cedar_grove: (Eirian with a smile)
As I sit here, trying to think how I should begin, to find the start of my path for the coming solar year, the rain outside is soaking the ground, the sky overhead is grumbling with thunder. The saying over here is that if there is thunder in the winter time, there will be snow a Tenday later, yet we are currently 'enjoying' record temperatures. There is something wrong with that – it's called Climate Change, and yes, it does exist.

Day before yesterday was the Winter Solstice. Mir and I were travelling on that day, back from New York City where we'd been visiting with good friends, and stopped in on the National Museum of the Marine Corp on the way back to visit the statue of Sergeant Reckless. We were surprised also to see a piece of the WTC that we'd seen transported to the museum along the New Jersey Turnpike a long while past now… and remembered the Firefighters on the bridges paying their respects as it passed. To lay my hand upon the concrete and steel was a profound moment… one right for the introspection the Solstice and winter season invokes into a life.

Perhaps that's where my coming journey begins… like a seed, buried in the dark earth, sheltered from the cold and the wet and the external pressures latent in the unfolding year, held together by the protective pressures of my own internal thoughts, like the arms of Mother, holding Her child, who has wandered.
cedar_grove: (All faiths)

It is pleasant, it is finally pleasant,
this world, this great world.

It is pleasant, it is finally pleasant,
this great world when the caribou come.

It is pleasant, it is finally pleasant,
this great world when it is summer at last.


--Eskimo summer song



No matter how difficult matters may seem, we can always find solace in awareness of the cyclical truth of all life.

As pagans this is something that is... almost overly emphasised in various aspects of our faith: the belief in reincarnation; the 'Wheel of the year' that governs the festivals and the march of the seasons; the law of return - the whole notion of kharma... what goes around comes around; the cycle of the moon as she waxes and wanes.

All of these things, an more, manifest themselves in our hearts, even when we do not truly or fully understand them or their full implications. Does it make us better people or better pagans to remember these things so to adjust the way we touch the world as acccording to these cycles? I don't necessarily think that it does.

Thinking about all of these things in the light of some discussions that have been floating around on Facebook recently, about extremists of any religion... I come to the conclusion that, depending on motivation, it is just as easy to become a radical pagan - or an evangelical pagan - just as it is for any other religion.

Okay, I will accept that living by the understandings and the tennets of one faith doesn't necessarily make you into a fundamentalist Christian, or an Islamic extremist, or an evangeical pagan... or whatever faith you call your own, there has to be that extra step, the idea of pushing what you believe onto others, and to me that means not necessarily standing there and trying to 'convert' people, but it also mean being open and vocal about what you believe without invitation.

Many of us jest sometimes, with phrases like "I might have been really bad in a former life..." when something goes wrong or whatever. Me, I try not to make comments like that, partly because I don't think they're funny, partly because it is like abrogating responsibility for something difficult that is happening in your life, but mosty because, to me, it draws attention to (evangalises) that particular pagan tennet. I realise also that it's a fine line.

So... yesterday I found myself getting... defensive and annoyed on behalf of Muslims, who yet again are being tarred and feathered with the same brush because of the loud voices of their extremists - with the voices of their prejudice and bigotted patriarchs - who have probably, and very sadly, irrevocably damaged Islam worldwide.

Who among us outside of Islam have actually read, and interpretted for ourselves, and without prejudice, the words written in the Koran. (Q'ran, however you wish to spell that particular holy book). Similarly though who among us outside of Christianity have read the bible and done the same? I must confess to having read neither from beginning to end... but then again, nor have I read other holy books and writings.

Perhaps we all should before we judge a religion - or a faith - by the loudest, and not always best, voices.
cedar_grove: (Default)

Summer! Summer! The cow's mild milk
and the goddess with summer within her,
and the yellow summer, and the white daisies,
and the goddess with summer within her.


--Irish May Day song



No longer the maiden, she is now the blooming young mother, giving birth to her innumerable children.

No longer the maiden...

Maiden, Mother, crone... White, Red, Black.. Green, Gold, White...

I remember, a time ago now, when there was great debate among the pagan communities and circles in which I moved, about which were the appropriate colours to represent the goddess in her various aspects. Those that argued against white for the maiden claimed that it supported the Christian view of a maiden as a pure (as in virginal) state of being, rather than an independent young woman, who is nubile and fertile, as seen in the green of the GGW crowd. It was a debate that raged at many meetings, sometimes literally... and looking back was really quite funny and worrying, both at the same time.

