At this time of year I feel especially conscious of the deepening darkness, the stark stillness of the Earth. As the sap slows down in the trees and the animals gather food and ready their homes preparing for the cold, I too look into the cold and the dark and prepare, recognizing my own fragility and mortality in the face of the winter to come. I stack the wood, rake and mow the grass, put away the tools and toys of summer, and I go out to tend the Ancestor Shrine.
Nestled deep in the woods by the stream and against an old stone wall, this space is dedicated to those beings whose lives have made ours possible, and to the ones we love who have gone before us into that other way of being that we call death. I rake the path and brush off the leaves that have accumulated in the Shrine, revealing the growing moss and stones beneath. I uncover the trinkets that have been placed there and offer libations to the ones whose bits of ash or hair are buried beneath the trees. I make sure that the clouties tied on the branches are not preventing growth. I add this year’s offerings – a stone, a key, a yarn-wrapped stake.
It is now, at Samhain, in the quiet of the twilight of the year, that we can find an opportunity to truly see, to feel and to listen – to be fully aware of and acknowledge those who came before us, and those who came before them. I feel surrounded by my ancestors, by the spirits of the woods, by the songs of the stream and the caress of the wind. I feel welcome and a part of everything.
This piece is a transcription of a meditation Katie shared at an EarthSpirit Saturdays event on July 25. If you’d like to join future events, please follow the EarthSpirit Community on Facebook.
— Hello, and welcome.
My idea for today’s session was inspired by my difficulties with Zoom. Like many of us, I have done a whole lot more Zooming lately than ever before. I find it difficult and an incredible energy drain. I had a moment recently where I was doodling while I was Zooming, and my whole body and brain felt better. I suspect Zoom is mostly left brained for me, and the doodling was helping me get back into more right brained space. So, I thought that today I might share a doodling meditation with all of you beautiful people.
I’ll lead us in some opening exercises, then we’ll meditate as I read some poetic prose I wrote, and draw for a bit. So take a minute, and get yourself some materials for doodling, painting, sculpting, whatever feels good to you right now. It needn’t be serious art, that’s not what this is about. It’s about relaxing, softening, and calming the self in meditation, with art as a way to help that process. I’m hoping this will jumpstart your creative process, and help unstick that creative block. You don’t have to be a trained artist to enjoy making art. Humans make art. You’re qualified.
I invite you to gently close your eyes and notice your breathing. Don’t try to change it, simply be curious about it.
Open to the breath in your lungs; the heat of summer; the waters of tears, sweat, and the sea; to stone; to the trees, that even as they are full and lush have begun to turn within; to the Sun Moon and Stars; and Open to the Unseen Ones.
Gently open your eyes, take up your tools, and create as you’re moved to.
All improvisation starts with the first mark, word, note. That first piece creates entire universes, makes thousands of decisions in a single stroke. Yet we do this every day, all day, with our words, our steps, our thinking. In one breath the urge to consider this first motion is undeniable and thick with significance, and how can we possibly just do it? And yet if we take too much time to consider all the possibilities that come with the infinite before boldly making a decision, we find ourselves paralyzed, unable to move forward. Go with your gut. Make that move. Make your mark. It needn’t be large, perfect, earth shattering, it simply needs to be.
The first move invites the second. The second wants to dance with the first, whether mirroring it from a distance, or intertwining with it as a tango dancer, dragging her toe with the density of her passion. The second move is almost as significant as the first, bringing us a second dimension to the world we are creating with the motions of our bodies. You already know where that second mark goes. Let it flow.
With our third mark, we bring shape to our world. Just as milking stools rest upon three legs because they will always be stable, our third mark creates stability but not rigidity, and the art will begin to take on a life of its own. Our job is simply to be curious and see where it goes. Moving from a place of decisive action, from seeing possibilities and making impossible choices, to watching as our creation evolves on its own.
We plant seeds in our gardens. Tiny hard packets of possibility. We go, armed with tools that bring us confidence if not guarantees. Spades, forks, rakes, cultivators, watering cans, tiny pots to start plants on windowsills, intensely scrutinized as morning coffee brews… Perhaps the seed won’t sprout. Perhaps a bird will eat it, or it will mold before it grows, or it will grow politely in its patch, or perhaps it will grow to take over entire gardens. Seeds are not promises, they’re possibilities.
