New Year’s Reflections and Practices

Now that the mania of secular Christmas and New Year’s is petering out, I’m enjoying some of the rest and reflection to which Winter invites us. How about you?

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2018 was a slog for many of the people I’m closest to, but I honestly can’t complain. My family and I are well, and we have what we need. After struggling with school during his elementary years, my son transitioned to middle school with aplomb, which was a relief for the whole family. In addition to education, cooking and sharing meals are centers of our family’s life, and in the fall we removed and replaced our entire kitchen. I’m deeply grateful for the beautiful new space, and I look forward to sharing it with extended family and friends.

I dove deeper into hunger relief work by volunteering at our area’s food bank in 2018, where I assisted with nutrition education classes and worked in the garden.

I spent the past year reflecting on boundaries, and I initiated in earnest the challenging work of resetting boundaries with my family of origin. I also learned a lot about friendship.

Much of my energy in 2018 went into RN life, specifically on identifying my professional values and boundaries and approaching the ever elusive work/life balance. On NYE I gave notice at my current hospital position and will look for a position in the community in coming months.

I facilitated two public sabbat rituals at First UU in 2018. In our first, just before Samhain, we honored ancestors and celebrated the Cauldron of Changes in a lovely little circle of 13. For Winter Solstice we hosted 31 (!) in the circle, which was a pleasant surprise and a challenge. I think it went well; I got positive feedback, and I’ve identified some things I can work on as a ritual facilitator for a big group. Our regathered First UU Pagan community, which I’m calling the First UU Pagan Alliance, will not pursue membership in CUUPS at this time. Our minister Meg Barnhouse and I are planning a divination ritual with the runes for the Feb 2 sabbat.

I continued walking in Tejas Web’s New Moon Pentacle Walk as my schedule permitted in 2018, and my family and I attended Dandelion Gathering in October. I watched the Winter Solstice sunrise from Mt. Bonnell, as is my yearly custom.

During the past year I began studying the runes as a divination tool, and I began exploring what devotion might mean and look like for me. More in future posts.

I regret not gardening or traveling or camping or walking outside with Poe more often than I did in 2018 but plan to correct that this year. I’m certain to continue the work around boundaries and relationships that I began last year; minding the edges is just witch life.

I’ve eaten my New Year’s black-eyed peas and greens. When our firewood dries out from recent rains, I’ll burn a sprig of last year’s mistletoe, too.

Happy New Year to you and yours!

 

 

 

 

Winter Solstice 2018

“The Rebirth of the Sun,” adapted from Starhawk’s story in Circle Round:

By this time of year, the sun has grown old and tired. All year long the sun has worked hard, rising and setting, shining and shining, day after day. The sun has fed us throughout the year, giving energy to trees, flowers, and grasses so that they can grow and feed animals, including people, in turn. All year long Sun’s gravity has held tight to the spinning ball of Earth and the other whirling planets of our solar system. Sun has grown dizzy from watching it all! The days have grown shorter and the nights have grown longer because the poor, tired sun can barely make it up in the morning before needing to sleep again, by this time in the year.

Night, the Great Starry Mother, knows this. “Come to my arms and rest, child,” she says. “After all, I am your mother. You were born out of darkness billions of years ago, and you will return to me, when all things end. Let me cradle you now, as I shelter every galaxy and star in the cosmos.”

So Night has wrapped her great wings around the sun. Night is long, and Sun rests. Wrapped safely in Night’s arms, Sun grows younger and younger. For though these may be the longest nights, they are not the last. Sun rests and grows brighter and stronger, to be born out of Night once more.

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In our Solstice circle at First UU last night, we drummed and chanted and lit 365 candles to encourage Sun’s rest and returning strength. We kindled flames for the gifts and joys of the past year as well as for the challenges we faced and our regrets, for fire casts shadows, even as it offers protection and warmth.

A church member made this epic Yule log cake to share afterwards:

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Yes, those are meringue mushrooms with glittery cinnamon tops.

I hope you’ve had some wonderful Winter Solstice celebrations of your own, dear readers!

Dandelion Decomp

My family and I are back home after the Tejas Web Regional Dandelion Gathering, a lovely weekend of camping and circling with other Reclaiming Witches in the Texas Hill Country. We arrived a day later than planned, because this one woke up with a mysterious tail injury requiring X-rays and medication the morning we planned to leave town:

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The last-minute change of plans was ungrounding and tiring for all of us. Life with children, jobs, and multiple four-leggeds to care for is complicated. But, once confident that our pup was on the mend and in good hands, at last! we drove out to Dandelion, set up camp under the live oaks and Ashe junipers, and settled in.

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After weeks of rain and historic flooding in the Hill Country, the blue skies, dry breezes, and sunshine of this weekend were glorious.

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As was the opportunity to hug old friends, meet new ones, and share magic, fire, meals, and conversation.