Funny, because, well... what a thing to worry about - you as a practitioner, use whatever colours work for you no matter what the reason. You use whatever speaks to your heart. And worrying because, well, if we get bogged down arguing about such things and trying to impose our will (of colours) on others, does that not paint us with the same brush as other religions whose 'one way' is the 'only/right way'?

For me, I have used (and sometimes still do use) both. I was taugt to use White, Red, Black, because... well that's what I was taught and I was young enough in the Craefte not to know anything to use as an alternative. Then I was introduced to the idea or Green, Gold, White... and I liked it... it worked for me. It spoke to my heart, because of my association with the goddess' fouth face. I figured if I was going to have a colour for the three main aspects of the goddess, then I wanted one for the Fourth Face of the Lady also... for which I chose Midnight Blue.

I can almost hear people asking, why not black... black would seem appropriate - the dark of the moon, when we cannot see her face but feel her influence in our blood, and bodies... Mistress of Magic. For me, black is absence... absence of light... it is empty (in spite of being what you get if you mix all pigments together), and the Lady is never that. But there is a certain darkness - a mystery - like the sky at Midnight that draws us to the Lady in her Fourth Aspect... and that is why I chose the Midnight Blue.

As I always have, I took what spoke, and speaks to the wisom inside my heart, and used what feels right as my signs and symbols. It is, I believe, called eclecticism... and I'm nothing if not eclectic.
cedar_grove: (Default)

Maiden goddess, holy one,
protector of hills and forest,
protector of mothers in labor,
protector of the buds of infancy,
triple goddess, I invoke you:

bless the trees around my home,
the ones that shade me,
the ones that screen the wind,
the ones that perfume the air.
May they protect me as you do.

How will I thank you?
When I eat flesh, I will thank you.
When I eat fruit, I will thank you.
When I drink clear water, I will thank you.
Your trees will never lack for offerings
as long as I live and breathe,
maiden goddess
triple one
my protector
as long as I live and breathe.


--Horace



Thus most ancient cultures had ritual of thanksgiving, in which the goddess is thanked for the protection she generously affords us. What such ritual will we each perform today?

I always heard my teachers saying, "Please and Thankyou are also words of power." It came up often because so many newcomers to working 'magically' and/or with earth's energies so often forget that, or perhaps assume that, such ordinary words carry no weight in magical circles, (literally).

The assumption is that because there is no grandiose ritual involved in the speaking of the 'thanks' that it doesn't count. Because there is not occult hocus pocus involved in the 'please' that nothing will come of thinking with intent and speaking the simple word. Neither assumption could be further from the truth.

The truth is that thanking the powers, thanking the Old Ones begins with the intent that we carry in our hearts, thus even the most grandiose ritual of thanksgiving means little to nothing if the feeling and emotion of such thanks is not carried witin us. It's like when we talk to the people in the world around us. We can say 'please' and not mean it, or we can say 'thanks'and in the back of our minds, in our human arrogance believe that it is something we deserved anyway, so why should we speak words of thanks. Sadly, many of us are - as a human race - very arrogant, believing we deserve many things that would be better realised if we understood and lived our connection with all life. The need for it is expressed within the line of that charge that urges us to remember 'humility' as well as 'honour' in our lives.

To live humbly, to tread gently upon the earth, to give as well as take, and to remember our Ps and Qs is the essence of, and the heart of, living as a fully connected, fully spiritual individual, and the nice thing about it - the thing most often forgotten - it does not matter what our path, or which is our faith, please and thank you are still words of power.

Dig Deep

Mar. 24th, 2012 06:45 pm
cedar_grove: (Medjai)

O spring, beautiful season!
O goddess, beautiful goddess!

Come with joy to us now,
with goodness and plenty.

Come with tall flax that
roots deeply in the field.

Come with corn, lots
of corn, lots and lots of corn!

Look, we have sent girls to you
bearing gifts to make you happy:

Look, we have sent them to you
bearing cakes made with fried eggs.


--Russian folksong



The earth will bear for a long time with no return. She will keep on giving and giving, providing us with food and water and air. But even the goddess cannot go on giving without getting. If we only take from the earth and never give back, we will eventually deplete even her vast energy.

This is especially relevent on so many levels, and as I sit here, meditating on this in relative darkness after a day in the sun, with charity events at the school carnival, I find myself thinking about this on each of those levels in several different ways.

I've spoken elsewhere about the whole issue of recycling in this country - and the lack of it... and have honestly been trying to reduce... reduce my waste that cannot be recycled. And to reuse where I can. I can fill the water bottle I bought in the canteen from the fountain in the school corridors as many times as I like and still have fresh, safe water... and to recycle - for example. I have no vase, so when one of the children in my class brought me flowers for Mother's Day, an old plastic tub that used to contain snacky-crackers, has become my vase. I try to do my part to 'give back' to Mother.

