base so I make their margaritas and serve them up graveside!
  6. Flowers – these can be plastic, paper, fresh or dried. Flowers are not absolutely necessary but they do add a nice touch!

Timing
A very frequently asked question I receive is on the timing of all of this — when does the altar go up? When does the altar get taken down? What are the days when the altar is most active?

And the answer is…it depends. It depends on who your Beloved Dead are and what they want, it depends on your lineage and heritage, your culture, and traditions, and it depends on how you are working with your Beloved Dead.

It also depends, quite practically, on how long it is going to take you to create your altar. If you are working with a lot of ancestors and making lots of offerings then you obviously will want to give yourself more time.

All of that said, there are certain times of the year when it is especially auspicious to connect with your Ancestors. Some of those times are:

October 31st – Halloween/Samhain in some European traditions and it also kicks off the three days celebration known collectively as Dia de Los Muertos. Some folks build their altars on this day. Some choose to begin altar construction a week before, and some choose to build their altars beginning the day after Michaelmas (the Feast of Archangel Michael) on September 29th. There is a lot of Halloween/Samhain folklore out there pertaining to the Dead, probably the best known is the hosting of a Dumb Supper.

November 1st – El Dia de Los Innocentes or the Day of the Children (Innocents) – this is when children who died are especially honored and remembered. The altars are full of toys, sweets, maybe a favorite blanket or stuffed animal during this time. Children lost in miscarriages, stillborn, and aborted children are also traditionally honored during this time. The altar would be up and active by this point in time.

November 2nd – Dia de Los Muertos/Dia de Muertos – Day of the Dead – this is the day when the Beloved Dead who are not children are honored – it is when we cook a lot of food! The altar is up and active at this point.

Once these days of the dead are over some folks take the altar down immediately. Some will leave the altar up past Thanksgiving (here in America) and some will leave the altar up through the Christmas season – which is also strongly associated with ghosts and the Beloved Dead, and take the altar down around Candlemas on February 2nd. Some (like our family) leave the altar up all year round because our relationship to our ancestors is ongoing.

Christmas/Yuletide Season – as previously mentioned, the days around Christmas and especially the Omen Days that follow Christmas are traditional times to make contact with ghosts and our Beloved Dead. Creating an altar during this season and/or refreshing an altar already built is a worthwhile endeavor.

Memorial Day – here in the U.S. the last Monday of the month of May is celebrated as Memorial Day and in the Deep South, it is known as Decoration Day. This is a traditional day when folks come together to clean up the cemeteries where their dead are buried, refresh their flowers and keep up their tombstones. It is also pretty typical for old time cemeteries to have their annual meeting on this day. Although it is in the thick of Spring this is a powerful time to contact your Beloved Dead, build or refresh their altars.

If you are working regularly with your Beloved Dead then the monthly upkeep of the altar is a good idea. You can work with the Dark Moons to clean off the altar and remove anything that does not belong and the Full Moon is a time to connect and commune with your Beloved Dead.

Communion
So, once you have your altar up and have decided to have an ongoing relationship with your Beloved Dead, then what? What do you do?

Traditionally we approach our ancestors the way we approach any Holy Helpers. We thank them for the goods and blessings in our lives and we ask them for whatever we have need of. In the case of our Beloved Dead we also welcome them, we feed them, we tell their stories to the younger generations, and we build an ongoing relationship with them. How do we do this? It depends on you and your family members, and what makes sense for you.

Simply the act of building your Beloved Dead a dedicated altar space and feeding them already lays a solid foundation for the relationship. You can speak to them, cook their favorite foods, play their favorite music, and write them a letter.

You can pray the prayers that they prayed in their honor and make special pilgrimages to the places that mattered to them. If you have household implements you inherited from your ancestors you may use them on a regular basis to further cement the relationship.

When my paternal grandmother passed away I did not receive much, but I did get a collection of the wooden spoons she cooked with (and the woman loved to cook) that I use whenever I cook. I always feel her presence with me during those times. The point is…these are your people, so you will have to decide what the best way of communing with them is.

