Coming back

Well, it’s been a while.

I never decided to take a hiatus from blogging. Other things simply demanded my attention, and I let blogging slip by the wayside.

Since Ostara, Alban Eiler, the Spring Equinox, I have been feeling called to come back and start sharing through this medium again. As the earth began growing again I wanted to write down my thoughts and feelings and experiences that grow along with it. So it’s taken me a while, but I am back, and I hope to be sharing regularly here again.

A lot has happened in my life since I last posted here. I’ll share more about that as I get back into the swing of blogging, but my big news is- I got married! My husband and I had our wedding last year in June, a few days after Summer Solstice. (Of course I wanted to get married at the time of the Solstice because of my connection with that holiday- see my previous post.) We had a beautiful ceremony in the woods, surrounded by friends and family, blessed by sun and the spirits of pines and deer and sunflowers and bunnies. I know it sounds cliché to say, but it really was the best day of my life. I can’t believe we’re coming up on one year of marriage already! So I have gotten to spend the last year sharing married life with my soulmate, my best friend, the man of my dreams, the love of my life.

A few other new things that I’ll mention now. I have started the Bardic grade course through the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. I have not been as regular with following the course as I’d like to be, so perhaps sharing some thoughts about it here will keep me more on track.

And in other course work, just this month I started a year-long herbal medicine apprenticeship with Sky House Yoga in Silver Spring, Maryland. I feel this course is very much in line with my Bardic course, in the sense that I am taking it primarily to deepen my relationship with the earth and with plants. One of the things we’re doing as part of the course is something called “plant dieting”, where we focus on ingesting a single plant for a period of time to build a deep knowledge of its physical effects and spirit. I think this course will make for interesting blog material.

Finally, in the past year I’ve developed a very regular tarot practice. Tarot is something that has drawn me for a very long time- I actually got my first deck when I was a teenager, but I never really learned to read with it and put the deck in storage for many years. But in the last year I dedicated some time to learning to read, and discovered that tarot is a) a life-long study and b) an immensely helpful tool in the spiritual and general life toolbox. I would call myself a devoted novice at this stage, so I will definitely be writing about that here.

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Summer altar

Of course more has happened, and I’m sure there will be more catch-up posts. In the meantime, I’m glad to be back, feeling joyful in the season. Hello!

Summer Solstice and the Spiritual Journey

It is nearly Summer Solstice. For me this is a sacred time of year and perhaps my favorite time, and it holds a special place in my practice.

Summer has always been my favorite season of the year. I love warm days- and yes, even hot, sticky days when the air is thick and still. I love the light hours that stretch late into the evening. I love lightning bugs and summer storms and wearing shorts and sundresses. For me, the shedding of the external layers that shield from the cold has always reflected an internal process- an opening up to the world, a fearlessness. The Sun is light-giver and protector and all things seem to thrive like the flowers in his presence.

Many earth-based spiritual practices celebrate the seasons through the turn of the Wheel of the Year, with eight holidays celebrating the two Solstices and Equinoxes and the “cross-quarter” days that fall in between each. I grew up in a Christian household, and first heard of the Wheel of the Year when I was in my late 20s. Although I had no awareness of pagan practice,  I always felt a keen need to attune myself to the seasons.

Christianity celebrates two of the eight spokes of the Wheel of the Year as major Christian holidays. The time of Winter Solstice is celebrated as Christmas, and is frequently still referred to by its Norse pagan name of Yule meaning “wheel”. The time of Spring Equinox is celebrated as Easter, and like the pagan Ostara the name of the holiday comes from the Germanic goddess Eostre. Indeed, since the year 325 the date of Easter has been set “on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox.” Sounds very pagan doesn’t it? Of course another notable Christian holiday with pagan roots is All Hallows Eve, also known as Halloween or the eve of All Saints Day, rooted in the Celtic pagan holiday Samhain. (I will of course say lots more about Samhain in October!)

This was the culture I grew up in, and while American Christianity retained versions of holidays related to several spokes of the Wheel of the Year, Summer Solstice is not one of them. In Britain the time of Midsummer is celebrated as the Feast of St. John, and parts of Britain still retain many of the old pagan customs at this time such as bonfires. But in the US there is no spiritual association with the Solstice.

