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Summer Solstice 2021: Reverence

As has been the case for many of our rituals in this turn of the Wheel, this one had a lot of adjustment and adaptation. This raises an interesting question for me as a religious person in this 21st century, especially since my religion is rooted in the cycles and processes of Earth Itself: if circumstances (by which I mostly mean the weather) don’t favor the ritual I had planned at the time I’d planned it, do I postpone the ritual until more favorable circumstances arrive, or do I adapt the ritual to the circumstances? The former gets me the ritual I envisioned, with the spiritual impact I was hoping for. But the latter reminds me that I may be my own spiritual authority, but I’m rooted in the interdependent communion of all things, and I’m far from the authority of that. Pagan plans and Earth laughs, to mess up the old adage.

So, with temperatures unexpectedly (though not unwelcomely) tumbling after weeks in the mid- to high-90s F, dinner outside in the small but precious ecosystem of our yard turned into dinner by the open back windows, well bundled against the chill. The ritual’s basic structure stayed the same: dinner in sacred space, fully immersed in the nature that we are and are in, with no screened devices.

It was harder than it sounds. Leora and I have multiple identification apps on our phones. We struggled against the impulse to dive for them at the first note of birdcall, the first wave of an unfamiliar leaf, the first wisp of white. We desire to know, to sort into boxes labeled “house sparrow,” “creeping bellflower,” “altocumulus.” This desire is ancient within us, hearkening back to when our wellbeing depended on knowing whether an animal was friend or foe, a plant food or poison, a cloud a signal of drought or flood. Even without that necessity, sometimes it’s just cool to know what other lives I share my space with: what bird makes that mournful cry in the later afternoon? what’s that plant taking over that part of the yard?

But for me, when curiosity replaces necessity, the identification can sometimes disconnect. I gain “mourning dove” and lose the shiver of that haunting coo. I gain “wild geranium” and lose the particular delicacy and hue of each blossom. At those times, I have to put away my field guides and ID apps and be with and in all this incredible life. Present. Reverent.

After dinner, we did a three-card tarot reading. It was my first time looking at a deck since December. I think it’ll be a long time, if ever, before I bring the cards back into my personal practice. But as a way for Leora and me to look at our lives now and our path forward together, it’s pretty fun.

The ritual wasn’t what I had planned. It was what it needed to be. That is part of the Mystery.

Blessed be.

Photo by David Clode via Unsplash

Witchy

May Day 2021: Embodiment

Yes, I see you looking at the post date here. Eli, you may be thinking, it’s almost June! Summer Solstice is three weeks away! Why are you just now posting about May Day?

The answer, gentle reader, is this: grad school.

On May 15, 2021, my beloved, smart, and persistent spouse Leora finished their Master of Social Work degree. May Day itself was smack dab in the whirlwind of their final assignments. Then, between post-school recovery and the flurry of well-deserved celebrations that basically took the place of an actual graduation ceremony, yesterday was our first chance to celebrate May Day. So we took it.

This is one of the greatest advantages to being a naturalist. I know my deity won’t be upset if I celebrate a Sabbat late, because my deity is too busy being the entire planet to worry about when (or whether) I celebrate its seasons. Was it weird to celebrate May Day this close to Summer Solstice? A little, yeah. But it still felt like a celebration of the energy that May Day represents: that burst of creative and generative energy, the speeding up of plant and animal growth and activity, the return of heat and fire, even to our chilly northern climes. For me, as long as I feel climatologically and atmospherically appropriate celebrating what a Sabbat represents, then I’m going to go ahead and do it.

The ritual itself was uber-simple, even considering our commitment to a year of pared-down celebrations. We acknowledged sacred space and went to the Midtown Farmers Market. We brought fresh local produce. Later that night, we put some of that produce on flatbread pizzas and made a simple syrup with the rest. That’s it. And that’s not it.

Ever since we moved to the Longfellow area of Minneapolis, the MFM has been a sacred place for us. Few years have passed when we haven’t attended the market’s first day, coming as it does so close to both May Day and our anniversary. One of those years was 2020, with the first Saturday in May falling in the midst of the worst of the early-COVID panic. Minnesota’s Stay at Home order was firmly in place, and chaos was mostly the order of the day. A stripped-down version of the market opened, but with the perfectly sensible restriction that only one person per household could enter the space at a time. Leora and I couldn’t bring ourselves to go alone. Market Opening Day has always been a family and community event for us.

This year, Leora and I are fully vaccinated, and most folks have a firmer handle on how to navigate each other in a COVID world. Also, grad school is done. Going to the market felt not like “getting back to the way things were” but moving forward in the way things are. A little more considered. A little more aware of our fellow human beings. What a wonderful way to celebrate the Sabbat of embodiment.