Magic
Magic is deeply associated with our Ancestors and most of it incorporates divination of some kind. It is commonly believed that our Beloved Dead have the ability to “see” into the future in ways that we cannot. If you want to try your hand at this, here is one Ancestor-Informed Reading How-To I shared several years back.

Another very common way to work magically with our Beloved Dead is to appoint one (or more) of them as special protectors for the living. They typically line up to do this job, especially if they are being asked to protect and keep an eye out on children, ie, the Descendants. Seeking aid from your Beloved Dead in whatever situation needs help and support is also quite par for the course.

Typically this takes the form of making a petition, followed by an offering or a promise. As you work and get to know your Beloved Dead you will find that they will share other magics with you in due course.

However you choose to go about it, I wish you a happy, healthy, vibrant and wise relationship with your own Beloved Dead. Building altars to the Dead can be a fun and creative experience for you and your loved ones, not somber and grim duty. And as one friend from Mexico told me, don’t hold back. Have a party!

xo,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Bring It In!

Alchemy and Magic

M

iracles,

This is the phrase we use at our house whenever we want a family hug. Anyone gets to call for us to “bring it in!” anytime – it is one of our favorite rituals.

I want to call a “bring it in!” for all of you. For everyone who has ordered my book – such a deep bow of gratitude and thanks and appreciation – truly, truly.

For those who have not yet pre-ordered or who have pre-ordered and somehow missed getting on the book mailing list – I want you to join that list now. Sign up right here. We are entering into book promotion and sharing season proper and I want to make sure you are all signed up to THE list that is dedicated to Book Magic!

Thanks for being on this journey with me, our community of soulful seekers is where the magic happens – never doubt it!

xo,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

What I Really Want

Lunar Letter

M

iracles,

This past Friday, I finally got a chance to watch the movie “Lincoln” by Steven Spielberg, which came out in 2012. Friday is movie night for us and it was my choice (we take turns choosing). I wanted to see the film but I also wanted our 8-year-old son Jasper to see it since he had been doing a reading unit on Abe Lincoln in school. So David made stove-top popcorn, and we all snuggled down to watch the movie, and then later talk together about what we had watched.

The stand-out moment for me was when Lincoln (played by the incomparable Daniel Day-Lewis) had a meeting with the abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens (portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones). Stevens accuses Lincoln of having a broken moral compass because he is all too willing to compromise and be satisfied with only the passing of the 13th Amendment. Stevens was the one who sponsored the Bill that sought to abolish slavery throughout the United States, and he accuses Lincoln of losing sight of the North Star, losing his compass, – which, in this case, is not only the passing of the Bill, and the freeing of the slaves, but also, and more importantly, equality of races in all measures, including voting rights. The problem was that a lot of the legislators, sad to say, weren’t ready to accept equality of the races (not to mention gender), but were fine with equality under the law. That is to say, they were OK with equality so long as it wasn’t too much and without condition. Yes, a sad commentary on human nature. Lincoln knew that Stevens’ Bill that would free slaves would never be passed on the grounds of Stevens’ own arguments, and so he asked Stevens to temper his arguments in order for the bill to be passed. He needed Lincoln‘s pragmatism if he really wanted to abolish slavery. For, obviously, if slavery were not abolished in the first place, there would be no chance later for full equality under the law and beyond.

Lincoln the idealist feels the gravity of the moment. His response is telling, and he eventually wins over Stevens. Yes, he says, we must know the North Star and have a good working compass but there are bogs and marshes – unpredictable pitfalls – that mark the way forward. A person who looks only at the North Star or only measures by his compass will find both to be of little use to him if he ignores the impassable terrain right at his feet. Stevens hears this and is persuaded by it. He does indeed temper his own arguments and in so doing the 13th Amendment passes and slavery is abolished in these United States.

This moment in the movie speaks to a timeless tension in our public and private lives that concerns social a political injustice, change, the ideals we have about the human good, and how exactly to get there together. Over 150 years later we are still working through this tension at the heart of our democracy. If changes are needed, what changes? Where? and How? And what will be the consequences of those changes? Are we prepared to accept the consequences? How do we argue persuasively for our beliefs while keeping one eye on our compass and one eye on the dodgy terrain at our feet?