As someone who felt a great spiritual affinity for summer, I never realized how much I missed the celebration of the Solstice in my spiritual life. I never knew, that is, until I heard the words Summer Solstice. I can only say that just hearing this phrase, “Summer Solstice”, made me aware of something I had always longed for before I even knew what it was. The words were beautiful to me; I wanted to chant them (Summer Solstice, Summer Solstice, Summer Solstice…). And I knew that my spiritual path was drawing more towards something I had yet to explore but had always known in my heart and that somewhere, somewhere there were names for the things that I held sacred.

June

June is here! June is my favorite month. I love it because it’s the beginning of summer and always brings a new sense of freedom and possibility. When I was a kid I used to look forward so much to school getting out at this time. I wish I still had summers off!

June is named after the Roman goddess Juno, goddess of protection and of marriage. She may be a good deity to connect with this month for anyone looking for summer blessings.  junoMy fiance and I just put a hold on a June date for our wedding next year. Again, not official yet! So will say more on that soon.

June also brings the Summer Solstice. This is a great month to honor the Sun as he climbs to his greatest height, bringing us the longest days of the year. I’ll be writing lots about the Summer Solstice this month- my personal connection to the holiday, some history and lore, and preparations for our Litha ritual and our planned weekend of camping in the woods. In the meantime, wishing everyone a very Blessed June!

Synchronicity: The Pagan Experience

Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!

– Debated origin; attributed to Goethe

Prompt: What do you strive to attract to yourself? What actions have you taken to bring this into manifest form? How does this quality of magnetism inform your spiritual and mundane life?

Two years ago I embarked on an Artist’s Way journey with a group from my UU church. The Artist’s Way is a book by Julia Cameron that’s intended to guide anyone on a path to recover creativity that they feel they’ve buried, neglected, or otherwise lost. At the time I was feeling very much like the “stuck creative” that Julia describes. I had spent several years plunged into grad school and career and ultimately found myself losing my connection with what had for my whole life been my greatest earthly passion- writing.

I say all this because for me it relates very much to this week’s topic- the quality of magnetism and what you attract to yourself. One of the things Julia talks a lot about in her book is the concept of synchronicity. Synchronicity is basically the universe’s way of helping you out when you commit your energy to something. I think of it kind of like the universe responding to a vibration you put out. It’s like Goethe’s quote above, or to quote some pop philosophy, “If you build it, they will come.”

So as I said, I was going through this process of creative recovery- it was both exciting and painful, and it still is. It started with daily journaling, and then making time for myself- free time, time to play or create or dream. I started doing things that appealed to my inner child- things like pottery, which to me is just a more refined way of playing in the dirt. I also started taking piano lessons again after about a 15-year hiatus. And then I got some ideas. And I wanted to write them.

The biggest idea, and the one I was most passionate about, was for a TV show set in the 1930s Mississippi Delta, about a young blues musician struggling to make a name for himself while taking care of his sister and widowed mother and working on the family farm. This was a story that practically wrote itself as soon as it came into my head, and of course the soundtrack- all those great early country blues songs- were built in. There was only one problem- I didn’t know how to write a screenplay. I had never done any screenwriting, had never even read a script.

This daunted me for a while, but I felt like the story would not leave me alone, and so eventually I just started to write. Since I didn’t know how to write proper screenplay format I just wrote out how I saw things in my head. I figured the story was the most important thing, and I would figure out the rest as I went along.

It was amazing how opening myself up even a little bit to this calling transformed things. Literally the day that I finally sat down and started to write, I looked up the tour schedule of one of my favorite contemporary acoustic blues musicians who plays the old style of blues that inspired my show. When I searched I immediately found out that he was playing in DC that very night. I took this as a sign. I changed my plans and went to the show. I ended up meeting the musician I admired before his set. As we talked, he asked me, without provocation, “Do you work in television?” I was astounded. I told him I didn’t but that I had just started writing a show that centered on blues music. He gave me his email and offered to help me if he could.

Other things started happening. A former student of a friend of a colleague- many steps removed!- got a hold of my email and contacted me for career advice in international affairs. When I met up with him I found out that his wife was a TV writer! This did a lot to allay my doubts about whether it was even possible to write TV while living in Washington, D.C.  My awesome friend Leah, a New York City-based comedy writer, told me about opportunities for amateur screenwriters, including a number of competitions anyone can submit their screenplay to.