Then there's the whole energies thing... as practitioners of a nature based faith we draw on the energies of Earth all the time, tapping into the Mother when we do any kind of working. We are taught to 'ground' ourselves, but how many of us truly do that in a way that creates a two way flow? Or even how many of us engage in a little exchange of energy simply as part of a regular meditaion. There used to be a meditation that we would do as a regular thing in one of the groups I used to go to, called 'the tree' by some. It's a meditation in which grounding and centering becomes a visualisation of a willow like tree - with branches flowering out of the top of the head and sweeping back down to touch the earth once more... and the energy we draw upon from our base flows in a circle back to earth. Many use this as a kind of cleaning meditation, as well as one meant to energise - and that's all well and good, but how about we do this meditation when we too are already energised? Would it not then help, even in some small way, to return some of the energy we take, daily, from the earth; from our Mother?

I try to do so as much as is humanly possible - as much as is possible for me that is. If there is one thing that I have observed of here, this place - this essentially spiritual land, is that Her energies here are buried deeply. One has to reach for them - open heart and mind with honest and reach deeply to connect with them. Haven't yet worked out why that should be the case - perhaps to distinguish the casual seeker from the serious, perhaps because other faiths here are so faithfully wrapped around the collective psyche of her people. Islam and Coptic Christianity certainly have their own influence over what could be considered the 'native' (and ancient) faith of this place... and all of these like a blanket, strangely protective, over the earth energies of this place.

Interesting...
cedar_grove: (Default)

I am the goddess, mistress of the land.
It is I who created the unbreakable laws.
It is I who divided earth and heaven.
It is I who charted the stars.
It is I who set the moon and sun overhead.
It is I who ordered the tides.
It is I who brought men and women together
and I who created all the mysteries.
It is I who made justice stronger than wealth,
and I who designed penalties for evil.
It is I who first created mercy,
and I who metes it out.
I am the queen of earth and wind and sea,
queen of the thunder, queen of the sun.
Only I can overcome fate.
Only I can overclose death.


--Song of Isis, Egypt.



We must be simultaneously strong and gentle in order to emulate her. We must take care of both ourselves and others. We must be both nourished and nourishing, caring and cared for. Wherever we find imbalance, we can turn to her as a symbol of universal order.

This is one of those meditations that somehow ties in with thoughts that have been floating around in my head for some time.

Part of examining myself as a pagan was to question myself about why it should be that the 'fluffies' as I am wont to call them - those pagans and wiccans who insist on calling themselves 'white' or 'good' or other variation of the same idea... and I think it's that which bothers me. Where is the balance? Where is the strength and gentleness, and all of these other things?

To me... it's like saying a tornado is a 'good' tornado or a bad tornado... I mean sure, they're destructive, but they're still just natural. The point of it is that the power used by a pagan/wiccan simply exists. It's neither good or evil, and it's the use to which it is put by the person using it that defines it for good or ill. People make the choices. Not the power itself.

To me... acting without balance, toward the good side, is just as bad as acting without balance toward the bad side of things. Both are equally as harmful.
cedar_grove: (Ghostly)

She is mad, her lover ismad, and I am mad for loving her!
This world is bewitched by the lovely goddess.
No one can describe how lovely she is, how glorious,
how perfect her gestures, how sudden her moods.
Her lover, poisoned with love for her, calls out her name
endlessly, singing Kali's name over and over and over.
Life has currents, cycles, tides which ebb and flow.
She looks upon them all with equanimity.
Nothing is opposite in her mind: not life, not death;
not love, not hate; not the self, not the void.
Your raft, the poet said, floars upon the sea of life.
It drifts up with the tide, and down with the ebb.
But the goddess is there. The goddess is always there.


--Indian poet Ramakrishna



What she offers us is not a gray mixture of black and white, but a paradoxical world in which both exist in all moments, at all points, in all ways. Life is both pain and pleasure, love and hate. Kali is beyond both, but includes both.

The little acknowledge 4th face of the goddess, to me, is what this particular meditation is all about. I've always had an affinity with this occult aspect of the goddess - hidden even to many women, though I'm not arrogant enough to think that I have in any way mastered any kind of deep connection or knowing of her in this aspect.

Different than simply the 'dark' of the moon, the relationship with the Hindu's Kali is perhaps one of the better representations that I've seen. But even that is somewhat flaws by perceptions of Kali as a sword wielding destructress.

