Pagan

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

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”
Pagan

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.

Pagan

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”
Pagan

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.