Fairy Tales and the old stories that form the bedrock of the Sacred Arts also ask these questions in their own way, about our inner lives. Thus the other reason why this moment really caught my attention – besides speaking to a timeless tension in social and political life – is that it speaks directly to the power of the Sacred Arts. Why are the Sacred Arts so valuable to the Soulful Seeker? The Sacred Arts supports us in discovering our own North Star, our own best compass, and in circumnavigating the actual terrain of life. And they do it not by dint of perennial wisdom or conforming to a rigid doctrine; but rather by allowing us creative and free access to resources that are personal, practical and wise to the core.

Our broader spiritual community in North America tends to overlook and discount folk magic practices, ritual, and divination. We like things to be vaguely inspirational, white-washed, without dealing with the tough unremitting stuff of life, like grief, real suffering, and loss, anxiety about “low” things like money or relationships. Even divination practices like tarot and astrology tend to be handled in this way. But there is a great untapped potential in such discarded or mishandled things like the Sacred Arts, a potential we discover when practicing several in complementary ways. Brought together, the Sacred Arts are more than a pointer showing the soulful seeker the way forward. They are also a means to walk the path.

Over the years I have come to believe that you should always have not only a North Star Rite but also a North Star goal – a big promise that you make to the cosmos that speaks to the essence of who you are and what you are here, right now, in this wide, wild, world, to do. Writing a book was part of my personal promise. As some of you know, I was born with a cleft pallet, and so I understood from very early on that part of my promise was to use and find my voice. Seven years of speech therapy, two surgeries before the age of four, and 38 years later I can say with confidence: Done. And also: I’m just getting started. So that’s the level at which I was thinking: promises to the Cosmos that speak to your innermost essence and nothing less.

But earlier this week I was talking with my beloved about our overarching vision for our work and community of soulful seekers. David, my incredible husband, celebrated his birthday a few days after Jasper celebrated his. As birthdays often do, this one led to some deep reflection for all of us. So there we were, talking about the vision, the BIG PICTURE, the North Star. My love and I were not talking about different individual projects or the day-to-day workload – we were talking about our vision for what a vibrant community of sacred arts and soulful seekers looks like, sounds like, and feels like.

Of course, there are more books that I want to write not to mention brilliant clients and students to serve, an enchanted household to tend to, and wonderful courses to create and teach. I can say, in all honesty, that things are so very full. In all seriousness, though, I was getting a bit stuck trying to say what that big picture looks like.

At this point, David asked me what my vision was for each soulful seeker in our community, and for the community as a whole. He wisely suggested that maybe I would be able to best understand my next big vision if I understood what I really want and hope for and expect for each of you.

And so, today, in celebration of our gorgeous Full Moon in Libra I am going to tell you what this Libra really wants for each of you. Ready? Let’s do this.

I want you to be whole. I hope, desire, and expect your lives to be whole. Whole does not mean perfect. Whole means connected so that you are not dealing with a broken heart over here and money worries over there and your mother on Saturdays only. Whole means that you see what is actually there — not what other people tell you is there and you react and respond with an eye to right relationship. Whole also means that you are aware of how connected we are, not just to one another, but to all creatures – in particular, specific, and measured ways.

I want you to be healthy. I hope, desire, and expect your lives to be healthy and lived with the understanding that health is much broader and richer than we normally think. To be healthy is not to be without wound, scar or sickness but rather to live richly and vibrantly in the best ways and means available to you alongside wound and scar and sickness. To be healthy too is to recognize the preciousness of the physical body as well as mind as well as heart and to discern in love and wisdom what and what not to expose yourself to. It is to eschew the toxic and to be firm in your right to be unmolested by any external forces.

I want you to be holy. I hope, desire, and expect your lives to be holy, for I firmly believe and see every day that the world is in need of holy people now more than ever. Holiness goes hand in hand not with grand cathedrals or religious sanctuaries tucked into mountains, but with and in the enchantment of everyday life. Kissing your love is holy. Packing your child’s lunch is holy. Tending your garden is holy. Painting a wall and feeding the hungry and swimming in the deep sea – all holy. I hope, desire, and expect that each of you will see holiness as your natural state and understand that it requires not for you to be pure, unbroken, or without a mark but that rather it is most easily found in exactly the places where you feel most marked up, broken, and not ready. I hope, desire, and expect that as we come to realize and see what holiness really is and can be we are both blessed and blessings in turn.