The Fourth Face of the Lady is everything and nothing. It is the cry that comes in the dark when there is no more hope left, and the sweet laughter of the deepest joy. It is a woman who is in tune with her destructive side as much as her creative one - the impulse to devour as well as nurture. It is simply balance in the extreme - and not always gentle about it... and I would say it is the ultimate honour a woman can give to herself to come to know the goddess' fourth face, and to love and embrace it for what it is... a woman's strength.
cedar_grove: (Camel)

Who white is she?
She is white as the inside of a lotus.

How do we adorn her?
We adorn her with chains of gold.

How do we dress her?
We dress her with white garlands
and necklets and armbands of finest gold.

How does she regard us?
She regards us with eyes that are as large as
a fully-opened lotus on a pool.

And how does she respond?
Oh, she smiles, she smiles, she smiles.


--Prayer to Lakshmi, India



But there is a wealth as well in the lovely smile of a friend,in the joyous voice greeting us when we return home, in the bounce of a pet's walk, in the deep eyes of an aged relative.

The gold that decks the goddess' image is precious, but to bring us happiness she is not limited to dead metal. Look around you through this day and find the ways in which the goddess blesses you. Acknowledge, and delight in the generosity she has shown you.


Today is Ostara - blessed be.

The actual timing of the Equinox was at 5:15 Universal Time - at which point I was lucky enough to be standing outside in the sunshine. Sure it was chilly, but to be out at that time was a special moment for me. Just standing in the sun, contemplating the day.

Saw a Lapwing today... such a beautiful bird, so rare in England. This one must have had a nest somewhere nearby, because she was certainly making a fuss to try and hide it from the crows. But her flight, it was so wonderful... wheeling and diving... sometimes straight up before she would reverse direction and then loop and twist in the air. I could have watched her for a good long time... as it was the time I saw her was a gift.

And a more secular gift... today I managed to catch up with Noura - the head of Arabic studies at school. I asked her if she knew anyone in Rehab that could and would be willing to teach me to speak Arabic. She said she would help me to find a tutor, and that meantime, she would teach me. Meanwhile, my children continue to 'test' me every now and then. Today they asked me two questions. One to which I knew the answer and could say it. One to which I knew the answer but could not say it because I don't know the number 44 - I only know the number to ten. They tried to teach me, but I have forgotten it - it was very long. I do however know how to say 'my name is Eirian.' They were pleased with that. My children are such a gift to me also. They are loving, and very giving; brightness and light - just adorable.

And lastly I want to speak of a gift that I was given in the middle of a difficult time. Mir gave me a very timely reminder of the need to look for and see the positive - not just the negative as I had been doing. It really has made such a change to so many things. I think I'm even learning to smile again.
cedar_grove: (Default)

The goddess of love has lost her love.
She was sailing the heavens in a bright chariot
powered by swans, far from her lover, joyous and fee,
when she heard his voice. He was groaning.
Groaning in pain. Instantly she turned her steeds
and few back to his side. But too late!
Even from the sky she could see he was gone.
Even from the high air she could see
his lifeless body, the red stain of blood.
She saw what could not be seen: his absence.


--Ovid, Metamorphoses



We do not celebrate the seaons the way our foremothers did.

It's interesting to me the difference in focus between here, in coming from the Romans, where the spring festival is celebrated by mourning with the goddess the loss (and subsequent rebirth) of her lover - which for the celts/celtic traditions is an autumnal/winter occurrence. For we celts, spring festival revolve around the return of the goddess from her underworld habitat, symbolising the return of life to the barren winter world.

The symbol of the egg (adopted by 'ahem' later, incoming religions), and the seed are prominent, as is the ritual of planting, associated with affirmations or desires for the coming year. Balance of light and dark too... as the Vernal Equinox is of course a balance of the same, and is generally when most people these days celebrate the beginning of spring. Ah, the Wheel of the Year definitely turns differently than it used to... even in the relatively short (If you can call 26 years short) amount of time that I have been practising.

What will [i]I[/i] be doing this year, in celebration of the Turn of the Wheel. Well, I haven't really thought about that, even though it's technically only 4 days or so away. I have a real hangup about this, never on a rising tide admonition that I was given when training. I appreciate if you're going to do something, you have to make preparations, get supplies and things, and that's normal, but the actual wording and things - the form of the rite, perhaps I will not work on until the actual day. But then of course there is the question of 'when' and choices abound. 20th? (the astronomical date of the equinox this year, at 5.15am UST), The nearest following weekend? The nearest following full moon? The nearest following appropriate moon? There could be arguments for all of these, and all would require research and meditational discovery as to where my heart feels it is best celebrated. But right now, I have the image of a decorated egg in my mind.

