Nurturing the Home Fire at Imbolc

This weekend we celebrate Imbolc, one of the four major Sabbats in the pagan Wheel of the Year. At the winter solstice we welcomed the return of the Sun, but the peek of winter doesn’t arrive until Imbolc. Even though the days are slowly getting longer, the temperatures are at their lowest and the weather is bitter.

Imbolc is a Gaelic celebration of the goddess Brigit, who was later integrated into Christianity as Saint Brigit. She is a fire goddess, associated with creativity, inspiration, and healing. In the depth of winter, Brigit calls on us to turn inwards, to nurture the fire in both our homes and ourselves. This is the time of year when we generally experience cabin fever - and creativity is the best antidote. By pursuing creativity, we honor Brigit and nurture ourselves.

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The Brigit Novena

One of my teachers taught me a meditative exercise for deepening one’s connection to Brigid, which can be used as a devotional exercise or as an intention-setting ceremony. Use this exercise to help you with your creative endeavors or any project that could benefit from some fire energy. This exercise can be performed at any time of the year, not just at Imbolc. You will need 9 red candles, and commit to a 9-day stretch where you can meditate for 10-15 minutes every evening.

Before you start, clearly define the intent of your novena. The intent can be to simply develop a closer relationship with Brigit, or you can ask for guidance or energetic help for a specific project or situation. Whatever you pick for your intent, this is what you’ll be nurturing for the duration of the 9 days. Write this down on a piece of paper.

Every night, for nine nights, you will perform a short ceremony for Brigit. Using a fire safe dish, set up one of your candles in a place where you can leave it to burn all the way down. Place the piece of paper with your written intent under the fire safe dish. If you are able to set up an altar, you can arrange offerings in front of the candle, such as a dish of rosemary or a piece of carnelian.

Before lighting the candle, take a deep breath and clear your mind. As you light the candle, say: “I light this candle in honor of Brigid and ask her to witness my ceremony.” Then make it clear why you are calling on her, such as: “With this novena, I ask for her blessings/I ask for her guidance on this project.”

After stating your intent, take a few minutes to enter a meditative state and watch the flame. Allow yourself to feel your connection to Brigit and your inner fire, and hold your intent clear in your mind. When you feel ready, take a deep breath and release your intent. Allow the candle to continue burning all the way down.

Repeat this every night for the duration of the 9 day period, burning one candle each night. On your last night, use the last candle to burn your piece of paper and thank Brigit for her blessings.

Speaking of creative projects, my book A Little Bit of Shamanism is officially available for pre-order!

2019: The Empress and the Hanged Man

With the turning of the calendar year, we’ve entered 2019, shifting from a High Priestess/Justice year to an Empress/Hanged man year. Each year is linked to a card in the tarot Major Arcana, which we can derive from analyzing the numerology of any year. In 2018, we had: 2 + 0 + 1 + 8 = 11. 1 + 1 = 2. The number 2 corresponds to the High Priestess, and 11 corresponds to Justice. In 2019, we add 2 + 0 + 1 + 9, which which gives us 12 (The Hanged Man). 1 + 3 equals 3 (The Empress).

In 2018, the High Priestess called us to dive inwards and contend with our inner truths. The Empress also calls us to turn inwards, but from a different perspective: she teaches us to be receptive. Her biggest lesson is teaching us how to receive love. In a world where we move through life with so much hurt, disappointment, and heartache, this can be a really difficult lessons. So start by asking yourself, are you open to the lessons of the Empress?

Since 2019 is not just about Empress energy, but also about the Hanged Man, what common thread do you see with these two archetypes? The theme of this year is surrender. The Hanged Man represents a voluntary sacrifice, a willingness to break from routine and the mundane, and pursue a different perspective. The path towards this is through surrender - the hanging figure in the Smith Waite Hanged Man card is at peace while suspended, and a halo of enlightenment circles their head as a symbol of their expansion.

The Empress is also calling us to surrender. The lessons of receptivity and love she teaches us can only happen through surrender. In the late 90s movie (seriously, bear with me for a moment here), a wise abuelita asks the female protagonist, “tu nunca vas a conocer al amor si no te entregas a el” (you will never know love unless you surrender to it). We cannot experience the true depth of love (any and all love - self love, family love, romantic love, platonic love) if we hold back. This does not mean there is no risk involved, as we all know there is always the risk of a broken heart, but without the risk we cannot experience the reward of deep love. As you move through personal growth this year, make room to explore these concepts in your life.

The Transformative Magic of Scorpio Season: A Releasing Spell

Happy new year, dear friends! For those of us following the Pagan Wheel of the Year, we just celebrated the New Year at Samhain, the third harvest, which coincides with Halloween. We’ve been doing some real deep diving, having examined the Taurus-Scorpio axis at the last full moon, and reconnecting with our ancestors at Samhain. This is the time of the year when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest, so messages from our helping spirits are louder, and it’s a perfect time to do divinatory work.

Samhain falls in the middle of Scorpio season, which makes sense on so many levels. Scorpio is the darkest and deepest of the signs in the zodiac. It’s a water sign, and holds our raw, unfiltered emotions and personal truths. It’s gritty and honest. Scorpio is the seat of desire in all forms, that entices us to enjoy our humanity, and to do so without shame. When I speak to folks about Scorpio, what usually comes to their mind first is the negative side of Scorpio: jealousy, vindictiveness, manipulation. These are undeniable traits of the scorpion, but this is the shadow side. Scorpio is the most transformative of the signs. It is a gateway to profound healing and transformation for those who learn how to work with its energies.

In tarot, Scorpio is linked to the Death card. The Death card is the ultimate metaphor in tarot, signifying not physical death, but the shedding of the old self. This is the metaphor of the phoenix, who consumed his body in fire and is reborn from the ashes. The Death card asks us to fully trust and surrender, because only in completely letting go of ourselves can we become the next step in our personal evolutions. This is how we transition into the new year: saying good-bye to the selves we were, so we can welcome in the growth we are ready for. In the Mesquite Tarot’s version of the Death card, we see a snake spiraling up the shaft of the scythe, as the edge of the blade drips with blood. The snake is a signal of kundalini, our life force, which is rising from the pooling blood at Death’s feet. (Also pictured: Aquarian Tarot, The Wild Unknown Tarot)

As you continue to move through Scorpio season, ask yourself if you’re ready to transform, and take the time to figure out what that will look like for you. I’ve included a brief exercise here, which might help you pave the way.