Image via the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization

Witchy

Spring Equinox 2021: Accountability

Exactly one year ago, as (at least here in the US) COVID-19 was turning many of our lives world upside down, I was reading Sasha Sagan’s For Small Creatures Such as We. That book has profoundly impacted me as I’ve planned this cycle of seasonal rituals, and none more so than Spring Equinox.

In the book Sagan talks (among many other incredible things; seriously, y’all, read this book if you have interest in ritual creation of any kind, and I definitely don’t mean just Pagan rituals) about the importance of Yom Kippur for individual and community healing. She laments that secular culture has no equivalent day of atonement and accountability. In the absence of a separate deity or intermediary to hear and absolve our misdeeds, Sagan encourages us to offer our apologies and amends to the actual beings we’ve wronged.

Sagan likes March 4th for this practice, noting that, “when you say it out loud, in English, it sounds like a bold command. It’s a pun that seems to cry out a directive to improve.” I’m sure I had this passage in mind when I chose Spring Equinox, the closest Sabbat to March 4, as our accountability day.

Accountability also fits well with my personal view of Spring Equinox. I’ve always experienced the equinoxes as times of pause, moments where everything balances and we hang, almost suspended, in the fulcrum. At Fall Equinox, we make sure we have the resources to get through the cold, dark stillness of Autumn and Winter ahead. At Spring Equinox, we make sure we have the resources to get through the hot, bright frenzy of Spring and Summer ahead. I suspect that will be especially true in 2021 as, in many parts of the world, increased COVID vaccination means that people can start gathering again and will probably do so in droves. I’ve heard people refer to the COVID pandemic as “the Great Pause,” and, for a lot of us, that pause is starting to speed up again. That makes it feel to me like a time well-suited to apologies and amends. How wonderful to “march forth” into what is for many of us the most active part of the year without the weight of past harms, whether done by us or to us, weighing us down.

Continue reading “Spring Equinox 2021: Accountability”
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Imbolc 2021: Creativity

Here at Tangleroot, we’ve long called Imbolc “the art and cheese holiday.” Cheese because, etymologically, “Imbolc” comes either from Old Irish i mbolc, “in the belly,” referring to the farm animals, especially ewes, that are often pregnant at this time of year in warmer climes, or oimelc, meaning “ewe milk.” Here in Minnesota, it’s early for lambing, but we will never pass up an opportunity to celebrate all things dairy.

Art because Imbolc is traditionally a celebration of the Celtic goddess Brigid. I’m as non-deistic as they come, but I have a long and complex relationship with Brigid, and it seems fitting to adopt one of her attributes (goddess of inspiration) as part of our Imbolc celebrations.

Imbolc is, for me, also a Sabbat about keeping promises. After Winter Solstice, we know, both scientifically and from past experience, that the days are getting longer. But around here, it takes a while for that to be apparent to our senses. Based on my schedule, around Imbolc is when I really start to see that increase in light. Imbolc keeps the promise that Winter Solstice made. So I want my Imbolc celebrations to be about keeping promises that past me made and my executively dysfunctional ass then promptly forgot.

So we set our sacred space. We made delicious flatbread pizzas, and while they cooked, we talked about promises that we’d made to each other that we hadn’t delivered on yet. We also talked about new promises looking toward Spring Equinox. We ate pizza and drank honey-cardamom steamers (so. good.), and then we worked on our current craft projects while we watched Walking Shadow Theatre’s stream of their 2013 production of Sleepy Hollow.

To be honest, it wasn’t that different from a lot of Saturday night date nights Chez Tangleroot. But by doing it with real intention and mindfulness, and attention to what’s going on in the world around us, we made it a truly sacred night to honor and connect to the season. It may sound cheesy, but that’s what I crave most from my Sabbat arts. Promise.

Witchy

Good King Wenceslas

Hello again, all! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas if you celebrate and just a lovely Friday if you don’t. I know it’s been a fair weirder winter holiday season than many of us have ever experienced. I hope you’ve all found ways to still find meaningful connection with what matters to us – family, faith, nature, self – even when it looked totally different than it has in years past.

Here’s our last winter holiday song of 2020, “Good King Wenceslas.” I’m posting it today because 1) I figured a lot of folks wouldn’t be internetting much yesterday; and 2) Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen, which turns out to mean St. Stephen’s Day, which turns out to be December 26th.

This way to the Wenceslas!

And so we come to the end of our holiday music journey together for the year. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Please consider leaving a comment to let me know! I know that one lone Pagan naturalist with a recorder is insufficient substitute for all the holiday concerts that had to be canceled this year, but I hope I’ve at least brought a little fun into your month. Stay safe, stay hopeful. I’ll probably do this again next year, even if we’ve all emerged by then into the sunlight of a new post-COVID reality. There are plenty more holiday songs where these came from!

Much love for a brighter and more just 2021,

-Eli

Other posts in this series

Photo from engraving by Brothers Dalziel, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons