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”
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”
Witchy

The Holly and the Ivy

The Winter Solstice is tomorrow! Yay! Leora and I will be celebrating in epic fashion, which I’ll be writing about here later. In the meantime, here’s a song!

By next year, I hope to have learned a real Winter Solstice song. For now, we’ll make do with “The Holly and the Ivy,” the most Pagan Christmas carol I know how to play. I mean, have you looked at the opening lyrics?

The holly and the ivy
When they are both full grown
Of all trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown

O, the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing in the choir

Yeah, sure, there’s bits after that about Mary bearing sweet Jesus Christ. But… “the rising of the sun and the running of the deer”? “The holly bears the crown”? That’s feels like straight-up nature reverence, y’all. Like, yes, yes, we love Mary and Jesus – but have you seen that holly berry, as red as any blood?

“The Holly and the Ivy” puts me in mind of those quaint, remote English villages someone’s often stumbling across in cozy mysteries, where Paganism and Christianity exist inextricably – if not always comfortably – together. It’s a metaphor for something, I’m sure.

Blessed Solstice, all!

Other posts in this series:

Photo by Rick Barrett of Ambitious Creative Co., via Unsplash.

photo by me
deathwork, Witchy

Samhain 2020: Wholeness

As a Pagan in Minnesota, one of the first lessons I learned—and continue to relearn—is how to adapt rituals on the fly, especially those planned for outside. Spending an hour toasting the Ancestors in the cemetery where Leora’s grandmother is buried seemed like a great idea as I planned these rituals in August when it was humid and in the upper 80s (F). It seemed like a crummy idea when the actual day arrived with a predicted high of 31 (0 C) and a windchill of 24 (-4 C).

We adapted. We set up a small altar in our living room and settled on the couch. We drank apple cider mulled with cinnamon, cardamom, and orange peel and traded memories of our beloved dead, beginning with the most recent (Kiara Madison-Cook. What is remembered, lives) and then meandering generally backward to our hazy earliest losses. We shared the memories however they came and let ourselves remember the difficult times as well as the good. Although we missed being at Nanny’s grave, this felt intimate and moving in a way that standing more formally in the cemetery might not have.

Once we’d said everything we needed to, we sang the marvelous “Bone by Bone” to honor and remember all the lives and deaths that have shaped us, spoken and unspoken, known and unknown. We wrote a few words or drew symbols representing characteristics of our beloved dead that we want to embody more in the months ahead. One of the most profound ways the dead live on is through us; if we admire something about the way they lived their lives, why not endeavor to bring that quality into our own lives? Those papers will sit on our main altar until at least Imbolc, to remind us of the work we’re carrying forward.

We bundled up and made our way to the back yard. We each cut a lock of hair and and buried it, speaking the words of the Earth-Dweller’s Creed:

To Earth all life returns;
From Earth all life rises up.

We don’t believe in a personal afterlife, but we believe—we know—that when we die, the Earth will take our bodies back and make new forms from them. It is a promise we all receive, and one we make in return (and the main reason I’m so adamant about green burial). It is the most sacred rebirth I can imagine. We give a bit back now, to remind ourselves of the greater return to come.

And that was the end of the ritual proper.

We’re revisiting our Equinox list to make sure we’re making progress on preparing for Winter. And I’ll be revising one of my end-of-life planning documents, in the spirit of the season (Leora gets a pass this year, because grad school). I like my rituals to have after-work.

So why “wholeness”? Why is that the value I chose to associate with a holiday so often focused on death, grief, and loss? Precisely because of that focus. I’m a deathworker. I’ve seen far too many times the impacts of rampant overcultural death denial and truncated and disenfranchised grief on our lives and communities, especially those of us of marginalized identities. To be whole, I believe we must accept all aspects of life, even its end. We don’t have to like it, but we do have to acknowledge and accept it. The more we show up for death, the more we can show up in life.