A Releasing Spell

You will need: a candle (and something to light it), a small piece of paper and a pen, a small fire safe container or dish.

Before you start, take the time to set up your sacred space, in whatever manner resonates for you. You may want to burn sage to clear the energies, sing, use rattles, or do anything that helps signal to you and your helping spirits that you are disengaging from the mundane and preparing for ceremony.

Set up your work space with your tools and sit or stand in front of them. Take a deep, cleansing breath and clear your mind so you can focus only on this ceremony. Call out to your helping spirits:

I call out to my helping spirits, my power animals and my ancestral guides, to aid and support me in this work.

This is a first step in allowing change into your life, and we do so with the understanding that we are at the center of our own existence. Think of one (just one, remember change happens one step at a time) pattern or thought of behavior that you engage in that does not serve your highest and best. Write it down on your piece of paper and set it aside.

Now pick up your candle, which you will be charging with specific intent. Set up your candle in a candle holder or stick it to a safe surface by melting the bottom. Once it’s secure, use your thumb and index finger on your right hand to stroke the candle from tip to base. As you do this, hold clear in your mind’s eye the intent to draw down the capacity and motivation to bring this change into your life. Continue doing this until you feel your candle is fully charged with this intent, and then light the candle.

Using the flame of your candle, burn the piece of paper where you wrote down what you intend to release. Let the paper burn completely, and dispose of the ashes. You can let them blow away in the wind, or even flush them down the toilet. Let the candle burn down all the way.

You don’t have to watch the candle as it burns completely, but as you close out your ceremony, thank your helping spirits, power animals and ancestral guides, for witnessing your ritual and ask them to support and aid you as you move through this transformation.

Tarot Spread: Vulnerability and Boundaries

Hello friends! We are here in the midst of Libra season, and I'm finding myself called to revisit my notions of balance in almost every aspect of my life. 

I just returned from an art retreat I host with Orly Avineri, who does wonderful work in bringing together exercises to bring us deeper into ourselves and artistic expression. We spent 5 days immersed in this process, and the theme that came up for me over and over was the interplay between vulnerability and boundaries. In this regard, Orly is a huge inspiration to me. She brings immense vulnerability to her workshops and bares her soul, but she does this in a way where she is still minding her boundaries and the understanding that vulnerability does not create an immediate relationship between people. 

This is a lesson I am working through myself, especially as I am running more workshop and meeting more and more people who are on a path of self discovery. Today's tarot spread is inspired by this. 

  1. Where in my life do I need to be more vulnerable?

  2. What is my first step in allowing this vulnerability?

  3. Where in my life do I need stronger boundaries?

  4. What is my first step in establishing these boundaries?

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Facets of the Harvest Season

So we’ve blown through Virgo season and have entered Libra season after a powerful combination of equinox and and full moon energies. On September 22nd, we had the autumnal equinox, one of two days in the year where night and day are completely balanced. Then on September 24th, we had a full moon in Aries, which as part of the Libra-Aries axis, calls us to evaluate our sense of self and the way we interact with those around us.

The equinox also coincides with Mabon, a Pagan celebration of Celtic origins, which is what I want to discuss today. Mabon is the second harvest, preceded by Lammas at the beginning of August. At Lammas, we celebrate the the first harvest, the harvest of the grain. Our altars are adorned with corn husks and sheaves of wheat. Mabon is the fruit harvest, which is why apple picking is such a common activity this time of year.

The energies I want to discuss today are those surrounding the concept of harvest. I’ve noticed that every year, it seems as if my life experiences significant upheaval in September. As I’ve checked in with those around me, it seems as if most of you are also experiencing this. This upheaval happens on a communal level, not just a personal one, which tells us that there are large energetic currents at play.

Mabon is the time of year when we gather the fruits of our harvests, both physical and metaphorical. We tend to plant seeds in the spring, with the start of new projects, partnerships, and relationships. Once the summer comes and goes, these projects are reaching significant milestones in their cycles. When we speak of harvest and gathering the fruits of our labor, we tend to think of everything we’ve accomplished. So at first glance, it can seem contradictory to experience upheaval in the midst of a time of harvest. But when we start to look closer at the process of planting and tending crops, it starts to make sense.

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Not every seed will sprout, not every seedling will grow into a healthy plant, and not every plant will bear fruit. And sometimes, even when the plant bears fruit, the fruit can come out rotten or diseased. Not every harvest is successful, and there are lessons to be learned when that is the case. We experience upheaval at this time of year because our seeds are coming to fruition, and unfortunately, some of the fruits are less than optimal. We see projects fall apart, relationships fizzle out, and partnerships crumble. As we evaluate where we are right now, we have to look at everything we’ve invested in and recognize the investments that are paying off versus the ones that aren’t.

With that in mind, I leave you with some of the questions I posed to our moon meditation group last night. I encourage you to take the time to copy these down and spend a few minutes writing down your answers, you might be surprised at the insights you gain.

  • What seeds did I plant this year that were successful?

  • What seeds did I plant this year that didn’t yield anything?

  • What seeds did I plant this year that had negative yields?

Virgo Season, The Hermit, and an Integration Spread

Happy Virgo season, friends! I took an unplanned August break from writing here to wrap up a big personal deadline. I can't share details on here quite yet, but keep an eye out for a fun announcement soon!

I love Virgo season. Growing up in the Southern Hemisphere, we would be easing into spring and looking forward to the summery holiday season. Now in the Northern Hemisphere, it ushers in the beautiful colors of the fall and carries us into Samhain. 

I feel like Virgo energy is one of the more misunderstood astrological correspondences. Virgo is an earth sign, and deeply rooted. Virgo performs well in the material, tangential realm, and is known for organization and management, sometimes to the point of obsession (I say this as a Virgo, and fully recognize my own neuroses). But I don't see much discussion of the more profound aspects of Virgo, which really make Virgo season a time when we can really dive deep into ourselves. 