Do your seeds grow in a garden, or are they wild? What do you notice first? What takes time to become clear? Are there vines and brambles and hidden mushrooms? Are there neat, tidy rows? Do you plant with a ruler, or do you toss them, wild eyed, daring them to compete for light, warmth, water, and will? How does it grow through the season? Does it feed you? Does it feed itself, symbiotic plants fixing nitrogen, creating structures to climb… what other things live there? What bugs, worms, butterflies and critters make their home here? Sleep. Creep. Leap.
So many marks in our lives are not of our choosing or making. We zentangle the corners of our identities, weaving our webs of self in the corners and doorways of our hearts. Sometimes we do the arduous work of shifting some of the major structures, but always there will be a shadow of where the structures used to be.
A sigh. The body heaving and moaning, lungs letting go of their cargo. Another breath, and a moan. Breathe, and keen. Breathe, and sing. Breathe, and speak. Breathe, and whisper. Breathe, and whimper. Breathe and cry. Breathe, and wail. Breathe, and hum. Breathe, and shush. Hush. Hush.
Puzzle pieces, jumbled in the heart. Slowly assembled, but not all the parts belong, and some fit together only tenuously. How do you approach this puzzle? What do you do with the pieces that don’t quite fit?
Another place, another time. A wind comes, and sucks fiercely at the branches, and the stones, and the bones. Taking away anything that is not solid and strong and it is scary but in its wake is a clarity and lightness of spirit that would never have been chosen…… but dances with the vastness of spirit.
Sweat, beading and falling, rolling down warm skin, finding its path and blossoming as a dark patch on fabric. Tingles on sun- warmed skin, and more sweat. A salty sting in the eye, and then the delight of a gentle breeze kissing salty, sweaty skin. A face turned to greet the breeze, and the scent of flowers comes with it. An eternity in a moment, an indulgent moment, in deep awareness of the strong currents swirling, always swirling, in an endless dance.
What sweeps you away? What grabs your fascination with thousands of enfolding hands and everything else falls away before the deep passions of your being? What is it that you pick up, and the hours disappear as you dissolve into the joy of doing? Is there more than one thing? How often do you let yourself become so absorbed in something? Does it scare you? Delight you? Confuse you?
What is the weave of your fabric? What is the warp, running along the length of your life, sticking with you, stubbornly or consistently, supporting you? Is it thick or barely noticeable in the final tapestry of your story? What is the weft? The threads you choose each day, weaving in and out of the other strands of your life? Is your weave smooth and even? Do you feel the threads with your fingertips? Is it sticky and fuzzy and awkward, tangling from time to time? How patient are you as you untangle the threads? Do you change your weft, to make it easier to weave, or do you like that soft, fuzzy wool so much you’ll take the time to slowly work it into your fabric? When you pull a thread from your life, how careful are you to pluck each remnant fiber out? Do you keep it? Do you add it to a new project? Do you let it go?
Consider for a moment,
The sensation of sun on your skin
The scent of rain and leaves in autumn
The crunching sounds of cold snow underfoot
The smell of wildflowers
The sound of bumblebees
The warm heaviness of loved ones sleeping in your arms
The taste of honey
A cup of tea, a toasty woodstove, and a compelling story
Easing into a warm bath
Watching the sun rise
Watching the sun set.
Soddenly crawling into bed after fulfilling, challenging work, to relax into a deep velvety sleep
Bathing in Full Moon light.
The feel of writing with the perfect pen
Waking slowly from a sweet dream, a smile on your lips, as you gently bring that sweetness into your waking day
Gently soaking knitted lace, spreading it out, and seeing the patterns and swirls emerge clearly for the first time
The first flowers pushing their way through the winter snows
Working diligently at a piece of art, stepping back, and realizing it is so much more than you thought as you were working so carefully up close
The way a perfect sunset takes your breath away.
Music so beautiful you gently cry
The first ripe tomato in the garden
What feelings make you stop, forget the past and the future, feelings that make you exist only now?
