My daily tarot card had been a series of reversals. The Lovers in reverse, the Death card in reverse, everything pointing to letting go of a past that seems to hold me hostage. Hostage to the doubt of not being good enough. Hostage to a body I did not wish to have. Hostage to a heartache that never seemed to abate. Hostage to past mistakes where the universe had let go, and yet I still lived in a vortex of fear, subterfuge, and suffering.
How many of us are living our lives like this? Were we are a captive hostage attached to suffering! Why is letting go, and moving on so hard? And how can we develop that into a stillness of heart and mind to lead us from suffering and into sweetness?
Letting go might be the hardest thing to put into practice. There are many things in our daily life, both material and immaterial that we attach to. For some of us it is the expectation to live our lives in accordance to another's rule book. For others it is hostage to our own doubt. For me, it was overcoming the years of feeling not good enough to finally know worthiness. This attachment to "not good enough" is something that I continue to work through and with. That is the practice, why it is called doing the work.
When is say work, I am talking about daily practices, like meditation, journalling, physical activity, and even abstaining. Abstaining from what Buddist nun Pema Chödrön calls, "little hooks, of suffering." To prarphrase her book, "Don't Bite the Hook", she says " we are like fish, swimming in a pond of hooks. Each waiting to bait us with suffering." This is why we return to the meditation cushion to commit to the work and ‘let go’!
The work is where we can access the mind in a way to heal disappointment and unsatisfactoriness that springs from attachment, but doing it is not as easy as saying it. This is because, chances are we don’t want to let go. We want to hold on until we’re right. You want to hold on until the situation resolves itself the way we want it to. We want to hold on because the suffering that we are attached to is the only thing we know! After all, what’s the alternative? To go on without that person or thing that we thought we’d never be able to live without. Yet while we are hostage to our attachment, life has moved on and you’re still here. Life didn’t wait for me to catch up, and it never will. That is the lesson in the reversed tarot cards I kept pulling. To let go go what I was holding onto.
Holding on will not make something come back. I have come to learn, as painful as it is, that this attachment to our suffering it actually pushes the life we want farther away. Buddhism has taught me that life is a series of actions and reaction. Even when we are brought back to where we hoped we would be, the path was lined with something you had to learn. There aren’t many accidents. In fact, I’d like to argue that there aren’t any at all. Consider for a moment the past, of an instance where you were in the throes of depression or anxiety, and couldn’t understand how or why your life was turning out the way it was. How did that situation turn out? Probably fine. Because that’s where we all eventually end up.
Life is not a series of problems to be solved, it’s a journey that we should be fascinated by. On our meditation cusion, we can reflect back and observe how we live. Signs and directions and messages are everywhere. For me it is the the daily tarot card, reminding me to let go of that which does not serve. The attachment to situation that hold me back and hold me down. When I pay attention, something that comes when I give myself permission to do the work, I see the path clear. Follow that place, of inner peace. It is an unwavering place, where logic is put aside to know love. Love isn’t logical, nor are miracles.
Let us invite letting go and resist the worry and woe that comes when we lean into fear. Lean into the attachment and expect ion of not being good enough.THose thoughts only tear is down. Instead I invite you to lean into the practice and make way for the bigger, the better, the reckoning, the miraculous and the beautiful. Nobody promises the road will be easy, but the road is always right in front of us to release us from the hostage and welcome the hopeful heart of new beginnings.
The stories are truly medicine, slipping through the fairy tale portal-template already installed in our brains to open up possibilities for long-sought healing.
All of her stories are wonderful. "From War to Peace" is a lovely dose. It's particularly timely and — guess what? — it features a big dollop of belly-centric wisdom.
The story begins as, once upon a time, a man named Ergo is chronically denying his chronic anger. Confronted by his wife, he storms out of the house, runs through the village and on and on into the forest until he has to stop and sleep.
The story continues:
Ergo awoke the next morning and started marching. When the sun was high in the sky, he walked into a little clearing where a wooden shack was built. A sign hung on the doorpost that read “HEALER”.
I bet he doesn’t get much business, thought Ergo to himself. The thought struck him as being quite funny and he laughed out loud. Pretty soon he was shrieking with laughter until he had tears in his eyes. A man came out the door of the shack and smiled at Ergo who was now rolling on the ground holding his belly. “Help me,” he gasped. “I can’t stop laughing.”
“It’s because you have so many unshed tears,” said the healer. Ergo stopped laughing abruptly and sat confused on the ground. The healer gave Ergo his hand and led him inside, placing Ergo in a big chair covered with blankets. Next to the chair was a huge glass globe sitting on a little table.