In tarot, Virgo is linked to the Hermit card, which starts giving us some hints as to the deeper meanings of this sign. The Hermit tells us the story of someone who willingly separates themselves from society to search for wisdom. They are not secluding themselves with the goal of seclusion unto itself, but rather for the pursuit of growth. This can be compared to indigenous practices of vision quests, where someone leaves the comforts of home and community to journey into nature and experience a powerful shift.   

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This is what the true energy of Virgo is about. Beyond the stereotypes of rigidity and obsessive-compulsive tendencies, Virgo is about integration, which is working towards a more holistic union of mind, body, and soul. Virgo pushes us to connect our higher and lower selves, and understand that the sacred in all of us is not separate from the incarnate part of ourselves. So I leave you with that to ponder, and a Virgo-inspired tarot spread to kick off September.

  1. How does my body need to be nurtured right now? 

  2. How does my soul need to be nurtured right now?

  3. How can I better integrate these two aspects of myself?

On Honoring the Land

Hello friends! It's been a quiet couple of weeks on here as I traveled home to celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday. I got home a bit later than planned after getting caught up in some serious Mercury Retrograde and Blood Moon eclipse energy that left us stranded in two different airports for over 24 hours. But I've made it back, and spending time in my native land after years away got me thinking about all sorts of things regarding my practice. 

In my last post, I discussed the notion of how our practice belongs within the context of the place we inhabit. I've since spent a lot of time thinking about this further, and about related concepts that stem from this. In her book Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Kimmerer teaches us that "becoming indigenous to a place means living as if your children's future mattered, to take care of the land as if our lives, both material and spiritual, depended on it."

There is so much to be unpacked in this sentiment, but for the sake of this post, the basic idea here is that we owe it to our land to develop a respectful mutual relationship with it, rather than to treat it as a resource to be exploited. Once we understand the offerings of the earth as the gifts they are, rather than resources, we can start to engage in the proper respect and reciprocity. We shouldn't just take from our land, but instead make an active commitment to give in return. 

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What does that look like if, like me, you've made your home in a place other than the place you were born and grew up in? I've chosen to make Salem my home, and for the last 9 years, have developed a working relationship with the energies and helping spirits of this place. We've built a home here, started a business here, and gotten deeply involved in local politics. These are all modern markers of commitment to a place. But when I step off the airplane landing in Brazil, I recognize the way the wind blows, the smell of the air, and the hum of the earth beneath my feet. "It's good to see you," the spirits say to me, and my body responds, "it's so good to be home." The pull is so strong I came home (and how funny it is, to have two places that really feel like home in my heart) to Salem with a little jar of dirt from my home town, a vibrant red soil rich in iron. It now sits on my altar along with stones dug up from the ground in Salem. Both tug at my heart in different ways, both calling me home. We are being born of the earth, and we must honor our lands if we want to use our Shamanism to heal the world outside of ourselves. 

So where am I going with all this? This all ties into my ceremonial practice of honoring both the ancestors and the descendants. Whether we have positive or negative feelings about our ancestors, there is the undeniable truth that without them, we would not exist in our current form. For that reason, we owe it to our ancestors to honor them - and it's important that to honor does not mean to love. We must also recognize that we are just one point along our lineages, and our descendants will follow. Even if we don't personally procreate, our bloodlines continue, in our nieces and nephews, second cousins, and so forth. We each have a responsibility to live as if we understand that the world will continue after our time, and do our best to take care of it. When thinking of the lands where we were born and the lands we now live in, we are dealing with similar concepts. The place where we were born should be honored as our ancestors are honored. As we commit ourselves to the places we have chosen for our homes, we must care for these places as if we intend to pass them on to our descendants.  

One of the most important lessons we can learn is that we are part of the earth, not apart from it, and we have an obligation to honor it in the way we live our lives. As you deepen your ceremonial practice, I urge you to see yourself as part of this greater whole, and ask how you can contribute to healing the whole. 

 

On Practice and Context

Hello friends and happy New Moon. We have all sorts of energies at work today, with the New Moon solar eclipse. The New Moon is in the sign of Cancer, which is compounded by the solar eclipse and will be reverberating for months to come. Now is the time to evaluate and tend to our foundations, the elements that in our lives that make us feel safe, secure, and as if we belong. This timing feels very appropriate, because what has been percolating for me in the last week is the notion of ceremony within context - more specifically the context of the places we call home. 

When we embark on journeys to non-ordinary reality, a common practice is to start by holding a place in nature in our mind's eye. We pick a place that is familiar and safe, to be our tether to ordinary reality. During a recent workshop, held in a very densely populated urban area, a student asked if it was okay for her starting place to be small. She pointed out that she hadn't had much access to nature in her life, having grown up and still living in this urban center. The short answer is yes, because our ceremonial practice has to function with the context of our lives. Our world is very different than the world of the first healers and journeyers, but that doesn't mean we should look to emulate their world. They worked within the context of their world, and we need to work within the context of ours.

One of the most important aspects of ceremonial work is integration. Integration is when we take the medicine given to us within the ceremony, and take the necessary steps to bring this into our non-ritual lives. This applies to all spiritual work, but in regards to shamanic journeying specifically, we must take the lessons offered by our helping spirits and act on them. If we ask our guides for help and advice, but don't follow up with action, we might as well not bother journeying at all. 

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So how does this tie into the idea of practicing within context? The notion is two-fold. The aspect we already discussed is about not creating a separation between ceremony and the mundane. The lessons and medicines from ceremony have to be integrated into the day-to-day for us to both make room for and experience energetic shifts. Beyond this, we need to understand our practices within the greater context of our lives. We are not isolated beings, and the best work we can do is in healing both ourselves and our environment. 

By environment, I don't necessarily mean nature. Your environment is where you live, whether that be urban, suburban, or rural. Every place in the world needs healing, and the energetic concentration of urban centers is much higher than in other places. While we may rarely see trees or grass in these places, we shouldn't forget there is living earth beneath all the urbanization. If this is where you live, this is where your ceremony matters the most. 

