Sunday, February 11, 2024

A Rite of Passage and A Study Friend

On February 3, 2024, I had the privilege to lead the service and hear the oath of a new priest. While this is not the first rite of passage or even clergy oath I have facilitated, this one is definitely different, and these moments, these memories, reframe the perspectives and method of engagement for my future endeavors as a mentor and spiritual companion. 

I have been serving as Z's mentor for a few years now, and we've connected through our parallel study. As he was working on his courses for the first circle and Ordination, I was managing the third circle and requirements for Elevation to Senior Priest. As the events of the weekend retreat where we hosted the ordination rite begin to fade, I am left with key takeaways regarding the depth of this experience. 

For me, serving as Z's mentor has been different than previous and other existing relationships I have. While Z is perfectly capable of managing the study program work on his own, the types of questions and topics for discussion we've had have been more deeply spiritual and wholistic in that the way this work changes us as a person held position in the forefront. What he sought in our mentor relationship was (and is) different than other relationships I have. If I am honest, I wager I have received more lessons, insight, and learnings from our work together than he likely gleaned for himself. 

The biggest item, and one that makes this whole experience feel different, is our communal dedication to growth through study and experience. Rev. William Ashton talks about a type of relationship in the Jewish tradition known as Chavrusa, or Havruta. According to My Jewish Learning, Jews seldom study the Torah or Talmud alone, preferring to study in pairs or small groups. Havruta translates to “fellowship,” and it is in this fellowship relationship where the pair wrestle with the meaning of the passages of the texts, filling the hall with the sounds of discussion and debate to create an atmosphere known as beit midrash, a holy study hall.  As it states in the Talmud: “Two scholars, through discussion and debate, help to sharpen each other’s insight into the text” (BT Ta’anit7a). While this is a recent phenomenon, the concept sings in my spirit, and I haven’t had this level of intensity in my own religious study with another so close to what I was doing. While the actual events are technically different, working toward a rite of passage with another changes the perception of the work and creates a connection not as accessible in those who are further removed from that experience.  I have seen the magic of this type of Havruta study partner relationship before in watching Rev William engage with one of his closest companions on the path. Now that I am seeing this in Z, I am beginning to understand. 

I bestow many blessings on his new journey, his continued success, and most of all, if I may be selfish, on our continued study and growth together as peers. Congratulations, Z!

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Be Kind to my Body

My internal work for this first season lies in being kind to my body. 

I am a Gen X woman who grew up on the Seventeen Magazine/Barbie ideal. We were always compared to unattainable images spoon-fed to us in all avenues of television and movies. Before Social Media and cell phones were a thing, we had to go to the mall and make phone calls on pay phones to invite our friends to join us. While there, we were bombarded with capitalism-based advertisements designed to make us purchase new clothes, or makeup, or diet pills, preferably all three. It was madness, and we had no idea.

I have done loads of work in this area since I became an adult, but the negative self-talk is always there. Body image is the one thing I can't completely get over, the last great symbol of the damage of my youth. I have gone through many diet and exercise phases, given up and overindulged, and constantly battled with weight and self-acceptance. I don't come from a line of thin women, not on my father's side anyway, and unlike my sister, I have battled being overweight since I was in elementary school. And people are mean. 

People are mean, ads are designed to make you feel bad about yourself so you'll spend money, and I have adopted some coping mechanisms that aren't healthy. The biggest lesson I have learned in my head that needs to sink into my heart is the idea of internalized oppression. Internalized oppression is a term used most often in the psychology of marginalized peoples.  It is "a recognized understanding in which an oppressed group accepts the methods and incorporates the oppressive message of the oppressing group against their own best interest" (Wikipedia, of all places. Their entry is actually very good.). When people are targeted, discriminated against, or oppressed over a period of time, they often internalize (believe and make part of their self-image – their internal view of themselves) the myths and misinformation that society communicates to them about their group. People with disabilities might internalize the ideas that they are incapable of doing anything meaningful, that they are a burden to their families and to society, and that they’re worth less than people without a disability. People of color might internalize the myth that they are not good workers, that they are lazy/unintelligent, that they are worth less than anyone whose skin is lighter than their own, even within their own race. Women might internalize the stereotype that they are not good at math and science, that they must always defer to men and to women who are "better" than they are because of their appearance, or that they are worth less than women who meet more of the societal standards for beauty.  It is individual and completely lives within the mind as a silent voice of negativity upholding the stereotypes of our society.

