Pagan

My Pagan Values: Balance

For this turn of the Wheel, instead of writing about my Sabbat rituals, I’ll be writing about the eight values I chose for each Sabbat this year – the whys and wherefores; what each value means to me within the context of the holiday. I hope you enjoy!

The Chariot is my favorite Tarot card. Any deck I’m interested in, I look at that card first. If I don’t resonate with it, that deck and I won’t spend much time together. Decks that feature a bicycle are (unsurprisingly) a big hit for me, although at the moment I’m in love with the Chariot from Isabella Rotman’s This Might Hurt tarot, where the rider effortlessly balances on two motorcycles at once! Swoon! In my incredible spouse Leora’s deck-in-progress, the Resilient Tarot, I am the Chariot, riding my bike across the card with a look of sheer glee on my face. That’s how much I love the Chariot.

What does the Chariot mean to me? Balance. Getting the shit in my life into enough balance that I can bring some order to the chaos and keep moving forward. Balance between motion and rest. Between filling myself up and pouring myself out for community. Between meticulously planning my life and letting the tides of happenstance carry me.

Balance is dynamic. Staying upright on a bicycle at rest is very difficult. Even in a track stand, that seemingly motionless bike is often full of small motions that keep in in place. Balance isn’t a one-and-done state of being. It’s a constant process of awareness and adjustment.

I value that greatly in my spiritual life and practice. I strive to live in balance with Earth Itself and with All That Is. That looks different on different days, in different seasons of the year, in different seasons of my life. Nothing is static, so balance can never be static. I find a still point at the center, and then the center moves, and I must move with it.

This may, then, be a strange value to celebrate at Fall Equinox, despite the obvious association of equal night and day. After all, I can’t do anything about the balance of the equinoxes: Earth orbits; Earth tilts; we have one moment of perfect balance, and then we move on to greater darkness or greater light. But the Equinoxes do feel like moments when Earth’s journey and mine align for a day, and I want to celebrate that.

The brevity of the equinoxes also reminds me to give myself grace. If Earth Itself can’t constantly maintain balance, it’s more than okay that I can’t, either. I stop moving. The bike tips over. I fall down. Then I get up and pedal again, and I move back into balance, whatever that looks like today.

Blessed be.

Pagan

This turn of the Wheel: a review

With Lammas 2021 behind us, I’ve completed my yearlong experiment in minimalist rituals. How did it go? How do I want to proceed?

tl;dr version: I loved it. I want to keep doing it. I need to make several decisions about how I’m going forward, but I feel I’ve prepared the ground well for those decisions and whatever grows from them. That’s the short version. Read on for the loooong version.

A photo of Earth from space. A circle is drawn around the Earth with the Wheel of the Year drawn around it in circles and lines.
Wheel of the Year with Earth by Bart Everson via Flickr
Continue reading “This turn of the Wheel: a review”
Pagan

Lammas 2021: Autonomy

Bread is one of the the most fascinating human creations. It’s part science and part alchemy. It connects us to Earth, which gives us the wonders of grain, water, and yeast, and to millennia of ancestors who have fed themselves, their families, and their communities through this incredible process. Also, it’s delicious. So Lammas – literally a holiday for bread – is a big deal around here.

Of course there’s more to it than, “Yay bread!” (Although… “Yay bread!”) Lammas begins the harvest, when folks start to reap the fruits of careful sowing and tending. As a white person in the urban US, I have the privilege of year-round access to grocery stores and restaurants. I’m in little danger of starving to death even if my own personal harvest (mulberries. so many mulberries) isn’t enough to see me through the winter. In spite of that, or maybe because of it, I feel so much power in the reminder that, even if we feel disconnected from the land, we depend on it, and the people who tend it, for the food we need to live. Also, like any good postmodern neo-Pagan, I’m a sucker for a good harvest metaphor. I also feel a communal aspect in Lammas, related to the fact that, for many years, our Reclaiming community’s Lammas celebrations began early that morning, with many of us gathering in a community-member’s kitchen to bake bread for the afternoon’s ritual.

All of this is why Leora and I began our Lammas ritual this year by making skillet biscuit bread and mulberry quick jam (so. many. mulberries). While our cauldrons bubbled on the fire and filled our house with irresistible smells, we checked in with some tarot cards to see where we are and where we want to focus for this next segment of the Wheel. Then, in keeping with the day’s “autonomy” aspect, we parted ways for individual time doing whatever felt sacred to each of us in the moment. I don’t know how Leora spent their time (though I think wood burning tools came into play), but I spent mine lying on the ground in the backyard, doing death meditations and feeling my body dissolve into the body of the Earth. We ended by reconvening and – you guessed it – eating delicious bread and jam. (Seriously. If you like bread or fruit compote, try these recipes. So tasty and sooooo easy!)

Our Lammas altar

It was exactly the kind of ritual I love: logistically uncomplicated but so spiritually fulfilling. I missed the large community aspects of past Lammases, but in our community of two we celebrated both the autonomy and the interdependence that make our lives possible. We examined what we’re harvesting in our lives (besides mulberries). And we created space for spiritual practices that held meaning for us, not just whatever the ritual outline dictated came next.

Also: yay, bread!

Pagan

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

Pagan

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”