“What is that thing?” asked Ergo.
The story continues here.
Last May, right after I finished graduate school and earned my master’s degree in social work, I was contacted by the director of pastoral services at Duke University Hospital. This fine gentleman has been working to put together interfaith lectures and dialogues, and asked if I’d be willing to offer a Pagan perspective to the mix.
I was thrilled and excited by the invitation! And then I got scared and anxious about the idea of talking about my religion to a bunch of strangers. But now, as I’ve had time to recover from the initial euphoria and shock (and as the date of my lecture draws nearer) I’m excited once more, but my excitement is a little more focused now.
Since I’m being given this fabulous opportunity to help educate doctors, nurses, social workers, staff members, psychiatrists and other healthcare professionals about Pagans, Paganism, their health and their religion, I want to do the absolute best that I can. I want to be professional and well-informed. In an attempt to do this, I’ve put together a little survey covering the topics that I’d like to share in my presentation.
So, if you are so inclined, would you like to fill out my survey? It’s not too long, your answers can be as short or as detailed as you like, and the answers are 100% anonymous. The responses will be used for my lecture at Duke University Hospital, and I’ll also share some of the more interesting and thought-provoking themes here at Pagan Square.
Also, this is a chance for your Pagan, witchy voice to be heard! Duke University Hospital is one of the best hospitals in not only the United States, but in the world. And Duke healthcare professionals engaging in informed Pagan-patient care has potential rippling effects to other healthcare professionals and other hospitals and clinics around the globe.
Please follow the link to my survey, fill it out, and thank you so much for your time, attention, and honesty! Blessings of health to you and yours on this day and all days!
Take the survey here!
But there was more help given to me than that and I want to try and thank as many people as I can from the Pagan Community. In less than 1 day after my accident I was able to get online and, very slowly, type a message with one hand. I sent out that email letting folks know what happened and asking for any spare energy to help me with the extraordinary pain as well as energy to heal. The response was overwhelming and nearly immediate. Within an hour of sending that message, I began to feel the energy pouring in. I know that there were groups or covens who sent me energy and that was an immense kindness that truly made a difference. Even more surprising was the energy that continued to come to me for weeks, much of it being sent by Solitary Pagans who had never met (or even heard of) me and who lived hundreds or even thousands of miles away. That Community of Solitaries, without any coordination whatsoever, continued this outpouring of love and energy for months.
Then there is the garden to put to bed and there were festivals and cons to attend and so I have been called away from here for some time. I will try to be more faithful to this writing as the Solstice vigil fires are set and fed, and as the winter lingers in the land.
This season, these days that are our days--I sometimes wonder how we manage to hold our weary heads up or keep our tear-red eyes open. Though I talk often and loudly about this Tower Time we are enduring, I am still sometimes roiled by the level of change that is becoming so much a part of day-to-day life in the old world. But I feel the surging of anger and determination in the direct actions connected to the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of the people who are sworn to protect them. A couple of days before Thanksgiving, I was proud and blessed to be part of a candlelight vigil that brought together hundreds of Ashevilleans to the town square, with signs and chants...and so much love wrapped in anger and deep sadness.
Did your community do a vigil? Asheville is a place where we often take to the Square, to stand in solidarity around the Vance Monument, holding candles and homemade signs. There's probably one happening right now, as I write this update.
Will all these actions change hearts and minds? It's too early to say, I think. We can plan for change, though, and pray for it, in whatever ways our diverse community does that sacred obligation.
The season of Samhain can be used for deep internal work, for a mad dance with the Winter Queen, for healing for oneself and the sick, weary human community. I encourage you to use these last days before the Winter Solstice to consider the work of healing, as well as the work of advocacy, which may be the same thing. As we stand in the season of death and look to the returning light, may we all find the strength to continue the hard work and the grace to return hate with empathy, if not love.
These last short days are a call to all of us to remember the duty we owe the Divines, the one we owe our Ancestors...and the one we owe our sisters and brothers in these deep and solemn days.
Sekhmet is an interesting goddess; long before I traveled to Egypt, I’d begun to feel pulses of magic from the lioness-headed statues I encountered in various museums, and even in the land of the Nile, it was in a museum that I first felt a pull toward her. At the time, it struck me as a bit strange that I’d feel resonance not with the sand beneath my feet, but with the massive black granite statues of the goddess, but it makes a certain amount of sense. It’s widely believed that tremendous statues of Sekhmet guarded Egypt’s ancient borders, and some even say that in times of invasion, the statues were brushed with poisonous spores to infect the would-be invaders as they crossed into Egypt. It’s no wonder that the statues of the Lady of Pestilence pack a punch; these icons are loaded with power!