What is precious to you?
What moments in your life changed you forever?
What mistakes have you made that were actually happy accidents that revealed things to you you can’t now imagine your life not containing?
What is your favorite flower? Color? Bird call? Food? Animal? Person? Time of day?
What do you turn to for comfort when the world feels too big, too hard, too much?
How do you celebrate when things flow well?
How do you know when it’s time to be done? When it’s time to step back, to look at the whole, and to contemplate final touches? How do we know when, and how to let go?
Look at your piece. Close your eyes. Breathe deep and think of puppies, waterfalls, and candle flames.
Open your eyes again. If you were only to make one more mark upon the page, what would it be?
Perhaps things need to sit sometimes. Perhaps the time isn’t now. Perhaps your work isn’t complete, and there isn’t anything you can do about that right now. Are you able to let things be, trusting that when the time is right, you’ll know, you’ll return, and both you and the piece will be ready?
It’s time to set our tools down for now. We are not static. We need to rest, to nourish, to eliminate, to dream. Our art flows like waves in the ocean, with tides and swells and spray.
Feel yourself. Be curious, but not judgemental. Feel your breath, and the points of your body that are supporting your weight. Feel the spots of tension you’re holding. Go ahead and roll your shoulders. Feel the frustrations, and the satisfactions, and the confusions, and the surprises… and breathe.
Feel your chest rising and falling with your breath. Wiggle your fingers and toes, your legs and your arms, give yourself a hug, run your fingers through your hair, take a deep breath, and take a minute to just be in your body.
Thank you so much, and I wish you a beautiful season.
Art by Kimé Moore, used with permission
— To see more of Kimé’s art, visit her page, SwedishWillow Arts, on Instagram or Facebook.
On this day when so many people are celebrating science, I wanted to share some reflections I’ve made over the past couple months. When I was young I really thought science was the antithesis of spirituality. I didn’t put any faith in something that I thought tried to explain the unsolvable mysteries of the world around us, and I resented it for defining natural phenomena when, to me, something like fire is so much more than just a chemical reaction. In 9th grade when I started learning about ecological concepts like interdependence, food webs and cycles, I realized that science may not be in contradiction with spirituality. In fact, I discovered that it compliments it in some very potent ways.
Many of you know that I have spent my adult life immersed in the study of science, and specifically ecology. I have found that the more I understand the world around me, the more I can appreciate it. Since starting work as an educator at the Franklin Institute, I have had many opportunities to learn about how to best communicate science to museum guests, including one session about how the brain actually interprets and stores information.
This training left me with a lot to think about, but one thing especially stuck out. At the beginning, we were asked what we had always wondered about the brain. The group answered with a popcorn of questions that piqued my curiosity about every question someone else had asked. We were told, later on, that the question was specifically intended to prime our minds for learning—that inspiring inquiry, or wonder, releases dopamine in the brain, thus improving attention and focus.
After that activity I have been thinking a lot about that word, “wonder.” What a word. It is used to describe a state of inquiry and curiosity, a way of seeking new information— “I wonder why those ants walk in a line?” But it also describes a state of amazement. To stare “with wonder” is to perceive something so astounding that it is almost unbelievable. I have come to believe that “wonder” is that place, that liminal space between science and magic, and as a scientist and an animist, that is where I want to live.
To gaze with wonder at the night sky is so much more if you know that there are about as many neurons in one brain as there are stars in our galaxy, and that there are about the same number of galaxies in the universe. To handle soil means so much more if you know that it took hundreds upon hundreds of years to develop, and that it is home to billions of living beings right in the palm of your hand. What do you miss if you look at fire and just see a combustion reaction? What do you lose if you don’t notice its ability to transform and destroy, or the way gazing into a flame can transport you to a whole other place?
I am disappointed not to be at the science march, but like every day at work, I have spent today bringing science into people’s lives. I have asked guests to wonder with me, to come up with questions, to try and notice and discover new things about the world we so often take for granted. I share this with you so that maybe you’ll make a point to come up with a new question today (if you do, let me know what it is!). It seems to me there is no better way to celebrate science than to take some time to wonder.
by Sarah Lyn —
Last May, I stood in a field during a large community ritual, swathed from head to toe in gloves and sunglasses and hat and veil. I was fully protected from the sun. I was standing in the field. That was a feat for me.
