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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Charter

 

St. Mark's Cathedral, Minneapolis.

Looking up from the hymnal,

I see him, sitting

cross-legged on the altar:

buck naked

(oh baby!),

antlers out to here,

grinning like a jack o' lantern.

I blink, and he is gone.

I stand there, thunder-struck;

though he spoke no words,

my heart is riven, riven through.

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A Fall Equinox Mystery: Persephone and the Sacred Feminine

At the edge of the edge of the sunlit realm, where a rough-hewn stone stairway leads down into the velvety darkness of the Underworld, Persephone awaits you, still and silent, wrapped in a black cloak that rustles in a bone-chilling wind. She is beautiful and fearsome, with penetrating dark blue eyes, pale skin, lips the rich red of pomegranate, and long, lustrous ebony brown hair.

This is not the young maiden Goddess, alight with joy and innocence, that you may have read about in the ancient tales, but a regal being who has fully claimed Her place and sovereignty in the great weaving of life.

“Change is in the air,” Persephone says after She has greeted you, “For millennia, humanity has rejected the ways of the sacred feminine and the powers of the sacred dark that reside within the Underworld. There is a grievous imbalance in your world that cuts you off from the natural cycles and powers of life, and your own whole/holy nature.

Yet the season of humanity is turning and a great awakening is upon you. Your Deep Self is reaching for you, calling you to a life of soul and drawing you back to my side and the lost ways of the sacred feminine.”

She extends Her arm and you wrap your fingers in the soft, black folds of Her cloak. The space around you shimmers and morphs, and you find yourself transported to another time and place, looking out on a scene from when the world was fresh and new.

A younger version of Persephone plays in the meadow before you, picking flowers and smiling Her delight. Her face has the warm tones of skin kissed by sunlight and Her eyes are of a lighter shade of blue gray.

“You see me here when I lived in the bright circle of my Mother Demeter’s loving embrace,” the older Persephone beside you says, “Life was very, very good. The green-growing realm was my playground and I wanted for nothing. Yet I was restless, always seeking the outer edge of things, hungry to know more, experience more, become more.”
 
As you watch, the young Persephone wanders further and further from the meadow and the protective circle of Her Mother. Her light-hearted smile has been replaced by an intense focus, as if She is being drawn forward by a compelling, irresistible force.

A great fissure appears in the Earth at Her feet and a God-like being emerges. He emanates a powerful elixir of animal magnetism and ethereal beauty, as if He is equally woven of flesh and of light. A piercing cold spreads outward from His body, withering the wildflowers and yellowing the leaves within reach of His frosty breath. Yet His somber, coal-black eyes are filled with tender warmth as He gazes down at the lovely Persephone.   

“Hades,” She whispers with a note of longing in Her voice and taking a tentative step in His direction.   

“Come,” He says, extending a hand to Her, “it is time for your awakening.”

For a moment young Persephone pauses, looking over Her shoulder from where She came and then down into the inky darkness before Her. And in this moment, it is as if you are inside of Persephone, feeling the push and pull of Her trepidation and profound hunger in the face of this vast unknown realm. A calm determination rises up from Her core, quieting Her fast beating heart and steeling Her resolve. Then She slips Her hand into Hades’s, a faint smile playing across Her lips, and the Earth closes over their heads, swallowing them whole.

The scene disappears and you are once more standing beside the older Persephone at the stone steps leading into the Underworld.

“Life never stands still,” Persephone says, “Something inside of us seeks the edges of what we know in search of our deeper and greater becoming.

“No matter my worldly knowledge and gifts, and all the lovely things that gave me joy and pleasure, I was incomplete in the sunlit realm of my Mother’s world. The dark side of my feminine nature was missing, compelling me to descend into the Underworld, with Hades as my companion and guide, to find and awaken the dormant pieces of my whole/holy nature.”

As Persephone speaks, the light fades from the sky and a profound stillness settles on the land. Fall is in the air and the natural world, like Persephone, has begun its descent into the secret mysteries of darkness. 