I hadn’t expected to feel so strongly drawn to this goddess during my pilgrimage to Egypt; I’m an Isis girl all the way, and while I’ve always enjoyed the other Egyptian gods, I’ve never felt pulled to work with them. But Sekhmet was insistent, from the first time I faced her in the beautiful museum in Luxor, and by the time I ventured south to the Temple of Kom Ombo, I couldn’t ignore the intense emotions her image stirred in me.
Although she is the Lady of Pestilence, in true, balanced Egyptian fashion, Sekhmet is also renowned as a healer, and she’s everywhere at the Temple of Kom Ombo. This unique temple, built in almost perfect mirror image, is dedicated to the gods Sobek and Horus, with each claiming his half of the space. Artifacts found at the temple and reliefs carved around the perimeter indicate that this location may have been a healing temple, and Sekhmet’s image is prominent in both halves of the space. Her fierceness seems to say, “It doesn’t matter which of these gods you follow; you cannot ignore me if you truly seek to be whole.”
I carried this goddess home in my heart all those years ago, but she’s never far if you care to know her; most museum exhibits on Ancient Egypt have one of her impressive icons, and the power in her form seems to defy the boundaries of time and space. There’s even a temple to Sekhmet in the Southwestern United States, which I hope someday to visit. Until then, I’ve found that even a picture is enough to remind me of the power of the Lady of Pestilence.
I’ve been thinking about the Ancestors a lot lately; it’s that time of year. In fact, they’ve even asserted themselves when I wasn’t seeking them, such as the day I experienced a vision of a Minoan priestess undertaking a rite of prophecy through the ancestral spirits. From the earliest times, the Minoans revered their ancestors. At the Autumn Equinox they held celebrations of the dearly departed, feasting and performing rituals in the shadows of the beehive-shaped tholos tombs where their ancestors’ remains were interred. Some of the tombs had pillar crypts beneath them, providing another place for offerings and communication with the dead.
My own experience with shamanic practice centering on the Ancestors and Minoan spirituality suggests a reason for the beehive shape of these tombs and the connection of the Ancestors with the Bee Goddess. Like many shamanic practitioners, I have experienced a particular sound when I connect with the ancestral spirits, a sort of multi-pitched buzzing that almost exactly reproduces the noise of a hive of swarming bees. And of course, honey being such a delicious prize in cultures that did not yet know how to refine sugar from beets or cane, I can totally relate to the idea of bees being sacred representatives of the Ancestors and, later on, the gods (or goddesses, to be precise). I keep a miniature beehive on my Minoan altar to remind me that the Ancestors were just as much a part of Minoan spirituality as the goddesses and gods.
Later on in the course of life on Crete, during what we think of as ‘classical’ Minoan civilization, the timing and location of ancestral rites changed. Some people still gathered at the tombs but the temples became a more popular focus year-round as well as at particular calendar points. The Ancestors received their reverence at the Winter Solstice rather than the Autumn Equinox, during large state rites rather than intimate family gatherings. Eventually the tombs lay deserted, forgotten. And eventually the Ancestors themselves faded from view, ignored and unnoticed in favor of the more impressive formal ceremonies of the end-stage Minoan society and then the Mycenean Greeks.
I suspect the same thing has happened time and time again as cultures around the world shift from smaller, more intimate social structures to larger city-states and other more complicated types of civilization. The Ancestors, the center of sacred activity for the family and clan, become the gods of the tribe and then of the state. Ultimately, the rulers of the state declare that the gods are their ancestors and no one else’s.
This ‘evolution’ of civilization draws us away from our spiritual roots in this sense, leaving a void where the Ancestors used to be. Whether we recognize its nature or not, I think this void affects us, creating a sense of emptiness that we may not know how to fill. Activities such as family reunions, genealogy research and looking over old family photos can only go so far to fill this void. And the Ancestors themselves suffer from this emptiness just as much as we do; there are wounds on both sides of the equation.
A short while ago on my personal blog I shared a rite for ancestral healing, a way to reconnect with the Ancestors and heal both them and ourselves. I’m sharing it here again because I think it’s important to make this connection, to fill this void. You don’t have to follow the Minoan path or any other particular tradition to enact this ritual. Everyone has ancestors, going back to the dawn of time. I hope you take this opportunity to create a relationship with your ancestors; may their blessings flow over you like honey from the comb.