My work this season, then, is to make good choices for the health and well-being of my body, to take care of myself in addition to others instead of ignoring my own needs, and to notice and break the cycle of negative self-talk that tells me I am less-than for whatever reason. While I am not perfect and I have many lessons left to learn, I am good enough as I am and worthy of love and kindness. I may not meet the societal standards for beauty in any real way, but I have people who love and accept me, just as I am. I will be kind to my body. My body is not an apology, and I am worthy of love--even from myself.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Forecasting for 2024

This week, I began with the omen for the new year. I did a five-rune pull to see what this year's journey will entail. The layout (pictured below) is, in my opinion,  one of the only good thing I found in the Blum book on the runes (don't laugh; we've all probably read it at some point in our evolution).

  1. Overview: Where you are beginning. Fehu - Wealth, abundance, responsibility for hospitality
  2. Challenge: Information regarding what you are up against. Ansuz - Communication. 
  3. Action: What you may consider doing to move forward from this challenge. Ingwaz - Break open the seeds of possibility that new things may grow. 
  4. Sacrifice: Describes what you may need to give up or let go. Eihwaz - Connections in wider realms.
  5. New Beginning: Describes the place you will end up if you move forward on the defined path. Perthro - Luck, the fellowship of the hall.
The practice of pulling an omen for the new year is not new for me, and if memory serves, this has been a twenty-year practice of mine. Some years, it's been a tarot Celtic Cross, others, it was a rune pull of various numbers ranging from my standard three to a full casting, and I've done several that included multiple decks and runes in a blended system of intuitive selection. I've done then at sundown on NYE, at midnight, and like this year, during the light of day of the new year. 

This year's reading reminds me that I am starting for a place that is rich in resources. This rune is about the wealth that one already possesses and the responsibilities that places on us: "to whom much is given, much is required." I am in a place of wealth that is realized when shared. As this is also Freyja's rune, I find comfort and strength in my current place. 

My big challenge will be in communication, which honestly, has been a lifelong struggle of mine. I am a much better writer than talker, and when emotions are high, it gets worse. This is not a surprise, and it seems I am ready for the next layer of lessons as I delve deeper into this ability. 

The action presented to me is a principle many runesters find a bit of a mystery. Ingwaz, or Inguz, is not well defined compared to some of the others and typically is said to represent the energy required to break open a seed. When a seed is planted, it must sense the proper conditions to support the life inside are present, warmth, water, nutrients, etc. When these conditions are met, the shell softens and basically explodes to allow the new life within to take root and reach for the surface where it may grow and eventually bloom, if fostered--but that part is a different rune. For now, I will see what seeds I have planted in the soil around me and where I can help foster the conditions to allow it to do its thing. 

The thing I may be called to sacrifice is the World Tree, which for me, often denotes connections in various "realms" of my life such as work, home, local congregation, national organization, friends, and family. Perhaps I am spending too much of my focus on an area that is not where my gaze is best rested? I will be on the lookout for the application of this principle. 

Finally, after all this work is done, the resulting new beginning will be one of luck and fellowship. Like Ingwaz, Perthro is poorly defined and interpretations are varied. It typically is referred to as the "dice cup" pictured on its side, leaving us with the notion of the dice already thrown and a feeling of luck being with us. It is also perceived as a symbol of gaming with others. One does not tend to throw dice alone, and as such, represents the fellowship of the hall. 

Taken together, I have work to do this year to hone my relationships, allow seeds previously planted to either sprout or stop taking resources where they won't grow and improving my relationships with those around me. May I find the opportunities presented to me this year to bring this work to fruition and step freely into them with acceptance and purpose to move forward with one. 

Monday, January 1, 2024

A Vision for the New Year (2024)

At the end of December, I attended a women's gathering hosted by a local priestess to create vision boards with our intentions for the new year. I have never done a vision board, so I spent some time reading about them, their function, what goes on them, what goes into them, and how to use them for the defined period. 

My defined period is a full year, and the word I chose as my theme is ACCEPTANCE. In reflecting on 2023, I pulled out areas where I had internal work to do based on my reactions to events and experiences that affected me more deeply than others. What I found was a lack of acceptance for some keys items that are either out of my control or not as big of a deal as my lizard brain made them out to be. I did have some pretty big things happen, including surgery, COVID, workplace sabotage, and a new job. While there is much to be said about each of these, my intent here is not to analyze the events themselves but my own thoughts, feelings, and behavioral outcomes from living through them. I noted my lack of acceptance, even if only initially, and how personally I took things that were out of my control. 

NOTE: Acceptance does not mean approval or submission. It is more of an initial step in a larger process, a dropping of the proverbial pin in the map and marking my "you are here" location. Only when I know where I am can I take steps forward on the journey to where I am going. 

Here is the overall Vision board with my seasonal intentions for 2024:

Each season, there is a new focus, representative of areas where I've identified room for growth. I have never moved into a cycle of personal work this detailed and planned before, so I am feeling confident in my ability to make real strides. I plan on posting here often regarding my journey. 