Now to make it happen.
cedar_grove: (cedar tree)

Hail, Ilithyia, guardian of the childbed
and of birthing mothers. Protect them,
goddess, as they labor. Lucina, we call you
bright one, source of sigt, for you are the one
who leads each birthing child into the light.
And guide them, goddess, as they grow,
and bless our elders, that they may make laws
encouraging fair and happy children,
so that in future there may be celebrations
and many nights of rejoicing in your name.


--Horace



The process of seeding, gestation, and birth is the same, whether for a pea or for a poem.

A pea or a poem... that bit got stuck in my head. Seems almost like a good title for a story, or a poem even. It's been a long while since I wrote a poem.

I used to write a lot of poetry - I used it as an outlet for my feelings, a way to express the deeper emotions that were going on inside of me, I don't mean the day to day stuff, where you might feel happy, or sad, or confused or angry... but the really deep things, the feelings that go on sometimes so deeply inside of your heart and soul that maybe even you don't realise that they're part of you until they're out of you and onto the page.

Maybe unsurprisingly they were mostly concerned with love; love and anger actually. That's the title of one of my favourite Kate Bush songs. Funnily enough the song spoke to me because of the feelings extant between my guides (one of them) and I. We always would fight - well, debate I suppose, as much as one can debate with a 'spirit guide' A celtic-warrior-priest, follower of the Old Ways himself, he was always a guiding light as I walked the path, but he certainly had his own opinions on the 'right' way to be. I miss that sureness, that certainty... I realise this as I sit here meditating feeling disconnected from my guides.

I used to - well I still do - have a large piece of rock that I picked up from one of the sacred sites I used to visit a lot. An unremarkable piece of rock, about the side of a house brick, made of granite, just a gray rock worn smooth by the passage of time. I would always place it in the North when I worked or meditated. I don't have it here now, because... well, there was only so much I was able to pack, and I didn't think a big hunk of rock was really something that was a priority. Maybe that was wrong. Left my dragon-aqua-aura quartz behind too.

It's not that I need these things in order to work, or meditate or anything of that like, but symbols sometimes help as a focus, and focus is definitely something I need... says I, realising just how far I've strayed from the pea and the poem.
cedar_grove: (Default)

She is a woman whose yellow hair falls down
in thick twisted braids and whose green-irised eyes
are of uncommon beauty and whose cheeks
when flushed resemble the rosy foxglove.
Snow is never as white as her teeth, nor
the leather of Parthia as red as her full lips.
When high queens see her, they ache with envy
at those red lips opening over those white teeth.
They ache to see such beauty, such perfection.


--Maeve, described in the Tain bo Cuailnge



Honoring our own efforts, and demanding that others acknowledge them as well, should be part of our daily discipline.

Here is a conundrum. In the quotation as it's given above, we're told that - as the Goddess Maeve - we too should be prepared to stand up for what we're done and also demand that those around us do also. Folks say that you'll never get ahead if you don't 'blow your own trumpet (horn)' as it were, but at the same time, people seem to value humility - I guess because it's less threatening maybe? So how do we marry the two?

It's something I've never been very good at. Selling myself, blowing my own trumpet, however you want to put it, (though I seem to do pretty well on interview, which is confusing really). I find it uncomfortable and always have, preferring by far to be humble and quiet about things. I wonder if that's a British thing or a me thing - because many of the people I know that are not British don't seem to have that problem. They are able to speak of their achievements, it seems, easiy in order to allow others to comment on their ability or prowess.

Yet as I think more on the words of the quote, and of how I feel in trying to self-promote my achievements (yes, sometimes even to myself), I'm put in mind of the line from The Charge of the Goddess in which we are reminded:

Let my worship be within the heart that rejoyces
for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.
Therefore, let there be beauty and strength,
power and compassion, honor and humility,
mirth and reverence within you.
*

Which urges us for balance in all things. Honour and humility. Can we be humbled by our own knowledge of all that we have achieved, all that we can do, and does such recognition bring us closer to an aspect of the goddess, perhaps different from the persona - forceful and strong as she is - of Maeve, as is the quoted in the text? If so, what goddess - what aspect might she be?

None of this touches on the aspect of others' respect for an individual though... others respect of me, and my achievements. Do I even want that respect, that recognition? Well, I mean yes, sure it's good to be appreciated for what you've done. It's a good boost to your self esteem when someone tells you that you've done a good job with something. To feel validated in what you do is also a good feeling.

To accept that recognition with good grace is not always easy, and perhaps that is where the humility comes in, but accepting the recognition of another in some way honours them in return. You become a mirror of each other, a reflection of the divine like moonlight on water - and in such a way, perhaps, is Maeve's angry heart made calm.

(*Written by Doreen Valiente)

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