“I tell you my story so you may know the ways of the sacred feminine,” Persephone continues, “To seek the true power and nature of your Deep Self, you must step past the border of your known world into the depth of the Underworld that resides in the inner folds of your psyche and in the mysteries that underlie waking reality.

“When you brave the Underworld and travel its ways, you reclaim what has been lost, the sacred feminine and the sacred dark, and you begin the hard, hard work of returning balance and wholeness to your life and your world. Your journey will not be easy because the trials and revelations of the sacred dark are meant to test and teach you. And yet, if you follow in my footsteps and stay the course, healing and profound change will come.

“This journey of soul begins with wherever you are right now, at this moment. Whatever is ready to awaken in you waits for you in the sacred dark.”

Persephone places Her hand on your chest, sending Her wise teachings into the core of your being. Her story is your story, the story of the turning of the seasons into Fall, and the story of the unfolding of our collective humanity. Always at the Fall Equinox, the sacred darkness opens portals that beckon to a new cycle of healing and growth.

Then Her touch and Her presence are gone. Yet you are not alone at the portal to the Underworld. He waits for you on the stone stairs, a magical messenger to guide your journey back to your Deep Self.

“Come,” He says, His hand extended to you and His eyes brimming with tender warmth,  “it is time for your awakening.”

Take His hand, descend; the sacred darkness and your deepest becoming await you.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Social Imperative of the Sabbat

In the topsy-turvy world of the Sabbat, the witch returns to the Dreamtime, in which all social norms are overturned.

At the Sabbat, there are no distinctions of “race,” of sex, of class, of gender.

At the Sabbat, all are equal.

At the Sabbat, if nowhere else, we encounter full social equality.

The stories of those early American Sabbats tell of indigenous, colonial, and enslaved all coming together to dance as one: red, white, black, all equal.

The Sabbat dreams of a new world, a world (as in the beginning) of radical equality.

The Sabbat embodies this dream.

In fact, the Sabbat predicts it.

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A Lammas Teaching: The Seasons and Cycles of Breath

Our journey of soul is like breath.

On the in-breath, we enter deep inside of ourselves, to the well-spring of our soul and the mysteries of the sacred dark, seeking guidance and inspiration for our pathwork of healing and transformation, and the seeds of our beauty and wounding that are ready to return to the light of our waking-world consciousness.

On our out-breath, we turn our focus outward, embracing the enervating powers of light and life and letting the seeds of our pathwork express and reveal themselves in the machinations of our everyday existence. Life is our teacher, bringing us the insights, energies and experiences we need to heal, grow and blossom in the sunlit world.

On our return in-breath, we gather up and take back inside everything that we have learned and experienced. We harvest our healing work and life story, and ingest their transformative lessons, letting them nourish and change us. And in this process, we become a newer, more profound and brighter version of our Deep Self.

The turning of the seasons is like breath.

On the in-breath, the natural realm turns inward as the balance shifts from light and life to darkness and death. Nature sinks into stillness and repose, while the land rejuvenates and the seeds of the new gestate in the belly of the dark.

On the out-breath, the returning light and warmth awaken the sleeping seeds of life within the land. Roots dig deep and green tendrils reach upward to kiss the sun. Everywhere in Nature, creation expands outward in a rampant, stunning display of the beauty and abundance of new and blossoming growth.

On the return in-breath, the living world offers up the fruits of its labors for the harvest. The death and sacrifice of some threads of life ensure the nurturance and continuance of others. Yet nothing is truly lost, for contained within death are the seeds of a new season and a future harvest.

And then the cycle begins anew, always turning, never-ending, one breath, one season, one chapter on our journey of soul is followed by the next. In these ways, life sustains and creates more life, and the light of our soul shines ever brighter.

Our busy modern world is not like breath. If anything, we are fixated on a perpetual out-breath, with its expansive, external focus. We are always doing and striving, charting our passage through life by the material markers of achievements and possessions. More is better. Growth is everything.

Yet we can never escape the natural order of things. We can’t breathe out, without breathing in. The outer arises from the inner, and that which grows and expands, in the end, returns to the still, fertile center of things to feed and give rise to the next cycle of life.

