Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Beltaine with the Druids

This past weekend I went to a Druidic Ritual for Beltaine. I have been a solitary for some time, and I was a bit nervous when I came into the park. I had already taken a twenty minute tour of Westerville to get there, and my nerves were on edge. I am not the type of person to open myself to others in religious circles. I am definitely not the type of person who goes to functions alone, either. But, here I was. The park was clean. No one was in all black, and no one had thier Wiccan-Whacker out (long story).

I was not approached by anyone right away. This is new for me, as I have previously been to gatherings for groups that were heavily recruiting. I was given direction as far as my food items were concerned, and then left to my own devices. I met a few grove members, but none of the Wiccans. Hmm.

The ritual itself has been slightly life-altering. I feel different somehow, but I am still internalizing everything at this point. There were several key points that I am slowly digesting for every bit and piece of knowledge I can glean from them.

Instead of casting a circle, they open the gates. Not the same thing!! When those gates were opened, it was like the flood waters poured over me in a tidal wave. Very intense, but then it equalized. I had a moment of vertigo, but then the peacefulness returned....but altered. It was as though we really did open a gate and let them join us. I know I am not doing this justice, but I've never felt anything like it. It is hard to explain. All of a sudden, we were no longer alone. We were in the presence of greatness.

On the meditation: I had no trouble picturing the beautiful trees and the stone altar, though it was smaller than I would have thought previously. The book was old and appeared to be well used. The first picture was fiery and barren. The rains fell in a sheet and everything went grey and dismal...even more dismal than before. The next picture was shaped the same, but the greens and reds and blues were vivid and breath-taking.

I was quite disturbed from this point on, for my meditation went south. The picture of myself was of a very young, teenage me, all alone. As the pictures progressed, they were all still me at various stages in my life, in all of which I was alone. It was here that my eyes began to water, and I felt that familiar heaviness in my chest. When we got to the last picture, the one of all of us, standing in that moment, I was so grateful that I was not alone in that picture, but my mind was trying desperately to turn the page to see if the next one was back to just me...

On the omens--I asked for more information about the reading we got from the Oghams, and I was told to go look it up. I cannot tell you how shocked, surprised and GRATEFUL I am for this. I am trying to break a bad habit of believing everything that I am told, as well as breaking the habit of hanging out with people who just tell me more and more, whether or not it is true, for as long as I am willing to listen. Thank you, for the wonderful lesson in this. Needless to say, I copied down the Oghams and have meditated on their meaning for me.

Three questions asked of the Oghams.
Has our offering been accepted? Witch Hazel A resounding yes! Witch Hazel is the tree of Druidic Wisdom. It is used for healing purposes and to give strength of will. Inspiration and protection were also common uses. It is not associated with a specific deity, but it does posses masculine energy.
Offering for us in return? The spiral path. Honeysuckle was used to provide privacy because of its winding, vine-like growth. It was used to help people stop living in the past. It has a tendency to suffocate the tree that it grows on, like the past can suffocate your hope of moving forward. In magical purposes, it is used to increase psychic awareness. It is associated with the Goddesses Cerridwen and Gaia.
Further needs the gods have of us? Look to the winds. Aspen was used to overcome fear of unknown things. It has healing properties associated with reducing fever and pains. It contains salicin, which is similar to aspirin. It is used for courage, communication and endurance. It is also associated with the Goddesses Morrigan, Hecate and Persephone and the Gods Zeus, Hercules and Apollo. White poplar, specifically, is used for inner guidance, determination, rebirth, omens and signs, overcoming fear and doubt and finding creative solutions. At this point in the ritual, I was buzzed by a bumblebee.