Does this mean you shouldn't go on nature retreats and take time to reconnect with nature? Of course not, I always encourage this. But your practice shouldn't exist only in those spaces, it should also be part of the place you actually inhabit on a regular basis. I embrace the idea that our bodies are a microcosm and a reflection of the macrocosm that is our planet. As we take care of ourselves, we should also take care of our surroundings. A regular practice of mine is what one of my teachers refers to as environmental shamanism. This means taking the time to journey to connect with the helping spirits of a place and asking how we can support and honor them. Every place has helping spirits, and the more densely populated a place, the harder those spirits will be working. While connecting with the helping spirits of a grimy downtown may not sound as romantic as connecting to the spirits of a waterfall, it's a part of our contemporary reality we should not ignore. I encourage all of us to consider this as we continue to develop our personal practices.

Thank you for reading, and as always, please feel free to send me your thoughts and comments! I really enjoy the emails you folks send me.

 

On Gratitude, Intent, and the Helping Spirits

Happy July, folks! I just returned from a four-day trip to Brooklyn, NY where I taught a series of workshops at Catland. It always wonderful to hold ceremony and connect with new people. As we moved through the workshops, two themes kept coming up, and I think they're worth revisiting here. These themes were gratitude and intent.  

One of the goals of Shamanism is to develop an active, working relationship with our Helping Spirits, so that we can integrate their wisdom into our lives and work towards being the best versions of ourselves. In order to develop this active, working relationship, we have to practice both gratitude and intent. What do I mean by this?

Our Helping Spirits are there to support us, whether or not we acknowledge them. But like in any relationship, the more we nurture the relationship, the more we can get out of it. When we start a practice of Shamanic journeying, we start an open dialog with our Helping Spirits. Rather than having them helping us without acknowledgement, we can now acknowledge them. But in truth, acknowledgement is the bare minimum. If the way we are showing up for our Helping Spirits is in the form of repeated demands, we are not giving them the respect they deserve. Every interaction with them should involve gratitude. 

Think of examples in your own life when others have asked things of you. Depending on how the request is made, you are likely to handle it differently. In my own interactions, I am far more likely to go the extra mile for someone who approaches me with appreciation and gratitude. When I am taken for granted, I find myself wanting to do nothing but the bare minimum. In an ongoing relationship, being taken for granted eventually breeds resentment. This is not the kind of relationship we should be cultivating with our Helping Spirits. While I generally avoid absolutes in any spiritual work, this is one aspect of Shamanic practice that I consider non-negotiable. I truly believe we cannot have fully developed and expansive relationships with our Helping Spirits if we don't practice gratitude. 

How do we practice this gratitude? The easiest way is by saying thank you. When you are in journey space, say thank you when they show up, and thank them their messages before wrapping up your journey. But I really advise you to go beyond that. Ask your Helping Spirits how they want to be honored, and then follow through with it. If they ask for dance, dance for them. If they ask for song, sing. Set up a shrine for them in your home, and leave offerings. Ask them what they want for offerings. As your relationship develops, keep asking. Just as your preferences change, so do theirs. Keep practicing constant and continued gratitude, and let this be the basis of your relationship. 

The other concept I want to address in this post is Intent. Our Helping Spirits want to help us, and they notice how we spend our time and our energy. Whatever we spend our resources on is what they will bring more of into our lives - which means we have to be deliberate in our actions. If we tell our Helping Spirits we want to spend more time doing one thing, but spend all our time pursuing another thing, they will believe our actions. It is not enough to define an intent in our minds, we need to integrate and follow through with action. 

This isn't to say we should quit our jobs and shirk our responsibilities. We live in this current world, and we need to function within it as basic humans. Shamanism is contextual, and we must practice Shamanism within the real context of our own lives. But we can choose how we spend our time and energy once our responsibilities are fulfilled. If you love your job and want to spend more of your time doing it, that's great! In that case, you should absolutely be pouring more of your time into it, and your Helping Spirits will continue to bring more of that into your life.

But if you're one of many where your job is a means for fulfilling the basic needs of shelter, food, etc, then you can only benefit by establishing healthy boundaries. If you worry and obsess over work even after work hours, your Helping Spirits will assume this is where you want to focus. Instead, if you devote time outside of work to the things that are important to you, your Helping Spirits will begin to understand where to bring you abundance. This doesn't apply just to work-life balance, but to everything we spend time on. Once we start living with Intent, we are creating the proper dialog with our Helping Spirits to draw in the things that truly matter to us. 

And on that note, thank you to my Helping Spirits and Ancestral Guides for supporting me with in work, and thank you to everyone who showed up this weekend. Many of you arrived hesitant, and were willing to honor my call to be open and vulnerable. Thank you to everyone who allowed themselves to be moved, and for those of you who came up to me afterwards to share. As one of my teachers always says, we are the ones we've been waiting for. 

Healing the Micro and Macro

Happy Litha, witches! Today we honor the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Litha is one of the four major Sabbats in the Celtic Wheel of the Year, and an opportunity to set energetic patterns in motion for healing and abudance. In the mythology of the reproductive cycle of the Wheel of the Year, the Goddess is pregnant from her encounter with the God at Beltane, and the God is at the peak of his youthful form.  

The contradiction of Litha lies in that while it is the longest day of the year, summer has not truly peaked. The days will start shortening after today, foreshadowing the inevitable arrival of winter. However, the heat has not reached its apex, as the summer days will still get hotter and more intense, bringing us to Lammas in August. Litha is often considered one of the fire festivals, being celebrated with bonfires and feasts. We celebrate the abundance spring brought us, with lavender and rose infused pastries. 

As you gather to honor the energies of the solstice, whether in a group or in solitary practice, I want to ask you to consider the state of the world and offer healing on a macro scale. One of the most important teachings of shamanic work is the understand that our bodies function as a microcosm of the earth. By healing the earth, we heal ourselves, and vice versa. One of our goals as shamanic practitioners is to foster harmony between ourselves, the earth, and the spirit realm.