Just six months earlier I had been in a freak accident. I had been on fire. I almost died. I almost lost my legs. I was in a coma. I woke up. I have fought every day since for my strides back towards independence.
Strands of a web were rolled out, followed by calls for those who would hold specific energies for the community, both in ritual and in the world-at-large after. These people were invited to come and hold the end of a strand.
They called for those who would hold Fire for the community. I was the most surprised when I stepped forward. One foot in front of the other, I began walking across the field. A few people around me gasped. I understood.
There I was, walking slowly but surely across the field to hold Fire for the community that so tenderly and urgently assisted me and my wife with deep, death-defying healing. I held the strand so that we could build a web of community. For me, it was a physical manifestation of the web of healing energy that had been created for me.
I could hold Fire for them. I had already become it and survived it.
I can’t lie, though. As I was walking across the field, even before I held onto that ribbon, I wondered how I would hold it over the course of the coming year. It’s easy to be brave in the moment. How could I hold Fire when I was actively trying to heal from it?
What work would Fire and I do together through the year?
As far as outreach goes, I have been actively promoting and educating about fire safety, even though it was not a factor in my accident. Awareness matters. And I am currently on the search for the first responders who saved me. I want them to see that life exists on the other side of the fire. I want them to see the life they saved. I imagine they don’t always get the chance to see the good outcome. Without them, I wouldn’t be here.
The other work I have been doing with Fire has been simple and personal. I had been partially devoured by the elemental. No one lives through such trauma without fear, but I was determined not to allow that fear to creep into the spaces the fire cleared away.
I am pagan. I do not blame the fire for being fire.
I understand the fear others felt for me, for my life, for my mental health. There was reason for that fear.
But my community used that fear as a catalyst to come together in prayer and healing for me. I felt it. It pulled me out of the darkness I was drowning in. I stepped up to the challenge. I answered fear with love. The speed of my healing was unexplainable. Miracles happened. Not just for me.
Fire devours, but it also ignites. It sparks transformation.
I had to hold myself accountable for being the catalyst for my recovery. If it was going to get better, it had to start with me. Every time I stood up, even though I couldn’t feel my legs beneath me, mattered. Every time I walked an extra lap mattered. Every time I thanked those who were taking care of me, even when they caused me pain, I changed the trajectory of my journey. Every morning I get up and get outside and walk means I will recover.
Many times, in the hospital, the nurses commented about what a supportive community I had. One of my favorites went so far as to say she thought it said a lot about me, that people were so eager to help. But you get out what you put in. You become part of a community by plugging into it, by helping where you see the need. You become a strand of the web.
It was an honor to step up and hold the fire for a community that holds me.
Join us in holding this year’s web at Rites of Spring! Online registration is open through May 13.
This beautiful art was made by community member Kate Richardson, who blogs her daily practice of drawing at Eyespider. She tells us it was inspired by the web at Rites of Spring and by the wintery season in which she created it.
This post is by Alison Mee, who has been part of the EarthSpirit community since 1999. She lives near Harpers Ferry in West Virginia.
photo by Alison Mee
A year ago, as events in our lives unfolded, both logic and intuition told my husband and I that we needed to pick up and move our family from our home of 18 years, to somewhere new. We felt about as sure as we could be, that the move was right for us, that we were moving toward greater joy. But that didn’t make it easy for me to leave the land.
I had allowed myself to fall in love with the land on which I lived. I had connected to it as deeply as I knew how. One summer, I decided that every single solitary day, I would eat something from my land. I started with the chives and the fresh onion grass of spring. Then, with my relatively meager gardening skills, I grew some vegetables, and brought snap peas with me when I traveled, keeping them carefully and eating one every day. By autumn’s figs, I was feeling the land as part of myself.
I went through retreats, of staying on that land for a week or so at a time, spending time outdoors, but not going beyond that piece of land. I composted the story of my life, into the soil: apple wood from the home where I grew up, branches from the woods behind my grandmother’s house, flowers from funerals and weddings. The first time we placed each of my children’s feet on the earth, it was there. I brought bits of the land — soil, moss, pine needles — with me when away from home.