On Bumble Bees: If your energy is scattered, the bumblebee can show you how to regain focus. When a bumblebee buzzes you, it is asking you to follow its lead. If you do so, you will arrive at the destination most appropriate for your new life awakening. Bumblebees represent strong past-life ties connected to the ancient secrets of longevity, as well as the power of service. Their movement from plant to plant reminds us of the interconnectedness of all living things. In closing, the bumblebee holds the secrets of life and service. (The Cycle of Cower Animal Totem Book)

On my way home....
As I was leaving the park, with my notes and my homework, I quietly began my drive down the main road of the park. As I was reaching the bottom of a hill and cresting onto the next, a crane flew in front of my car. Apparently, the water was nicer for him on the other side of the road. He floated to about three feet from the road, and then just stood in the water. I was so startled that I almost stopped in my tracks. I have never had any association with birds. I believe my spirit guide is a wolf. Wolves eat cranes. I am trying not to read to superficially into this, but I think it is significant enough to note.

The Crane: In Oriental cultures, the crane is the symbol of good fortune and longevity. When it appears in our life, it means good fortune is at hand such as physical health, emotional stability, mental clarity or spiritual awakening. A running crane can take three steps per second and may use its wings for balance and speed. They typically run into the wind to achieve the lift necessary for flight, but if alarmed, they can spring directly into flight. Cranes are aggressive when fighting and use a complex system of threat behaviors including physical postures and vocalizations. They remind us of the importance of proper timing and physical flexibility. They help us to connect with our primal origins and teach us how to utilize the power of sound appropriately. They hold the medicine of self-expression and show us how to vocalize our truth through singing, speaking or chanting. Cranes challenge us to stay focused and centered.
The crane is a soaring bird, and like that of the human spirit, it knows no limits. They fly with their neck and head outstretched as if they were seeing into the future. Their legs extend out behind them, holding them to the past. When the past and the future meet, wisdom awakens. Cranes help us to discover our personal grace and agility. They teach us to express ourselves with integrity and conviction. Most importantly, the crane restores our faith in ourselves and in spirit.

In closing, I think they will be seeing me again. I have realized from this one experience that I am in need of great change. I have been a terrible Wiccan. I said as much to my husband, and do you know what he said? He told me he never thought I had much in common with them anyway. (Six years later, he tells me this! Bless his heart for his patience with my path.) There has been something missing for a long time, but I finally feel as though I have taken a new step off the spiral and into the right direction. Now, I am watching for all the signs on the wind that I can find. Praise be the Gods and Goddesses that have given me these gifts of knowledge.

I had nothing to offer when I came but myself. My offering was accepted, and in return, they have agreed to show the way out of the spiral. What I do next depends on the signs they give me. May they also grant me the eyes to see and the heart to fulfill their request.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

This is what I believe.

I was recently asked what my beliefs are, and I found to my chagrin that I had a hard time communicating them. I am writing now in an effort to sort out the truths and ideals in my head from the rest of the bologna.

There are always certain "hot spots" of religion that people want to have addressed when they ask you this question. First and foremost is "one or many?" I definitely believe there are many gods/goddesses. They may all be part of one larger whole that I, in my tiny human mind, am unable to comprehend. As a being, it is impossible to understand any being of a higher order than yourself. Therefore, the only way that my puny human mind could possibly understand something as complex as a deity is for me to compartmentalize it into pieces I do understand, i.e. human beings with extraordinary "powers." That being said, I know all the Christians and Pagans our there went "oh goodness, let me explain blah, blah, blah...." but save it. This is what I believe, not you.

Secondly is the matter of reincarnation. Having lived the life I have lived and experienced life the way I have, I can only answer yes to this question. I can tell you with 100% certainty that there are people I have "known" before that have found me so we could live together in this life as well. If it has never happened to you, you will not understand....nor do I expect you to. This is just what I believe, right?

Now comes the part where we all begin splitting hairs. Do you believe in fate? predestination? magical powers? karma? Mother Goddess or Father Sky? If you believe in a Mother Goddess, they label you a Wiccan. If you believe in Karma, then you must be a Buddhist. If you believe in predestination, then you must be Hindi or Christian or Islamic. If, if, if....why do we need to categorize ourselves like this? Does God have a great big filing cabinet in the sky where he keeps us organized by religious affiliation?