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Products of the twig-weaving workshop for all ages that I led this weekend

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Fires for love, justice, and liberation

The facilitator of our closing circle invited us to say what we would take from the weekend, once the circle was open. Song, was the word that came up first and loudest for me. But I also left with a sense of gratitude, grace, and connection. I’m so deeply grateful for ancestors of blood, for ancestors of the Reclaiming tradition, for the beauty of the land, for community, for the many tools and allies I have on the path.

And now, after the ecstatic drumming, the laundry.

Dipping into the Cauldron of Changes

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Last weekend UU-Pagan ritual was celebrated again at First UU of Austin, facilitated by yours truly. Thirteen of us cast the circle in a grove just south of the sanctuary. We drummed, chanted, shared poetry and storytelling, honored ancestors, and tasted (Minister Meg’s wonderful homemade) apple sauce from the Cauldron of Changes on the Isle of Apples.

More than two years had passed, since Pagans circled at First UU with our previous group, Yew Grove Pagan Interfaith. The facilitator of that group circled with us last Sunday and thanked me afterwards, which meant the world.

I’m on a steep learning curve for facilitating public ritual, and I’m already reflecting on ways to improve and deepen this particular ritual for next year. Practical improvements are obvious and easy, like well-organized supplies for the crafting piece of the ritual. I think we could boost attendance by choosing our date and time well in advance, and by making sure that they don’t conflict with the meetings of other groups, especially those with overlapping interests. Several people who passed by the grove on their way inside to an Alphabet Soup meeting looked interested in what we were doing, for example. Oops.

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A variety of experience levels and ritual backgrounds were represented in our circle, including Reclaiming Witchcraft, Goddess-centered Spirituality, Heathenism, Appalachian Granny Magic, and neo-shamanism. Facilitating ritual that’s accessible and meaningful to such a diverse bunch, in which we can raise energy toward a shared intention without being too wordy with explanation, will be an ongoing challenge. I’m proud to report that we neither read much from paper nor succumbed to long-winded prose in our circle last weekend. There was touching, smelling, tasting, singing. The circle was cast and the magic worked; that’s first-circle success in my book o shadows.

Now to pack up for Tejas Web’s Dandelion Gathering this weekend, and next to plan another First UU circle for Winter Solstice.

Happy Samhain, y’all, however you keep it!

 

A Good Enough Witch is the Best Witch

What do you want from your wisecraft? I don’t know about you, but from my Witchcraft, I expect results. In general, my Witchcraft should support an ecstatic relationship with a the world as it is, a world full of many different people, processes, and stories. It should help me make meaning of mortality, of the wheel of birth and death, to borrow a Buddhist term. It should support me in living well, in flourishing, in becoming fully human.

But Witchcraft isn’t practiced in general. Which chants do I sing for that? Which herbs do I burn? A leaf is not just a leaf, you know. Which stories do I tell? To which spirits should I make offerings? There are so many from which to choose. Choice is freedom, but a sea of choices is enough to douse even the brightest flame.

What I want from Witchcraft is an experience, a feeling, one that comes from getting lost in the singing, the burning, the storytelling, and the offering. In other words: time to stop haunting all the options and actually turn up at the altar. The magic won’t be perfect, but it will work, and it will be enough.

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A word of power: VOTE

“Happy for the outcome; sad he had to be treated so badly,” a woman commented on my mother’s Facebook post in celebration of the Senate’s confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh. My mother and her friend teach preschool together in deeply conservative Northeast Texas, where I grew up. Lots of nice, white Southern ladies live in my hometown, ladies who these days seem to be even more passionately Republican than their husbands are.

It’s tempting to excuse their choices. I know these women. They taught me grade school, I attended parties they hosted, I sat next to them in mass on Sundays. They never did me ill; some of these women were even occasional sources of kindness and encouragement during my childhood. And yet they helped elect a self-proclaimed sexual assaulter to the White House, and now they openly celebrate the confirmation of an accused sexual assaulter to the Supreme Court.

It’s tempting to be wounded by their actions, but to take recent events personally would be to misunderstand. The nice white ladies with whom I’ve shared the red soil and green trees of the Piney Woods are just publicly performing their submission to the patriarchy’s display of power. If they’re compliant, at least they’ll fare better than people of color, or so the thinking goes. It’s an old deal, but a rotten one, since we women, all of us, are subordinates and sex objects under the system, and compliance is no guarantee of safety.

It’s tempting to be wounded by their actions, but the next election’s only 29 days away. This is no time to give away power like that. We must dispel fogs of discouragement and despair. We must gather the red hot rage of betrayal and injustice and channel it into our most potent prayers and spells, all of which contain the same word of power: VOTE.

2999130055_8697986e51_bPhoto by Theresa Thompson via Creative Commons