Individually and collectively we have reached the end of our extended out-breath. It is time to turn our focus to the return in-breath of harvesting and ingesting what we have learned from the fruits of our efforts, and of winnowing out what needs to die and be sacrificed in service of the balance and wellness of the whole.

This is the work of Lammas, where profound, consciously chosen endings gift us with the seeds of profound, life-serving beginnings, and from these seeds our lives and our world are renewed and reborn.

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The Solar Path - The Sabbats for the Hedge Witch (Part Two)

Samhain

We all know of the modern-day Hallowe’en that falls on the 31st October, but few outside of the Craft know of the origins of this festival. Samhain is a Celtic festival that celebrates the time when the veil between this world and the Otherworld is thin, and we can connect more easily with the unseen, both in the form of the Fair Folk (faeries) as well as the ancestors. The Celts reckoned their days from sunset to sunset, and so Samhain would run from sunset on the 31st October to sunset on the 1st November. The Celts divided the year into two halves, the dark half and the light half, and we see this reflected in much of Modern Witchcraft today. How this is divided depends on the tradition. If you are following on from the Celtic lore, the dark half of the year begins at Samhain, and ends at Beltane, when the light half of the year begins. This is the Celtic beginning of Winter and Summer, for they only considered two seasons in their worldview. Samhain means “summer’s end”. Other traditions of Witchcraft see the dark and light halves of the year commencing at the solstices, with the myth of the Oak King and the Holly King. We will explore this later when we look at the solstices.

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Samhain Teaching: Born Into Life, Born Into Death

The natural world and our human psyches turn toward the mysteries of death at Samhain. Cold and darkness descend upon the land, and the wild world shifts into decay and a death-like sleep. In many cultures, this time of year is marked by offerings and rituals to honor the dead, our beloved ancestors.

Usually we don’t like to think about death. Most of us run as fast as we can from the frightening specter that decline and death conjure in us. It is the ultimate irony that the moment we are born into life, with our very first breath, we are also born into death. And we must live every moment, every breath, knowing that we will die, and that everything around us, all that we love and cherish, will eventually come to decay, to death, to dust.

Samhain teaches us that there is no hiding from death. It comes in the falling of leaves, the lengthening darkness and the cold grip of Winter. It comes in our remembrances of our beloved ancestors that have passed on. It comes in the wrenching of our heart as we witness a dear one slip from this world into the next. It comes with the graying at our temples, the sagging of our flesh and the unstoppable march toward our last breath.

And death comes with gifts in hand if we have the courage to show up raw and naked to our pain, losses and fears.

Death strips us to the basics:
that every breath is a miracle not to be wasted;
that each person, each creature and life form, is worthy, precious, sacred;
that life is oh so hard and oh so exquisite;
that pain and loss help us remember what we cherish most;
and that love, at the end of all things, is what remains.

Love is death’s most precious gift to us. Love, not money, possessions, career, social esteem and the many other alluring outer trappings of life, is the balm that soothes us in the face of death. Love is what connects us to those who have passed on. Love calls us to reach out and hold each other in our grief. Love is what joins us heart to heart and soul to soul to another. Love is our best offering from our Deep Self to the world.

Samhain is a time to contemplate the mysteries of death, not from a place of fear and resistance, but from an acceptance of death as a teacher and guide for the living. Yes we are born into life and born into death, and it is this very, inescapable fact that makes every moment so precious, fragile and bittersweet beautiful.

Death isn’t a summons to fear, it is an invitation to love, deeply, wildly, joyfully. And when death seeks us out at the end of our days, let our last breath be a prayer to love.

Photo Credit: Chris B on Unsplash

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Night on Witch Island

Have you ever been to Witch Island?

You know the one I mean. That island out in the river (or: lake) where the witches go for their...doings.

You've heard the stories. Nobody else goes out there.

(Well, there were those kids that once. Did you ever hear what they saw there? All that weird shit carved on the rocks? The big pile of ashes? The bones? Did you hear what happened to those kids?)

You've seen the fires out there among the trees at night. You've seen the shadows of the dancers.

You've heard the drums, the crazy singing.

You've heard the howls.

The screams.

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