These are my compass points for our community. They are each a point of my own North Star. The Sacred Arts practices that support them are the exact same practices that have been called on throughout time – and can still be called on by us – to not only illuminate the impassable terrain at our feet but also figure out the best way through the terrain, and to actually get moving through it. I know that is true because I have lived it as many of you beautiful readers, have as well. We know that the way forward will have all kinds of interesting obstacles and detours along the way, and so it is especially of utmost importance that our vision of what is possible, and probably, and choice-worthy shine especially brightly for every single one of us.

That’s what I really want. What about you?

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Community Calls and Adios Social Media!

Lunar Letter

M

iracles,

Happy Full Moon in Leo and (yay!) Sun in Aquarius!

These are both signs that are interested in community and connection. One of Leo’s talents is cultivating intimate, meaningful gatherings, and Aquarius is very concerned with overall community health and happiness. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. What are the best ways for me to stay in touch with, inspire, and be inspired by, our beautiful Sacred Arts community? These ponderings have led to some exciting decisions that I now want to share with all of you.

Recently, I made the decision to step away from social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) so that I can focus on what I love most: writing newsletters (like the one you’re reading right now), writing books (like this one), and working with the lovely people who hire me and enroll in my classes (like Spinning Gold).

My decision to leave social media was also motivated by a desire to live even more intentionally and purposefully. With a bustling business, a husband, and two small kids (including a 7 month old infant) at home, I want to be extra-intentional with how I’m spending my time. Would I prefer to spend thirty minutes posting things on Facebook—or spend those thirty minutes cuddling my baby and tickling his tiny toes and making him giggle? When I frame things in those terms, the decision feels simple! Baby wins over Facebook. Every time.

This doesn’t mean that I think social media is “bad” or “a waste of time.” Certainly not. Like any communication tool—a letter, an email, a blog post—social media can be used to connect, educate, inspire, and do wonderful things. That being said, if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed with social media lately, if you’ve been feeling tired of it, wanting to re-evaluate how you use it, or perhaps even wanting to take a break from it, I wrote a few articles that might interest you…

Here is a ritual for making social media feel “magical” again. Remember the early days of the Internet, when we all felt such wonder and awe? But now, many of us feel overwhelmed and burned by all the nonstop chatter and noisy demands. In this article, I share a ritual for helping you take strides toward bringing some magic back into your digital life by fostering clarity and intentionality.

Or maybe you too want to “break up” with social media? If so, I have a ritual for doing exactly that.

Something I hear about from many of my clients and students is the possibility of obsessing over someone else’s social media account. This is a case of social media jealousy and yep, there’s a ritual for that!

I hope those articles give you some interesting things to contemplate—and perhaps some new things to try.

You can choose to stay active on social media, or cut back, or drop out, and all of those choices are equally beautiful in their own ways. Whatever is best for you, is just right.

xo,

P.S. Curious about my decision to drop off social media? Got some follow-up questions you’d love to ask? Feel free to attend the virtual coffee chat that I’m hosting on Wednesday, January 30th at 10:00 am cdt and ask anything! This get together is a chance for us to chat about… anything and everything. I welcome questions about social media or questions about business, writing, creativity, rituals, ceremonies, my new book, or anything else. Click this link when it’s time for the virtual coffee chat to begin!

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Hearth and Home Vol. 10 ~ Does Anyone Here Speak Sumerian?

Ceremony and Ritual

T

he Sumerian-inspired subject line of today’s Hearth and Home is brought to you by my seven year-old son, Jasper, who has been availing himself to my Sumerian dictionary. Yep, you heard that right: Sumerian. Like from ancient Sumer. Actually the text I have is more than a dictionary: if you want to, you can learn how to read Sumerian cuneiform, based on scholarly reconstruction of archeological findings. It’s a solid tome, and, you know, practical if you want to learn Sumerian. He has plans for this book, he is going to try to cram it into his bookshelf so that it magically becomes his, that’s right, the bookshelf in the picture – do you think there’s room?