We are at a time of crisis in the world. The earth and humanity are unquestionably hurting right now. As much as we may feel powerless, we must remember we are far from it. There are many ways you can take action and make a difference through political process, activism, volunteering, and so forth. But we must also remember that our ritual space is also a vehicle for change on a larger scale. 

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If you are unsure where to start, I hope you find this quick tarot spread helpful. Asking our helping spirits for guidance is always a good place to start. Using a two-card spread, asking the following questions:

  1. How can I be a vehicle for healing in my community?
  2. What is my first or next step?

As I gather with my wonderful coven, we will be setting intentions to heal both ourselves and our community. While we rejoice in our celebratory Sabbat dinner, we will not forget those who are far less fortunate. Let's use our magic to reach beyond ourselves. 

 

New Moon, Dark Moon, Creatrix, Reaper

Hello moon children, and happy New and Dark Moons! We are at the end of a lunar cycle, coming out of a New Moon in Gemini. At the Gemini New Moon, we find double Gemini energy, as it comes together with the Gemini Sun. This is a time to explore the dualities in ourselves, and how these play out - including questions of how accurate or valid dualities are, and the reality of spectrums. Wren McMurdo has a great post on Gemini and the exploration of duality and the gender spectrum (and how wonderful is it that Pride month coincides with Gemini season?).

But back to the Dark and New Moons. I've been seeing a lot of discussion about these moon phases and their definitions. In truth, there is no absolute consensus. Rather than providing an astronomical or astrological interpretation, I am going to focus on the ritual significance and let you discern the timing that makes most sense for you.  

So how do the energetic vibrations of these two moon phases differ? The New Moon is about beginnings, birthing new projects, starting new directions, and the overall initial creative spark. On the New Moon, we perform rituals of attraction and invocation. We plant the seed for new energies we want to attract to our lives, so they can grow and mature as the moon waxes. 

Within tarot, I see the energies of both the High Priestess and the Empress as connected to the New Moon. When working with single card associations, I connect the High Priestess to the waxing moon (Maiden), the Empress to the Full Moon (Mother), and to the waning moon (Crone). But as always, there are many levels and layers of interpretation. The High Priestess is connected to the New Moon as the Maiden, and as the keeper of the portals to the Spirit realm. She asks us to step into something new. The Empress is usually considered the Mother of tarot, but I like to think of the Mother archetype in a more expansive way. Rather than Mother, I have come to embrace the Creatrix archetype. 

The Creatrix archetype is an expansive view of the Mother archetype. The Mother archetype can feel a bit restrictive, as it tends to refer to genetic motherhood and giving birth. In present day society, many people choose not to have children. As such, many women are excluded from this archetype, and it doesn't address the various, multi-faceted ways that we can birth new things into the world: projects, ideas, manifestations of all sorts. A woman who does not bare children but spends her life manifesting creative project is still a Mother, just not in the traditional sense. Here we find the Creatrix. 

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The Dark Moon, on the other hand, is about shadow work. The Dark Moon vibrates along the same frequencies as the Crone archetype. She asks us to confront our shadow selves and the power of death. In mythology, the Dark Moon energy is seen in Goddesses such as Kali, the Morrigan, Baba Yaga, Lilith, and Hekate. In the Dark Moon, we see the Reaper Goddesses. 

As the Full Moon is the plenitude, the Dark Moon is the void. To steal part of Nietsche's quote, "when you gave long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you." This is the energy of the Dark Moon. By presenting us with the void, it reflects ourselves back to us. At Beltane, I briefly discussed the medicine of Death as ultimate transformation of self. There is medicine in every phase of the moon, but the Dark Moon is where we find the biggest opportunity for deep shifts.

At first it might seem that the energies of the New and Dark Moons are at odds with each other, but it's quite the contrary. There is no ultimate ending, as the end of every cycle leads to a new beginning. Conversely, every beginning leads to an end. Therefore, the end of the cycle holds within it the seed for the next beginning, and every beginning carries the seed of death. 

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Tarot Spread - The Situational Mirror

Gemini season is in full swing, and the energies of Gemini are still permeating our lives, calling us to reflect both on our relationships with ourselves and with others. There's been a theme in the conversations I've been having with those around me:  difficult situations are bubbling up, and we are wondering how to address them. There's an old piece of advice, that while sometimes annoying to receive, contains a universal truth: We can only control ourselves, and how we choose to act and react. From these discussions came this new tarot spread, to help us navigate complicated situations in a way that keeps us aligned with our highest and best truths. This spread seeks not only to provide actionable guidance, but to give a mirror so we can evaluate what we are bringing to the situation. 

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  1. The situation where I am feeling stuck
  2. Where the energy is blocked
  3. What energy I think I should bring to the situation
  4. The energy I should actually bring to the situation for the highest and best outcome
  5. Self care: How I can take care of myself as I navigate the situation

Be gentle with yourselves, and have a great weekend!

PS - Take a look at my workshop page to see where you can catch me this month!

The Lovers Card - Expansive Partnership and Self-Reflection

Earlier this week, we had our monthly Full Moon Meditation, where we go through a guided meditation to explore our deepest selves and open up our creativity. This month's full Moon was in Sagittarius, with the Sun in Gemini, so we delved into the Gemini-Sagitarrius axis. 

Sagittarius is linked to the Temperance card in the Major Arcana, which I discussed briefly in a previous post. Today I'm focusing on the Lovers, which is admittedly one of the cards I have struggled with the most in the tarot. 

In the Smith-Rider-Waite decks, we see imagery that is undeniably heavily based on Christian mythology. There are two nude figures, male and female, standing in the foreground. Behind them them we see a tree with a serpent on the left, and a flaming tree on the right. It speaks of temptation and lust. Above them, an archangel manifests from the clouds. This is often assumed to be the Archangel Raphael, whose name means "God's Healing." In the Apocryphal books, he saves a young woman from Asmodeus, a demon of lust. This imagery invites a rather obvious interpretation: romantic involvement. 