Let’s begin by making some time and space for this activity. You can do it alone or with others but be sure you won’t be interrupted. Turn off phones, shut off TVs and computers, turn down the lights, have other adults attend any children who won’t be participating (yes, kids can get in touch with the Ancestors just as well as adults can).
Prepare a sacred space using your favorite method. Cast a circle if you desire but at least smudge or salt the area and consecrate it to the activity at hand. You can do this ritual entirely in your head as a meditation but it’s nice to have something physical to anchor your thoughts, so I recommend setting up a small Ancestor altar.
If you have old family photos, display them along with any mementos that help you feel connected to your forebears. I recommend that you only display photos of deceased family members; mixing pictures of the living among the dead can confuse the Ancestors and suggest to them that you would like those particular living family members to join them. No, I don’t think terrible things will necessarily happen if you include a photo of a still-living relative, but I like to err on the side of caution. Please take the Ancestors seriously; they are very real.
Once you have any photos and/or mementos gathered, light a candle or two. My ancestors enjoy food, drink and flowers, so I make small offerings to them before I begin this sort of working. If there are particular foods or drinks that evoke ‘family’ to you, include them. A token amount – just a taste – on a small plate is sufficient. (As an aside, it’s a lovely gesture at special times such as Thanksgiving, Yule, and celebrations like birthdays and weddings to set up an ancestor altar, if you don’t already have one going, and include the Ancestors in your celebratory meal.)
Now sit comfortably and focus on your altar or on mental images of relatives if you haven’t set up an altar. (But really, set up an altar!) Allow yourself to feel the connections between and among the people. Yes, there are lines like on a family tree, but at an even deeper level there is a spirit that envelops the entire family, binding them all into one enormous entity going far back in time. You might experience this spirit as a kind of fog or miasma, or as incredibly fine cobweb, or some other subtle substance that wraps the whole family into a single entity.
While still focusing on this enveloping spirit, allow your eyes to close and allow yourself to recognize that this ancestral spirit enfolds you as well. Relax into it; it is as much a part of you as the cells of your body. Feel the Spirit of the Ancestors wrap around you like a great cosmic hug. Remember, you are the result of the love of thousands. Feel that love. Open your heart to it and revel in the connection. The Ancestors are always with you; your DNA sings their song.
Sit with this for a few minutes, allowing yourself to become familiar with the Spirit of the Ancestors.
Now introduce yourself to the Ancestors. Yes, they already know who you are, but announcing yourself is polite, just as if you were stepping through the front door of your grandmother’s house and calling out to let her know who’s there. Tell the Ancestors your name and why you are connecting with them today: to acknowledge their hardships, their wounds, and to help them heal. Allow your mind to open and pay attention to what they have to share with you.
Depending on your particular sensory style you may experience mental images or feelings or sounds…even scents and tastes. Don’t try to identify everything right away but just let it flow. The Ancestors have been largely ignored for a long time; they appreciate our attention and our willingness to communicate.
Once the ‘talk’ from the Ancestors slows down a bit, focus your mind on the concept of healing and ask the Ancestors what you can do to help them heal. Each family is different and each set of Ancestors has unique needs. Whatever comes to you, don’t try to analyze or judge it. Simply accept it as is.
For some, the simple acknowledgment of the difficulties our ancestors have been through is enough to initiate healing. Others may request acts we find odd or silly – taking six raspberries to a particular place and setting them on the ground in a certain spot was my first assignment from the Ancestors. We can’t truly understand what deep underlying effects simple physical actions may have. Trust your instincts and don’t allow yourself to be embarrassed. Often, healing comes about in unusual ways. But obviously, use your common sense and don't do anything dangerous, even if you think the request is coming from the Ancestors.
Once you feel you have received all the communication the Ancestors have for you at this time, you may politely bid them goodbye. But I need to issue a warning here: You haven’t just done a ritual; you’ve begun a relationship. Don’t revert back to the typical modern stance of ignoring the Ancestors. That’s the equivalent of spending an evening with someone and then never speaking to them again. Go ahead and plan, right now, for the next time you’ll connect with the Ancestors again. Set those family photos and mementos somewhere they can become a permanent altar.
Once you have completed the ritual, take a few minutes to sit quietly and notice any differences in the way you feel. Upon connecting with the Ancestors for the first time, many people feel as if they have filled up an empty space they didn’t even know existed before. It is in our nature to be connected with the Ancestors, to have a relationship with them, to live in their midst. When a society forgets this, we all suffer on many levels. Give thanks for the Ancestors and look forward to the next time you meet with them, and you will find healing you might not have expected.