Who in the world would want to learn Sumerian? NO ONE speaks or writes Sumerian anymore. It is truly a dead language, written and spoken. And yet this very fact is what makes languages like Sumerian so attractive to some people (and certain 7 year olds).

Y’all should have seen J as he tried to wrap his head around the fact that Sumerian is dead. The notion that a language could be dead is actually what brought cuneiform to life for him, lighting the whole thing up like a Christmas tree. Now there are scraps of paper with cuneiform marks all around the house. (One of the groupings of marks he copied, means “liberty”, according to scholars, and Sumerian is the earliest known written language with this concept.) So this ancient, dead language is now the coolest most relevant thing ever, and Jasper has decided he wants to become an ancient culture detective (as he calls it) and find out what really happened to the people who spoke Sumerian.

Oh, and also: he does not quite believe us about the whole “dead language thing” because he woke up last Saturday morning asking who in the household speaks Sumerian. He is pretty sure one of us is holding out on him. Maybe it’s the baby.

I love everything about this. I love the fact that my 7 year old chooses to spend his Saturday morning delving into a magical script from a faraway time and land. I love the fact that he is so sure someone really does speak Sumerian somewhere, and I love the fact that he might just be right…maybe somewhere someone does after all.

Jasper’s tenacity (around ancient languages and generally speaking) is a study in belief. The belief that he has access to this knowledge and that this is appropriate – that knowledge should not be jealously guarded under lock and key or held only be a few. The belief that if he practices at something long enough and diligently enough he can begin to make headway with it. And the belief that there is magic…in old books and ancient languages and everywhere around us if we know how to look. This has been the theme for our family this year, ever-present magic and the fact that while the extraordinary is most definitely part of the everyday, we still have the privilege – and challenge – of dealing with the everyday.

This month ‘the everyday’ beyond the usual work load looks like wrapping up presents and picking out gifts, decorating the tree, and sending out Christmas cards. I unashamedly and unabashedly love Christmas, Solstice, Yuletide, and the Omen Days that come after. I love it all. I love the sparkle and the color and the corny music. I love the excitement of the kids. I even love the pangs of sadness – the way that I miss by best girlfriend because when we lived in the same city we did our Christmas cards together. And the way that I miss my grandfather who loved this time of year above all others. I adore the stillness and the quiet of the cold air and the sparkling stars.

We often hear it said that the holidays are hard. And they certainly can be. But there seems to be an expectation that they should not be so hard…that everything should be happy and joyful and perfect. To my mind this expectation is rooted in the forgetfulness that the holidays are in fact HOLY days.

Genuine holy days are days pierced and crowned with the qualities of wholeness and healing, and holiness – truly beautiful and magical things. But these magical qualities are no more free of the hard and the tough than the phrase “happily ever after” is meant only for fairytales. Never in my experience has the magic of the truly holy turned away from the incredibly hard. Always it has made room for and embraced it.

This means of course that the genuinely hard times are never far from holy, wholeness and healing – even if it can feel like sometimes they are, even if the grace and freedom you seek feels a million miles away.

I tell my students that what keeps us steady in the face of the hard is our daily practices. These practices change as we do. They morph, they transform. But if we commit to showing up with them, they in turn commit to us and give us a steady foundation from which to work, live, and simply be. These days my practice begins at 4am when I get up before anyone else to take care of all of our animals.

Then, when the weather is favorable, I go outside in my pajamas, with a thick blanket and wrapped up in a coat, and I lay down under the stars. It is dark and cold. The neighbors are mostly asleep (and my neighbors know that I am a bit touched and seem to be OK with that), the wind is usually blowing gently at 4:30am, I listen. I’m watching the stars in part because I am preparing to teach my most ambitious astrology course yet in the New Year. But I am also simply being with the sky and the earth and the air, saying an intentional hello to these elements that surround me all of the time. With so much happening, with so much busy activity, these few minutes of star and moon bathing seem to add hours on to my day.