I also remembered I owe you a post about Loki. I wrote a poem to Chaos instead last month, but there is more to come on that front as well!

May the newly born year bring you peace, love, and growth in ways you never thought possible, and may we all end 2024 knowing that the work we did this year was true and good. So say we all!

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

ADF Mother Grove Retreat 2023

Last time I was on the Mother Grove, we were not doing retreats, so I was delighted to attend this important event, if a little nervous about what to expect. After an eventful trip to Ohio followed by lunch with Eldest Minion (who is going to 25 this year, so I'm not sure how much longer I can get away with calling him that...) and an eventful drive to Toledo, we began the retreat with dinner and a discussion about the budget for 2024. It was robust and engaging, and we made several suggestions for adjustments needed to ensure we are set up for success for 2024. Of note, we will finally be liquidating the ADF store, which has been defunct for years, and investing some of our capital into a certificate of deposit. We also increased the stipends for our paid positions and added a line for paying folks for the work they do for the organization. There has not been an increase to these amounts in a decade, and I firmly believe in pay for work.

Since we had finished the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the term in May, we chose three additional goals for the first half of the new year:

Goal 1: ADF International
Create a process for managing applications for association status (NPO status) globally. ADF Germany will serve as a pilot.

Goal 2: Enhancing Annual Reporting
Revise Annual Reporting process and documentation for release to the general public with information about organizational performance in public-facing areas. Annual General Meeting content would cover the officer year (May-May) and supplement the annual reporting.
Stage 2:Once we align the annual report to the calendar year, we will supplement the annual meeting officer reporting to reflect January to May.

Goal 3: Raising ADF’s Profile
Create a committee to work on the various aspects of raising the ADF profile online (includes SEO and PR). We will seek a volunteer from within and if unsuccessful in finding a candidate, we will engage outside expertise.

We are also working on updating the Mission Statement, a process for approving website changes, glossary of ADF vernacular for non-members who are interested in ADF, important discussions about ADF Publishing, and several other tasks of importance to the organization. I am very excited about the upcoming changes to the Newsletter beginning in Q1. 2024 promises to be a productive and fruitful year!

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Honoring Chaos

I am sure anyone who knows anything about Loki and has been keeping up with my newly defined relationship with he and Sigyn will not be surprised when I say there has been some chaos in my life these last few months. Honestly though, it is all stuff that needed to be shaken up in the first place, and I am grateful for the gift of perspective that came in the quiet before the proverbial storm. 

My first walk-in immunization season as the medical administrator was busy! We had our ups and downs, but overall, we ended well, and I learned a lot to help make sure next year goes more smoothly. 

Family chaos can mostly be attributed to having a toddler around and all the fun and "uh-ohs" that comes with it. My grandson is both a joy and a menace, and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

We also had our annual retreat for the members of the Mother Grove, ADF's Board of Directors. I will write more about that later. It was a hard time of year to travel, but it was definitely worth it for what we achieved in that short amount of time. 

Here is a prayer I wrote to chaos in the thick of it last month. May the Spirits of Chaos be purposeful in the application of their craft!

Prayer to Chaos

In my rigidity, in my obstinance,
In the stubborn stick-to-it-ive-ness of my stance,
I call to the spirits of chaos and unpredictability
To aid in my quest for healthy flexibility.
I call to you to shake me up, to deviate my path.
I ask you to exchange my seriousness for a laugh.
When all else fails, I beg of you to open up my mind.
Please show me deep perspectives my rigidness leaves behind.
In our personal lives we seek order,
Believing this is to be the mortar
Keeping us from straying from the path we wish to tread.
But order without chaos leaves our inspiration dead.
Chaos, won’t you save me from a boring life of sameness.
Chaos, join me, help me melt into a mass that’s shapeless.
Only there may I be molded
Only there be better folded
Into the dough of life that bakes up nice
Flavorful ecstasy in every slice
Chaos, reign within, for just a little while.
At least enough my ordered mind to beguile.
And when the ordered-ness of me is taken full apart
Order, take the reins once more, the cycle to restart.
Spirits of Chaos, I honor you.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Holding Vigil - A Prayer

A dear friend of mine had a pretty big surgery, and while I was waiting and making offerings for their health and well-being, the following prayer came to me. I am pleased that everything went well and they are on the road to healing. 

Holding Vigil

Waiting, I kindle the Fire on my shrine, and touch incense to flame.
Watching the smoke from the offerings dance in the firelight,
I am reminded of all the times we danced and played,
The times we laughed and prayed,
The times we cried and mourned,
The times we celebrated and explored,
And I wait.
I wait for news from afar and send back the love we have shared these long years.
I have all the time in the world to give to wait and to pray for you.

[Image of a candle in a lantern with the above prayer on a black background]