Well, I believe in karma. I believe in the movement of energy known as magic. I believe in the sanctity of knowledge as essential to growth. I do not find it necessary to have an intermediary for confession of wrongdoing. When you believe in karma, any negative acts that you carry out will come back to you whether you repent of them or not. If you want to "equal out" a negative, you must perform at least three positive acts as retribution for your transgression. (and it also helps to leave extra offerings for your personal deities.) I believe in balance.

I believe in reflection on past events as a means of growth. Even though hind sight is 20/20, you always miss something. Every couple of years it is important to review the things you have been through with your new eyes and greater volumes of experience to gain further understanding and, if nothing else, to solidify the lessons learned from the experience.

I believe in the preservation of the Earth as well as of the body. If either one fails you, it's all pretty much over. And believing in reincarnation, you must do your part to help the Earth be healthy and strong, lest you have nothing to which to come back.

I have been working with several gods and goddesses over the past decade. Brigid and the Horned God, for ceremonial worship. Jesus and Mary Magdalene for personal relationship (that's a long story; I'll tell you one day, if you are interested). Gaea, the Earth Mother, for guidance and inner strength. Odin, The All-Father, for sharpness of mind. Persephone, Goddess of the Underworld, for lessons in dealing with hardship and loss--and the celebration of rebirth. Arachne, because she chose me. And my patron Goddess, Athena, for so many things.

I call upon Athena, Great Goddess of Strength and Wisdom, to grant me the mental skills necessary to flourish in my life. I seek her for skill in the artistic and industrious areas of my life. I offer worship, libations and awe to her, for she is the Goddess through whom I have found peace and prosperity. Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and War, I learn from you when it is wise to go to war, and when it is wise to allow your enemies enough rope with which to hang themselves. I have gained ears for listening, and I have gained a tongue that speaks only what is necessary when I am sought for advice. Athena, Goddess of Great Measure, I am learning still....

This is what I believe.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Reflecting...becoming a woman of freedom.

As I reflect upon the changes I have made in my life in the last several years, I am coming to the realization that my efforts have been fruitful. I have had the opportunity to get in touch with a few people from my past, one very significant, and they have all noted the changes in me.

For a long time, I was afraid. There is no other way to put it. I was afraid of everything, afraid of living my life, afraid of not living my life, afraid I would miss something, but too scared to contribute. My husband, one fateful day, told me, "Stop being so weak." It was not in regards to anything major. Just a statement about my general reaction to some general situation. but, his words struck a chord deep within myself. I saw that I was weak, very weak. I was so floored by this that I almost began to cry. When did I let myself get here? How could this have happened to me?

It turns out, I was weak for most of my life. I constantly required the approval of anyone, someone! in order to pursue any endeavor. I could do nothing unless I knew it was condoned by someone else. This went for school, work, religion, food, you name it. I required approval from someone else for everything. But then my husband told me I was weak. And in my weakness, I found my strength.

I began reading books about embracing your feminism, but without wanting to become a feminist (it turns out to be a delicate balance!). I started with Lynn V. Andrews Medicine Woman. This book changed my life. I was already open to suggestion when I began to read this book, but the message of this book to my soul was clear: seek to discover who you are. It was after reading this book that I decided on the path I would follow to lead me to freedom and independence, and I began a three-year, self-directed course in women's studies. I have still not even skimmed the surface of the vast quantity of knowledge to be had in the greater history of womankind, but allowing the books to choose me, I read my way to freedom.

By this time in my life, I had thought I was past the point in my life when a book would have the ability to change me. Medicine Woman changed all that, and I proceeded to read more books like Women who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes and When the Drummers were Women by Layne Redmond that gave me the foundation I was missing and the tools I needed to heal the places I had left deteriorating for so long. These books were difficult to read, not because of the content in an of itself, but because I had immense amounts of internalizing and applying and reapplying and readjusting and so on and so on to do in my life.