My practice is also all of the daily stuff. Watching Heath as he begins to eat solid foods…zucchini is a yes, bananas are a yes, as is spinach; green peas he is not so sure about and green peas and rice will earn you a Paddington Bear-esque hard stare. Listening to Jasper play piano at his winter recitals and play basketball (he is learning to catch the rebounds) and loving the way his little brother smiles at him as if he is the very sun itself. My practice has also included the fun of snuggling with my love, diving into Grey’s Anatomy – yes we just started, and yes it is so fun – and figuring out how to bend time and space so that my lover has time to draw and sketch and create the gorgeous art that our homes and lives are filled with.

Business is a practice for me too. I love my work so the scheduling and the follow up emails and the readings, the lighting of lunar lights and the teachings – all part of the practice. First writing and then shepherding the book into this next phase has been a new set of practices I have become familiar with.

At the end of November I got to speak to the publicity and marketing team in charge of my book (we have decided that when we meet in person it shall be over margaritas) and we have devised a very sophisticated marketing strategy…would you like to know what it is?

Write a good book.
Tell your community about your book.
Create an actually useful and awesome bonus when people pre-order the book.
Whip up some fun ways for there to be more time and connection within the community without outsourcing everything to social media or a keyboard…so simple, yet pretty revolutionary stuff huh?

Amidst a sea of bad marketing advice this certainly feels revolutionary. And then there is my publisher and my team, and for us it all comes down to integrity…write what needs to be written, share what needs to be shared, make it worthwhile and let your community know. As Emeril says, “Bam!” I’ll be sharing loads more about the book in January so stay tuned for that but in the meantime I hope you do what the title advises and make some magic for yourself this season.

And on that note, I want to share one of my favorite little tricks for creating some sweet magic in your home. It is the holiday season and some of the tough stuff that we encounter happens in our own families, yes? We can all use a reminder to speak with more kindness and compassion, to listen with more mercy, and to check our snap judgements at the door. One of my favorite magical tricks to inspire this behavior is to fill the sugar canister with whole vanilla beans, one for each member of the family. As you place the pod into the canister, name it for the family member and bless them with the following blessing:

“May your season be full of love, warmth, and kindness for yourself and for all you come into contact with.”

Of course you can also utter a blessing straight from your heart.

When you bake with the sugar or add it to your tea or coffee, it will call to mind the sweetness that you have wished upon yourself and everyone in your family. Want another little home sweet home enchantment? I’ve got one right here. And for those of you who have asked me about the lunar lights for 2019 – they are open through today so get in on it! Beautiful blessings of this holy, hard, and yes, magical season.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Magical Missive: Home Sweet Home Candle Magic

Ceremony and Ritual

M

iracles,

A little candle magic Magical Missive to get your December off to the right start. As we know the holidays can be a really stressful time for our families. We are busy, often we get sick during this season, we are spending more money than we usually do…and on and on. There are practical ways to navigate these challenges (hello Vitamin C – I see you), but there are also magical supports we can call on to help us address them as well.

One of my favorites? This candle rite for a peaceful, sweet, and loving home and family environment.

What you will need:
1 blue or beeswax devotional candle
blend of the following dried herbs:
• dried lavender flowers
• crushed vanilla pod
• dried pink rose petals
• pen & paper
• blue & white loose glitter
• olive oil or a ritual oil for peace and calmness in the home

Significance:
Lavender is a sacred flower that has been used in soothing and restorative remedies since at least the Middle Ages. Its calming properties care called on today in herbal medicine, homeopathy, and cuisines as well. It is sacred to many Goddesses and believed to bestow a level of protection on the home as well, especially when planted near the front door.

Vanilla Pod is both sweetening and warming and called for in many enchantments where the goal is to warm people up to each other so that they are kind, gentle, and loving towards each other.

Dried pink rose petals emphasize love, friendship, and the ability to get along with each other.

Glitter to decorate your candle and make it pretty!

Ceremony:
General Instructions for dressing devotional candles ~

If you are working with a paraffin candle, poke holes in the top of it – I like to make 3 or 4. You may use an ice pick, screwdriver, knife or other tool for this.
If you are working with a beeswax devotional candle as I do, then you are going to have a much harder time poking holes into the candle. Instead you may proceed without the holes.