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But like any card in the tarot, there are more layers to peel back. When we look at the Lovers card in the Wild Unknown Deck, we get a better view of the other meanings of this card. Rather than seeing two archetypal human figures in a suggestive arrangement, we see two Canadian geese flying in harmony, almost like carbon copies of each other but not quite. They are surrounded by radiant rays of light, suggesting an expansive force emanating from this partnership.

There are two specific interpretations I want to discuss today, as it pertains to the energy of Gemini. Gemini is linked to the twins Castor and Pollux. This is not a romantic connection, but a familial one, and arguably the closest one can have, with twins. When we think of people with their Sun in Gemini, we think of people who can have two very different sides to themselves. Here we see the two deeper meanings of the Lovers: expansive partnership, and a mirror of the self. 

I see meaningful connection and mental expansion in the Lovers card. The medicine of this card is about a balanced duality that strives for the higher good. It's about a force outside of ourselves, a partnership, that supports us in our expansion and evolution. When it comes up in a reading and suggests partnership, it doesn't necessarily refer to a romantic partnership -  but to any partnership where you can be an equal participant, and grow from.

Beyond that, the Lovers card doesn't always refer to an external force. It often does, suggesting an external factor that prepares us for the motion of the Chariot in the next card. But sometimes the Lovers card is a call for self-reflection. It's about holding up a mirror to ourselves, and really seeing ourselves, free of preconceptions and judgements. It can be about learning to look at ourselves objectively, so we can discern our next steps. 

The Magician - Strength - Devil Triad: Embracing Our Shadow

Hello friends, here we are a couple of days late from my usual Monday. I spent last weekend in the woods, away from cell phone reception, and participating in ceremony with beautiful souls who are very dear to me. It always takes me a little while to shift gears from ceremony back to the "real world."

Today I want to discuss the Magician-Strength-Devil triad in the tarot. This axis assumes a Rider-Waite based Major Arcana, with Strength as the 8th card. In some decks, we do see Justice as 8, but in all honesty that wouldn't change the analysis of this triad dramatically.

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What do I mean by triad? When we look at the Major Arcana, specifically at the narrative of the Fool's/Hero's Journey, we often split the cards into sets of three. The Fool stands apart as the protagonist, and the remaining cards are arranged numerically into three levels: cards 1-7, 8-14, and 15-21. Each of these levels has a narrative, but my focus today is on the vertical triads that emerge from this layout. More specifically, the Magician-Strength-Devil triad. When we arrange the cards as described here, we end up with triad subsets: 1-8-15, 2-9-16, 3-10-17, and so forth. 

The first triad, 1-8-15, shows a relationship between the Magician, Strength, and the Devil. The Magician is the initial spark of consciousness and ego the Fool experiences. He learns to want and to manifest, thinking outside of himself and projecting his will. Strength is the first card of the second level of the Major Arcana. The Fool has concluced his journey in the physical world, departing in the Chariot to explore the next level. In Strength, he acknowledges his animal instinct and learns to tame it. But there is a piece missing in this process that doesn't come full circle until we reach the Devil. Acknowledgement is not the same as true confrontation and acceptance. 

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It is one thing to acknowledge the untamed part of ourselves - it is quite another to give into it, dance with it, and come out on the other side. Only by immersing ourselves and truly stripping away our egos can we dispell fear and find growth. Light always casts a shadow, and the brighter the light, the darker the shadow. The Devil asks us to go beyond simply acknowledging our shadow selves and actually spend time with our shadows. 

Beyond that, if we look at the cards immediately following this first triad, we get the High Priestess, Hermit, and the Tower. This tells us that after dealing with the very projective and instinctual energies of the first triad, the next step is a turn inwards, seen in the High Priestess and the Hermit. In the tower, we are asked to surrender to a complete foundational shift. Once we have surrendered to the medicine of the Devil, we are ready to tear down our existing structures and build new, stronger foundations for ourselves. 

The Devil is the conclusion of the Magician, because we cannot truly come into our power without a full exploration of ourselves. 

The Mother Wound, The Feminine Divine, and Tarot

This past weekend, I hosted a workshop at Hauswitch in Salem called Maiden, Mother, Crone where we talked about archetypes of the Divine Feminine, associated expectations, and how these play out in our lives. We did meditations with each archetype and shared personal, vulnerable stories. It's truly amazing how much we can unpack when we allow ourselves to be open in safe, sacred space. I'm still finding myself very immersed in thought from all those conversations. 

This workshop was admittedly timed to align with Mother's Day weekend, as this can be such a complicated day for many. One concept we were able to touch on was the Mother Wound. I've seen the Mother Wound defined mainly in two ways, both of which I find extremely important.

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The Mother Wound has been defined as an emotional/psychological burden that is passed down along generations of women. Much of it derives from patriarchal devaluations of women, and it gets passed down in subconscious behaviors and thought patterns. As women learn how to cope with societies that don't make room for women to be strong and blossom, they develop coping mechanisms. These are then picked up by the following generations, creating an inter-generational wound. 

The second definition of the Mother Wound is more personal in scope. It acknowledges the special connection between parent and child, and furthermore, acknowledges the lifelong wounds we can carry from this relationship. This isn't about blame - it's not about whether the parent failed, or the child was difficult - because the wound happens independent of being able to objectively analyze and place blame. Whether we grew up feeling unsupported, judged, unheard, criticized, or any myriad of wounds that can surface in a mother-child relationship, we grow up carrying these wounds in one form or another into adulthood. 

There is so much to be said about this topic (and perhaps this will percolate into another workshop), but I wanted to develop a couple of tarot spreads to help you start your inner dialog about this, should it be something you feel called to start healing in your life. Both of these spreads are framed from a perspective of personal responsibility. I did this intentionally - whether or not these wounds came from previous generations or unhealthy relationships we have experienced, it is important that we have agency. We are empowered to take control of our own wounds and start healing them - this does not depend on the involvement of anyone else. 

  1. In what area of my life am I using unhealthy learned coping mechanisms?
  2. How can I bring these into my consciousness so I can begin to change them?
  3. What energy should I bring to this process to help me heal?
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  1. Where in my life am I carrying childhood wounds?
  2. How are these wounds affecting my emotional wellbeing?
  3. What is my first step in bringing healing for myself?