There was a tumultuous explosion in my home as I segued from weak, mousy-me into Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and Truth. There was a clash of the titans, and when Apollo finally realized that the new me was evolving whether I had his approval or not, he allowed me room to grow. As I grew, the funniest thing happened: Apollo was pleased with the changes in me. Granted, there were more moments of disagreement than there had been in the past, but Athena has points of view that are often different and new and that lead to a better path (now, sometimes she was still wrong, but the important thing was that she asserted herself).

Over time, I have learned that my opinion has value, especially when well researched. I have plenty to offer to the people in my life. I do not need anyone's approval but my own. The only person whose opinion should be able to change my mind is my own.

I find myself on the verge of moving a step further into the spiral as I circle around again, moving forever toward the center. I do not know where my next journey will take me, but I do know that I am moving there with confidence and self-assurance. I am moving. I am changing, and it shows. I am free.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

She's Here!

Arachne has been here for four days, and I am more than happy with the outcome of this visit thus far. We have bonded ourselves again in the most intimate ways, and I will never be without her for so long again.

It has been six years since we parted ways. She is much the same Arachne she was then. But I am not. I am different. I am Athena now. I am powerful, resourceful, strong, cunning, wise, knowledgeable, and loving. I am woman. I am mother. I am she. And she has noticed.

I was in a very different place in my life when we were together before. I had just found my new religious path, and I was still taking my first baby steps along the way. I know there are ways in which I will never equal her, but finally, I think there finally exist a few ways in which I surpass her. I owe a lot of who I have become to the foundation I built with her six years ago. Without her, I would not be where I am now on this journey. I owe her a huge debt for opening my mind and my heart to the truths I now hold so dear.

The question becomes 'what will happen in the future?' This weekend has introduced variables I never even considered existing before now. What happens now? How long can we go without each other? Is there going to be next time, or have we finally reached the end of our ropes?

I have had a few moments to reflect over all this, and the resounding theme is that I still love her. I do. I love her with parts of my soul I have never shown to anyone before. She has the ability to move me in ways I doubt I will ever experience again. I cannot stand the idea of being apart from her, but I know this is how it must be. I could allow her to be my life, my soulmate, my all. But this is not for us this time. This is for dreams and for fantasies.

I am feeling a profound sense of awe right now, and I know there will be difficulty when the intensity dies off a bit, but I have come to the conclusion that whatever happens, whatever the future holds, it was all well worth it.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Apollo--My Sun God

I first met my husband in 1990, when I moved to our fair state from the west. We were in sixth grade, and he lived at the other end of the block [He has a twin, though they are identical boys and not paternal male-female as the name "Apollo" suggests. (Apollo's twin was Artemis)].

Anyway, we became friends and then best friends over time, and spent much time together as the years wore on. He was the brother I never had, the best friend I always wanted, and the standard by which I judged all other relationships. I don't think there is a single boyfriend I ever had that I did not cheat on with Apollo.

I first realized I was in love with him two years after we graduated from high school and were on our separate ways to college. He was going south, and I was going north. I realized I wanted to give him "something to remember me by." I petitioned him, and I got pregnant with our first child. We were not even dating at the time, and we continued in our friendship until the baby was 1 month old. We have been together ever since.

We have been through much in our seven years of marriage. I cannot imagine what life would be like without him. I know that I am happier with him than I could ever be without him. Apollo is my Sun God. He brings the light and joy into my life. He brought me my children. He taught me patience, and we taught each other the endless capacity of love.

I know that other people aspire to the type of relationship, marriage, we have. I know many people will never attain it. I love him more every year, and I know he loves me just the same. I am more grateful than you can imagine for the gift of him in my life. I judge my success in life by the people in it, and Apollo has made me the richest woman alive.