Combine your herb mixture. Sprinkle 2-3 pinches of your herb mixture onto the candle.

Drop 3-4 drops of oil onto the top of the candle.

Add any curios like clear quartz crystal chips, small chunks of rose quartz, or a light drizzle of honey and finish with glitter.

Note – you do not want to “drown” your herbs in oil nor do you want them to be so dry that they catch fire when you light the candle wick.

Write out your petition and anoint the petition paper with the oil you used to dress the candle.

Place petition underneath candle, bless the candle with focus and sincerity for the manifestation of your desire.

Knock the candle 3 times to “seal” it, and then light it, allowing it to burn undisturbed.

Obviously do not leave a flame unattended unless it is in a fireproof container.

Final act:
After your candle has finished burning, you may look at it and see what shapes you find in the glitter and debris. These may be construed as signs and give you information as you work to read the candle.

And, if you liked the above candle recipe or this one for fast action, then you might really like the Lunar Lights candle service. A candle lit on your behalf, with your specific petitions and intentions, every month on the full moon.
Order here. Deadline to order is December 7th.

Wishing you a blessed (and sweet!) season!

Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Hearth and Home, Vol. 4: Make Space for Life

Foundations

M

iracles,

The above photo gives you a glimpse of what our garden looked like right around Beltane, May 1st. We had entered into a period with our land where certain plants needed to be uprooted, soil turned, and bedrock prepared for the coming of new life. It has been deeply allegorical for where our family and our work has been too. Since the last New Moon I entered into the final month of my pregnancy and this week our second little one will be arriving at some point! Plants have rooted down in the garden while pictures have gone up onto the walls of the nursery, and baby clothes – some old, some new, – have been placed in drawers.

As is always the case with life, it doesn’t take much to get things started if you are willing to make space. Plants are placed into the ground, fed with water and the right amount of sun and moonlight, and with a little time and attention (and daily offerings to the faeries and our Holy Helpers) our stone and cardboard covered garden became a lush and beautiful wonderland – no small feat in South Central Texas during the hot month of June! The same has been true for the life of our family and home – a little attention here, some detailing there, making sure that we all have plenty of time not just for work but for rest and dreaming and creating – these have been the priorities as our family makes room for the newest addition.

My book and writing have also been reflective of this process: the completed manuscript was sent in to my publishers on May 1st. A few weeks later I received notes for the first round of edits and so dove into them. Fortunately there were not that many and the entire process struck me as a tightening and refining that felt fantastic. It reminded me deeply of stories I have been told about my great-grandmother.

She was a Cherokee woman who lived in rural East Texas and kept a chicken snake in her kitchen cabinet – to keep away mice or to startle visitors or maybe both – and one of the tales that has been passed down about her is that she would braid her long dark hair tight, tight, tight, into a braid, and then take a lit match and run it down her braid singeing off any errant hairs. This, she claimed, was how she kept her hair smooth and glossy. Editing felt like that to me. Taking the tightly braided words and then running a match over them – gently, but firmly, burning away the excess and the loose ends so that at the end of the day we are left with something more potent and refined.

It has touched me deeply how our community of soulful seekers has also been making space for life and what sings of life. Personally I have felt this in all of the well-wishes that I and the family have received from so many of you. I have experienced it too in the generous gifts that have been sent our way – some for the baby and some for me!

Over the past week as the news has been filled with the tragedy and the deaths of luminaries who touches the lives of so many, I have also been humbled to see how our community comes together to create space for hard discussions, thoughtful takes on controversial issues, and perhaps most meaningful of all, a sense of not assuming that we understand what another soul is encountering in their deepest hour of shadow. For these things too are part of life and cannot be overlooked, swept away, or ignored. I appreciate the nuance, and the time and thoughtfulness that seem to have become ever more endangered, that our community takes in feeling and thinking and speaking – we lead by example, it is the only way.

And amid the sadness that has been so thick in the air I hope that you too are making space for life, in all of its divine mess, radiant beauty, breadth and depth. As the below picture of my garden shows you, we do not, any of us, flourish in spite of the hard, we flourish right along side of it. That is what it means to make space for life.

In love and blessings always,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.