How could I leave? I could leave, I found, with love, appreciation, and intention.
As soon as we knew we were going to be selling the property, we had a family ritual with the land. We thanked it for it’s support of our family, and rejoiced in all the great years we’ve had there. Then, I opened up the thicket, the space that I had set aside some years ago to be mostly free from human intervention. I wouldn’t be protecting it in the same way anymore. Our relationship would be changing.
Then I sought to use my connection to the spirit of the land where I had been living, including the local river, to reach out to the land I was moving to, to help me find my correct path. Somewhere, I knew, was a place that could give me what I was needing, and likewise, could need me. I wanted to let the land reach out to me, as I searched for it.
When we were looking for our new home, I paid as much attention to the land as I did to the houses. We explored all over the county, and I smelled the dirt. At first I was shy and kept trying to do it when the realtor wasn’t looking, but eventually I got used to his attentiveness and he got used to the fact that I spent more time on the land than in the house. I stopped worrying about his opinion of me. Finding the right land was more important to me than not weirding out the realtor.
If I weren’t going by smell, I’ve since learned that I could have gone by field guide maps. It turns out that what smelled so good to me was biodiversity. Where we live now has a huge variety of plants and animals.
Now that I’m here, I’m falling in love again. Instead of plowing in with what I think should be here, I’m waiting and letting the woods show me their paths. I’m watching to see what’s going on. Who has been living here before me? What needs to be done? What’s been waiting for me? What would rather be left alone?
I bring water from my old home, to my new home. And earth. And sap from the white pine which used to be my meditation spot. If I were moving very far, I might worry about bringing non-indigenous plants, insects or microorganisms. But it would still be acceptable, generally, to bring vegetables grown in one home, and then compost them into the land in the new home. And in this way I’m bringing the story of my life forward, weaving together the connections.
Now it is spring, and I am seeing the emergence of new flowers, hearing new birds, connecting deeper with the spirit of this land.
And tasting the sweetest onion grass in the world. I’m home again.
I went to a pagan workshop in another state last month. In it, we were led in a beautiful guided meditation that brought us to a pool, where we met and interacted with our shadows and our brightness. Afterwards, the facilitators asked for comments, and every single person, including me, said that they were more comfortable with their shadows.
Shadows, I admit, are one of the things I love about my spiritual traditions. Throughout the Pagan movement, I see people standing up and acknowledging the power in our anger, our guilt, our sexuality, our sensuality, even our deaths – all of the parts of our lives and our selves that are too often denied or ignored in mainstream Western culture. It took me years to learn how to be really angry, and I value those lessons deeply. (A wise man told me that I would have to scream to do this. I told him I didn’t want to scream, which was true, but he was right.) But my experience at that workshop made me think about what we’re still excluding.
Taking on my shadow side felt to me like courage and power in ways that I knew how to identify. I thought I have to be brave and face your fear and do it anyway.Just do it! is a style of engagement whose virtues are sung from billboards worldwide. Often, its siren song helps me to avoid thinking of myself as a victim when in fact, I just don’t like any of my choices, and that is no small gift.
But for me, engaging my brightness is a much more difficult endeavor. My brightness holds my most tender parts: my openness, my willingness, my yielding, my yearning to see and be seen, to love and be loved. Even to write those words on a page is vulnerable. To try to feel them as fully as I learned to feel my anger sometimes seems impossible.
And yet, I find that this, too, is courage and power. Much of the deepest magic I have known comes from being able to stay with a practice or an experience that is uncomfortable, choosing not to set myself against it, but to make space for and breathe into it. The feeling of discomfort, I’ve learned, is the feeling of possibility shifting inside me, looking for a new shape to settle in. I always have the option to make a choice and shut down that potential, and I often do so, just to make myself more comfortable, but sometimes I try to make a different choice. I don’t get up from my chair when the writing gets tough, or throw my camera in the lake after the 500th completely boring photo. I say “that sounds so hard” to a struggling friend instead of changing the topic, and I mean it. I go back to my practice, again and again.
