Witchy

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

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

Winter Solstice 2020: Interdependence

One thing I don’t hear talked about much in Pagan circles is that sometimes you can plan the best ritual, and then it just… falls flat, either for you or for others attending. It’s seldom your fault (or at least, it’s seldom entirely your fault), but it still sucks.

And it’s okay anyway.

I’d been looking forward to Leora and my Winter Solstice ritual for weeks. The concept was simple: for 24 hours (from just before sunset Sunday to just after sunset Monday), we would have a ritual retreat day of rest and reflection. It called back to the spiritual retreat days that Leora and I used to do several times a year back in the day, and gave us a time to honor the quiet contemplativeness of the longest night of the year.

That is exactly what we did. And I was miserable.

Continue reading “Winter Solstice 2020: Interdependence”
image by Ri Butov
Witchy

The Dreidel Song

Since September, I’ve been reteaching1 myself how to play the soprano recorder. I’m enjoying it immensely; I hadn’t realized how much I’ve missed playing an instrument. It’s become an important part of my meditative and spiritual practice as the cooling weather and lengthening darkness have kept me increasingly inside.

My beginner’s method book is full of holiday songs. Makes sense: a lot of them have very simple, repetitive melodies, and they’re very familiar, so I know instantly if I’ve made a mistake. I’m learning a few to share with you, to bring some extra holiday spirit to you this very weird holiday season.

Am I good? Heavens, no. Squeaks abound! But I’m having a lot of fun, and maybe you could use a little fun today?

Let’s get rolling with “The Dreidel Song,” because Hanukkah starts tonight. Chag urim sameach!

1. By which I mean I spent a few weeks learning how to coax something like music out of an instrument much like this in fourth grade. Which was a long time ago.

Other posts in this series:

Photo by Ri Butov via Pixaby