I hope you find use in these spreads, and if you want to share your thoughts, please email me! Whether you came to my workshop, just happen to know me, or don't know me at all, I find this to be such an important conversation. 

Tarot Spread for Expansion

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This weekend, I found myself some new crystal companions. Having grown up in Brazil, I've always felt an affinity for the quartz family. Quartzes have always felt like home, in that they often are literally pieces of my homeland. Lately, though, I've been feeling drawn to agates, and just got my first pieces of Dendritic or Tree Agate, also known as Merlinite. 

Dendritic Agate is a stone of ritual, shamanism, and magic. It can help part the veils between the worlds. 

It's also a stone of plenitude, abundance, and expansion. By working with or carrying Dendritic Agate, we are inviting these energies into our lives. So I developed a three-card tarot spread with this in mind:

  1. What area of my life is ready for expansion?
  2. What is my first step in allowing or welcoming in this expansion?
  3. What is holding me back?

On April 18th, Chiron moved into Aries, after having entered Pisces in 2011. Chiron in our astrological charts represents our deepest, primal wounds, and our work to fix them. When Chiron was in Pisces, this work was mainly internal. In Aries we move into projective, external energy where we are being called to heal our sense of Self. We are entering a phase of expansion through projection. With this in mind, we can use this simple tarot spread to gain insight on where the energies in our life are shifting with Chiron's sign change. 

Fire and Water: The Alchemy of Beltane and the Scorpio Full Moon

Yesterday we had a Full Moon in Scorpio, and tomorrow is Beltane. Today, we are in between. There is power in liminal spaces, and we are in the alchemical place between fire and water. Yesterday, we had a lovely Full Moon Meditation, where I asked folks to step outside of comfort and sit in their vulnerability. 

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The Scorpio Full Moon brings about intensity, as it asks us to confront that which has been exposed but which we don't want to address. Scorpio pulls us into the shadows, with the message that only the darkest shadows can bring about the brightest light, and vice versa. In order to evolve, we have to sink into our depths.  

Scorpio is a water sign. It is axially opposed to Taurus, an earth sign, and seat of the physical realm and stability. In the Scorpio-Taurus axis, we are reminded of impermanence and asked to embrace transformation. Water takes us to the greatest depths and asks us to surrender. With Scorpio, we must turn inwards. The Death card is linked to Scorpio, and the Death card in the Major Arcana is a metaphor for ultimate transformation. It's the shedding of the old self, so the new self can emerge. Beyond that, the old self becomes the fertilizer for the new self. In a nutshell, the ultimate medicine of the Scorpio card is the Phoenix. It teaches us that we need to allow ourselves to burn down, so we can emerge from our own ashes. In the midst of the fires of Scorpio, we find fire.

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Which brings us to Beltane. It's so interesting to me that Beltane and the Scorpio Full Moon always happen around the same time. Beltane is part of the Gaelic calendar, and is a fire festival and celebration of fertility. Here we see another parallel to Scorpio. Scorpio's magic is undeniably sexual in nature, and Beltane honors this through ritual sexuality. It celebrates fertility and procreation, both in the plant and animal realms, which includes us, though often we try to stand apart from our animal roots. 

In this liminal space, we can take the opportunity to sit with and understand what it means to hold both fire and water. It is a call to honor both the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine energies within us. When we distill Feminine and Masculine energies down to their very basic elements, we are looking at Receptive and Projective energies. The Feminine Divine teaches us how to turn inwards and how to receive. The Divine Masculine teaches us to reach out beyond ourselves and how to project. 

I've talked a bit about the medicine of Temperance in a previous post, and this is a theme that comes up over and over. The teachings of the Tarot are constantly pushing us to challenge our boundaries, and circle back for integration. Temperance should be the constant pursuit, because when we balance our energies, we put ourselves in a liminal space, which is where we can tap in to our greatest medicine and power. 

Happy Beltane all, I'm off to start prepping for a bonfire!

Hierophant: The Misunderstood Healer and Revealer of Mysteries

I am coming out of a weekend full of tarot medicine. I gathered with a wonderful group of gentle souls to teach Tarot 201: Diving Deeper, spent Sunday afternoon doing readings at Sacred Circles in Gloucester, MA, and had the opportunity to meet Casey Zabala, designer of the Wanderer's Tarot, at Hauswitch.  After such wonderful immersion and so many expansive conversations about tarot, I find myself wanting to talk about what used to be one of my least favorite cards, and one I've come to greatly appreciate: The Hierophant. 

Top row, from left to right:  Tarot of the Cat People ,  Smith-Waite Centennial Tarot ,  Motherpeace Tarot ,  Wanderer's Tarot . Bottom row:  Nomad Tarot , Golden Rider (out of print)

Top row, from left to right: Tarot of the Cat People, Smith-Waite Centennial Tarot, Motherpeace Tarot, Wanderer's Tarot. Bottom row: Nomad Tarot, Golden Rider (out of print)

In the Fool's Journey analysis of the Major Arcana, the Hierophant represents formal education and existing societal structures. This notion, within our current zeitgeist, can carry some rather negative connotations: support of the status quo and structures that continue to promote inequality. It's seen as the seat of traditional values, with the implication of being judeo-Christian centric, homophobic, sexist, racist, etc. Seen through this lens, it's not surprising that we have a negative first reaction to the Hierophant, especially when tarot is being studied in spheres that are looking to promote inclusion, intersectional feminism, alternative spirituality, and so forth. 

In the Motherpeace Tarot, which I absolutely love, we see the Hierophant standing on a pedestal. In the Motherpeace Tarot Guidebook, Karen Vogel states, "the Hierophant has stolen his power from those around him. [...] He is trying to disguise the underlying biases in his teachings." She describes him as "the agent of conventional morality." This is absolutely not a criticism of this deck's interpretation of the Hierophant. In the context of the creation of this deck, this interpretation makes perfect sense. This is a trailblazing feminist deck conceived in the late 1970s. The Motherpeace deck goes beyond white, middle class feminism, and explores the sacred feminine across cultures. It remains one of the most powerful decks for the exploration of the feminine divine, but while their portrayal of the Hierophant makes sense, there is value in peeling back more layers. 

The Hierophant is linked to the story of Chiron in Greek mythology. Chiron was an immortal centaur, known for his superior wisdom and healing ability. He was shot with a poisoned arrow by Heracles, embodying the archetype of the Wounded Healer. Since he was immortal, the poison did not kill him, but he spent the rest of his days in constant pain. He was a healer to others but never able to heal himself from the poison, until he renounced his immortality. The Wounded Healer is a powerful archetype that appears in many cultures. In many initiatory paths, for example, a wound is seen as the catalyst. The wound bestows knowledge that pushes one towards growth that could not happen otherwise. There is a lengthy discussion to be had about this notion unto itself, but this energy is part of the Hierophant card. However, this is just one of the many layers worth exploring. 

When we think about how old the tarot is, it clues us in to the notion that the Hierophant wasn't intended to represent the dark side of tradition. We can see this in some modern decks, where this card has been replaced with the High Priest. This starts to approach the deep message and medicine of the Hierophant. 

In the Wanderer's Tarot, Casey summarizes the Hierophant as "Spiritual Law." This makes an important distinction between societal law and established norm, versus a law that exists outside human construction. The law of Spirit governs nature, and is uninfluenced by the whims of humankind. And when we spend time with the visual representation of the Hierophant in this deck, we get to what I consider to be the deepest meaning of this card. In this representation of the Hierophant, we see a figure with breasts standing on a platform. They have bees flying around their head, symbolizing the pollination of ideas. They pull back a curtain to reveal a spiraling vortex.

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Hierophant means "revealer or interpreter of mysteries." The spiral is an ancient symbol that is linked to the sacred feminine, and to many metaphysical schools of thought. Spirals represent energy, life force, the flow of life, and the mysteries. The Hierophant pulls back this curtain, inviting us to explore these mysteries.

The Hierophant is the keeper of traditions and culture, and as such, is a link to ancestral knowledge. They encourage gathering and community, for the pursuit of higher truth, and the honoring of those who came before us. Even within the very traditional imagery of the Smith-Waite deck, we get a hint of this: the crossed set of keys at the bottom of the card. The Hierophant is an invitation to unlock knowledge. Being linked to Taurus, the energy of the Hierophant is self-substantiation. 

It has been a long and convoluted path to get to this relationship to the Hierophant card. There is no wrong interpretation of Tarot, and even if this interpretation does not resonate for you (or perhaps not yet), I hope it can be at least a suggestion of a new lens for analysis. 

From Contraction to Expansion: Coming out of Mercury Retrograde

We are finally coming out of Mercury Retrograde, after what has felt like a very long three weeks (culminating with a broken fridge in our home, but I digress). We generally move from contraction to expansion with the coming of Ostara, the spring equinox, but Mercury Retrograde both prolonged and intensified our period of contraction this spring. This came with the challenges of being confronted with turning inwards, but also the benefit of longer incubation. Now, as we move into expansion and projection, we can do so from a place of more preparation and intensity. 

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The medicine of Mercury Retrograde was Temperance. I pulled a card for coming into expansion, with the question "What medicine should we embrace as we move towards manifesting the projects we have been incubating?" It's a bit unusual to see the 5 of Wands as medicine, as it's usually portrayed as a card of warning. But we need to remember that there is medicine for us in each and every card, and see beyond the surface interpretation. So what is the medicine of 5 of Wands?

Pictured are three decks: Smith Waite, Motherpeace, and Circo Tarot. We can see that across the board, this card is about group dynamics and group energy. Generally this is seen as a struggle within group dynamics, with posturing and competition. But with this comes advice: stand firm for what is important to you, but acknowledge other perspectives and reap the benefits of having your viewpoint challenged. These moments are opportunities to make sure our perspectives are thought through carefully, rather than resting on the comfort of long-held assumptions.

Fires are meant to be stoked. With the intense incubation of Mercury Retrograde, we have been immersed in shadow work. Now is the time to bring this medicine out into the more public realm, and test our growth beyond the confines of the private realm.  We should also remember the medicine of Temperance, and bring that into this next step. We can always build on the medicine of the previous season. The balance and ability to bring harmony to multiple elements will give us tools for working through the 5 of Wands. 

Temperance, Mercury Retrograde, The Magician, and The High Priestess

We are in the midst of Mercury Retrograde, which combined with the Aries sun, has turned out to be a moment of significant intensity. We entered Mercury Retrograde on March 23, and will remain here until April 15. We will be immersed in these energies for three full weeks. In the discussions I've been having with those around me, the theme of this transit is pretty clear: withdrawal and balance.

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When I pulled a medicine card for this week, I was not surprised to see Temperance. Temperance is both balance and alchemy. She has one foot on the ground and one foot on water, urging us to integrate the conscious and subconscious. She uses golden chalices to mix her potion, balancing the ingredients carefully. She reminds us of the importance of bringing the right amount of each element into the mix. Medicine is not a single thing, but the alchemical combination of many. 

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The Magician card is ruled by Mercury, and Mercury Retrograde is inevitably linked to the Magician's Trickster energy. The usual outward-manifesting energy of the Magician gets turned around, forcing us to pause. To find the medicine in this, we can consider the Magician within the greater context of the Major Arcana. The Magician is the great manifester, but he does not stand alone. His mirror is the High Priestess. Where he is the creation of will, she is the creation of soul.

Mercury Retrograde urges us to consider the medicine of the High Priestess, and turn inwards. This is the time to recognize and honor our knowledge, to remember that the true answers come from within. The ultimate medicine of Mercury Retrograde in Aries is in pausing, and connecting with our inner realm. In the last journal entry, right before Mercury Retrograde started, I spoke of March as a time of contraction. In this Mercury Retrograde period, that contraction is intensified, to the point of unavoidance.  This is the time for Temperance, the time to integrate our outward projections with our inner knowledge, as we prepare to set manifestation into motion once Mercury goes direct again.