This is the challenge brightness offers: how far are you willing to open? To what are you willing to yield? I dare you.
The world is (among other things) a cycle of give and take. We breathe out, the plants breathe in. The plants breathe out, we breathe in. Offering doesn’t have to be about sacrifice. It can be joyful gratitude for the bounty we are surrounded by, a connection with our prayers, a gift of service, and the passion we are compelled to express.
My offerings come in cycles, as a part of my daily practice. I offer something daily, weekly, monthly… and they connect me to different rhythms in my life. Daily, I offer my breath to the plants, keenly aware that their existence, and my own, is locked in an elegant (covalent) bond. Weekly, I offer a bowl of rice to the spirits of the land I live on in respect and gratitude for the Unseen Ones that populate this place with me. Monthly, I donate newborn and preemie hats (knitted with love) to the local hospital. Every other month, I also head downstairs to donate a pint of my blood, a very physical offering, and one of my favorites. I give thanks that I am healthy and strong, watching my blood flow out of my body, and wish with each drop that whoever receives my blood also be healthy and strong. I do my best to stay open and aware, and I give other offerings as they seem appropriate. I do my best to do it with a clean, clear heart, and with respect and honor to the world which is my home and family. One of my favorites is to leave nuts in the holes of trees. I will do this to give thanks, sometimes in supplication, and sometimes just because it feels right to do.
Offerings come in many forms. Gifts of service are particularly humbling to me. I have friends who host gatherings, musical performances, and I have one friend who consistently does the dishes after a group meal. What an amazing, oft overlooked offering! I am touched each time a person holds the door for me, offers water to a dog that needs it, chooses to ride a bike instead of drive a car, or offers to help someone change a flat tire. Recognizing these offerings makes each moment of my life sweeter.
My son turned two in February of this year, and we enjoy frequent walks in the woods. I am so glad to have the opportunity to show him all the wonders that the world so passionately expresses. I was dismayed at first, that my son was most fascinated by the trash he would find in the forest. Running past a snail, a fallen tree, a pine cone and a forest of fiddleheads, he triumphantly points his finger at a smashed plastic cup and its blue straw, sticking up pathetically from the wreckage. “Bwoo! Bwoo!” he says, looking for affirmation that he has correctly identified the color of this amazing thing he’s found in the forest. “Yes, blue” I say, proud that my son is developing in language, awareness, and ability. I’m also dismayed that the forest I’ve brought my son to, hoping to teach him about the sacredness of the Earth, is filled with trash.
It occurs to me that the trash I’m surrounded by is an offering. The people who have left these offerings have shown, with their actions, how much they value the Body of the Earth. What are you offering? Is it the best of who you are and what you have to give? If offerings are a prayer, what are you praying with? What sorts of unspoken things are you saying to the world and your community with your habits? If the only offerings we make are the convenient offerings of coffee cups, wasted food, and misprinted copies, we invite similar energy into our lives. Take a moment. Take a breath. Take only what you need, and give of yourself in return.
I do my best to help my son learn the vital lesson of the Thank You letter. Gratitude is something I wish to nurture in his nature. I do my best to teach him that an Intentional Offering isn’t always a thing. Sometimes it’s money, food or goods, but sometimes it’s an offering of time, skill, or consideration. Sometimes it means inconveniencing ourselves for the good of the World. Carry a reusable water bottle. Enjoy your reusable mug. What do you “throw away” on a daily basis? Where does it really go?
When we go shopping, my son has his own, toddler-sized reusable shopping bag, and his own toddler-sized water bottle. Children learn by imitating adult behavior, and as Mama carries a reusable bottle & shopping bags (offerings of consideration), he needs one of his own. One of his first chores was to help Mama sort the recycling. We talk about reducing, reusing, and recycling every day. The concepts are clearer to him now than the words are when he says them, and I am a Proud Mama…and now our walks in the woods include a bag for the trash we find, which we sort for recycling later.
by Morwen Two Feathers Like a lot of other people, I got laid off during this last recession. When it came it was a blow, though I realized later I could have see it coming if I was looking. It was autumn, just past Equinox, time to slow down, turn inward, and that I did. Looking back, I saw that I had been seriously out of synch for a couple of years. My creativity had slowed to a crawl, and even in the warm growing season I’d felt curiously stagnant. Time for attunement.