I kept writing. I got feedback. I wrote more. I took two screenwriting workshops and a TV writing class. Finally, earlier this Spring, about a year after I had started working on my TV pilot, I submitted the script to a few contests. I’m still waiting to hear back on my results from all of them, but one just sent me my judge feedback over the weekend, the first professional feedback I’ve received. And…it’s good! I don’t know what my results will ultimately be, and there will certainly continue to be ups and downs, but I feel like I went from zero screenwriting knowledge to writing a script, a solid script, with a story I’m passionate about. And those moments of synchronicity, moments when I met musicians who inspired my story or met people in television or stumbled across opportunities to learn the craft of screenwriting, kept me going when I felt things were hard and I wasn’t sure if I could do it. I recently started on my second TV pilot script- this one is set in medieval Europe.

With my experience of coming back to writing, I’ve felt the power and magic of synchronicity, of all the forces of the universe that are crossing their fingers you’ll follow your true path helping you out once you start on it. And I think that the way to manifest these things in your life is just to be yourself, to listen to your inner calling and the calling of the universe, and to let magic happen.

Updates, weddings, etc

Bright Blessings! It’s been a while since I’ve written so I thought I’d do kind of a check-in post and say a little bit about what I’ve been up to. As sometimes happens, life has been busy the past few weeks!

Last weekend we went to Pittsburgh for my cousin’s wedding. It was so fun hanging out with family, including some people I hadn’t seen in years and years!

The other wonderful thing for me about going to Pittsburgh was an opportunity to finally visit the Andy Warhol Museum. Andy Warhol is my FAVORITE artist and I’ve loved him since I was about 13, so I’ve been wanting to go to Pittsburgh forever to see the museum. So that part of our trip was kind of a pilgrimage of sorts for me. It was fabulous to finally see it!

IMG_2689This weekend we continued our wedding theme by doing some work on planning our own wedding, which will be next summer. We looked at a handful of venues in Pennsylvania last month, and this weekend we looked at a couple in Maryland. I don’t want to say too much yet since it’s not officially booked but…I think we may have found the one! I’ll post more on that when it’s official.

One of the nice things about wedding planning is that since we’re looking for a “natural cathedral” location with lots of trees, we’ve been visiting some great spots in the woods. On Saturday we got to make friends with a couple of frogs.

IMG_2751IMG_2753Next weekend we’ll be traveling up to Boston for another wedding- this time my fiance’s cousin. So weddings have certainly been a theme of our year so far!

Other than that, I’ve been doing some preparations for our Litha ritual, which I’ll be writing more about in a post next week. I’m glad to be back to blogging! I peeked ahead at the Pagan Experience prompts for June and they’re all really fascinating. Looking forward to lots of writing!

Time: The Pagan Experience

Prompt questions: How do you measure time? How do you make use of linear time in sacred space? How do you call forth the space of timelessness in your physical life? How do you integrate the two for your magickal/spiritual work?

The call to pagan spirituality begins with an awareness of the earth. For me, that took the form of recognition of the seasons. The seasons continue to be my greatest inspiration in both creative and spiritual aspects of my life.

In a way, I think the seasons remind us to celebrate time, rather than just letting it pass. We are called to have an intimate connection with the moment.

IMG_0647My fiance and I recently had a fascinating conversation about time. We were talking about whether there might be a possibility of traveling through time the way we travel through space. According to Einstein’s theory of relativity this hasn’t yet been possible because nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. But might we not one day be able to travel through time? Jay pointed out that if humans develop an ability to travel through time at some point in the future, then someone might have come back from the future to tell us. Perhaps! This brings up all sorts of interesting questions about the linearity of time.

Have you ever dreamed something, and then that something has happened in the physical plane (everyday reality)? What about the feeling of deja vu? Science has not yet been able to explain these occurrences, and yet people experience them. I personally have dreamed of things that were yet to happen- not frequently, but it’s happened a couple of times. To me this says there are things about the nature of time science has not yet been able to explain.

Yesterday we discussed dreamwork in the Firefly Wicca 3 class. We talked about how in some traditions, dreamwork is considered the foundation of spiritual progress. It seems we’re able to walk in other realms and to make connections our mind can’t normally make in our dreams. To me it makes sense that dreams would be able to show us different places in time. It seems natural that dreams can play a strong role in magickal and spiritual work, and it’s something I’d like to build on in my own practice.

As time moves forward, and as we experience the cycles of the seasons, of the waxing and waning of the moon, of birth, life and death, it seems to me the greatest spiritual challenge is to find the constant in all of that. The part of yourself that is the divine, the spark, that does not change no matter how time moves and what it brings. To uncover that eternal part of the self, and then to see the divine spirit in all things.