When I first began to walk the pagan path more than 30 years ago, I was driven by a desire to connect with the sacredness I’d always felt in the woods. Although my studies in psychology, sociology and anthropology gave me a deep appreciation for the power of symbol, story, metaphor, and community ritual, I was not so interested in Deity or ceremonial magic. My investigations led me to a series of practices that were designed to align my life’s energy to the systemic cycles of the earth, moon, and sun. I found that careful attention and an intention to align myself with the cycles of the seasons and the moon, along with the life cycles of the animals and plants in my environment, helped me keep my life in perspective. And when I was attuned to the natural world in this way, the Universe delivered an endless stream of good fortune and synchronicity into my lap. I could not articulate any scientifically acceptable reason for this, but it worked out that way nonetheless.
It is easy to fall out of practice under stress, and the last couple of years have been filled with stresses including aging parents, a child hitting the teenage years, a changing primary relationship, and conflicts at work, not to mention my own dance with menopause. I just felt I didn’t have time or energy to stick with my daily meditations and attunements. As my practice slipped, though, my beliefs didn’t. I thought I was just as connected as always, until I was shocked awake by a layoff notice. And even then it took a winter of forced hibernation to make me realize just how disconnected I had become.
Nearly all the choices I make in my life are grounded in my pagan beliefs, including my volunteer work on sustainability in my town as well as my choice to seek work in the nonprofit sector, my consumption habits, my parenting, and more. Yet being forced to stop and take stock has made me realize that for me paganism is more a practice than a set of beliefs. And an interesting thing happened when I began practicing attunement again. Spring Equinox came, and I could feel the sap rising in the trees and in my own soul. And after months of sending out resumes with nary a peep in response, a week after Equinox I was contacted and asked to apply for three different jobs in one day. As I write this it’s still in process and I’m not sure where I’ll end up. But it’s good to feel the energy moving again, and to know that practice, not belief, is the key.
*** Attunement Practice for Connecting with Food:
With your plate of food in front of you, come to inner stillness. Meditate on the source of each ingredient in your meal. Where was it grown? How did it get to your table? Be aware that all food comes from the Earth, and ultimately from the Sun, the source of all energy on our planet. Be thankful for all the human hands that brought the food from its origins to your plate.
“Mother Earth, bless this food. Fruit of your body, fruit of your womb.”
Enjoy your meal mindfully. Over time you may find your choices of what to eat shift. Listen to your inner wisdom.
In fairy tales, beings often appear in guises. A spirit appears in the guise of a fox. A god comes to earth in the guise of an old woman. In traditional European cultures, people took on guises as well. In Scotland, people dressed as spirits of the dead at Samhain, or changed their appearances to trick evil spirits out of harming them. In story and ritual, the appearance of guises teaches us that things are not always what they seem and that we should look carefully before judging or dismissing something.
When I work magically with a guise it teaches me the same lesson. I am not always what I seem, and I should look carefully before judging or dismissing ideas about who I am or could be.
Guising gives me the opportunity to take a look at what I consider to be beyond my own boundaries. When I guise as a being who is deeply wild, I can embody more wildness than I can ever imagine having in my ordinary life and self. In doing so, I gain a chance to question those limits: am I really tame and civilized as think? Is there wildness I didn’t see or recognize in me? What else am I missing when I say and act as though I am not wild?
Guising also works to free me from the ways that habit and expectation limit my perceptions of others and of the world. Sometimes things seem clearer, even harsh, through new eyes, and at other times they look softer and less clear. Knowing how different even the very familiar can look reminds me to find out what I can see when I really look, even with my everday eyes.
No matter how deep or magical my connection with a being I am guising is, in the end, I must come back to a shape that’s nearly the same as the one I left. In that “nearly,” though, lie the most powerful lessons of guising: the ones we bring back to our everyday lives.
At Rites, there were several opportunities to take on a guise. Did you choose to do this work there or somewhere else, or to interact with someone in guise? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.