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The Holy, the Wye, and the Rumanian Treasure: Being a Brief (but Deep) Excursion through the Ancestral Mind

In colloquial English we tend to think of holy and sacred as being vaguely synonymous, but to the ancestors they were two distinct, if related, forms of being.

The original meaning of holy—Old English hâlig—emerges when we examine its sister-words deriving from the same Old Germanic root: hale, healthy, whole, hail, wholesome, hallow. Holy denotes an intrinsic state of being characterized by radical completeness in self: wholeness, entirety, unbrokenness.

The first observation to make about sacred, on the other hand, is that it derives from Latin rather than Old English. Possibly Latin sacer replaced Old English wîh (or wêoh) because of the latter's pagan associations. If so, they don't seem to have had this problem on the Continent, where the old Germanic word still survives in the Modern German name for Christmas Eve: Weihnacht, “holy night.” (It's worth noting that modern German-speaking pagans refer to Yule as Weihenacht, an archaic form of the same word.)

But in fact both the Latin and Old English words refer to the same concept. What is sacer or wîh is something that belongs to a god. Hence, to sacrifice (literally, “make sacer”) something is to give it to a god. Sacrilege is the theft of something that belongs to a god: in the eyes of the ancestors, one of the most terrible of crimes.

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Experiencing the Sacred

Friend and fellow colleague, Kevin Emmons, once described the sacred as “A simple thought that isn’t so simple. What we see and experience as sacred is what allows us to glimpse the eternal through cracks in consciousness caught in the field of time.” I love it when people say things that really make you think. You can find links to other inspiring writers on my personal blog at Down the Forest Path.

As a Druid and animist, to me everything is sacred. Everything is sacred, and yet everything is also mundane.  As author and Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck once said “Nothing is special. And when nothing is special, everything is”.  She wrote an entire book, called Nothing Special. I highly recommend it.

Kevin’s words are beautiful, evoking an image of eternity in which we can only catch glimpses.  My Zen Buddhist tendencies lead me to question whether anything is eternal, as the main tenet of Buddhism is the impermanence of everything, and yet there is a certain paradox in that the energy of life is never-changing: it only changes in the forms that it takes.  Energy manifests itself as different forms of matter dependent on circumstances such as environment, genetics, etc. So yes, the energy is eternal, but the manifestation is not.

Catching glimpses of this energy, of the sacred through cracks in consciousness is an absolutely delicious concept.  It reminds me of Emily Dickinson’s poetry, when she speaks of nature as in XCII:

To my quick ear the leaves conferred;    

  The bushes they were bells;      

I could not find a privacy             

  From Nature’s sentinels.            

 

In cave if I presumed to hide,             

  The walls began to tell;               

Creation seemed a mighty crack              

  To make me visible.

 

We cannot escape life. It is always there, always around us, and we are always a part of its flow. There is no separation, only integration.  We live with each other; we live because of each other in a beautiful dance throughout the ages.  These cracks in our consciousness allow us to break through our perceived reality, and move beyond perceptions, beyond subjectivity into the entirety of being.

Our senses are so beneficial to us, and yet they also are the cause of our subjectivity. We see the world through our own eyes, feel through our own fingers, listen with our own ears. Everyone is different, yet everyone has a shared experience. When the species is the same, there is a deeper shared experience, an understanding and knowing where the Other is not so “other”.  Transcendence is moving beyond the senses, moving beyond the boundaries and definitions into pure understanding, pure experience.  Then there is no “I” or “Me”, there is no “You” or “Them” – just life, glorious life.  

Our consciousness is a blessing, a gift. It is also the greatest hurdle to overcome, for it shouts aloud and above the songs of the earth, drowning out the consciousness of other beings in our own minds.  Cracking open our consciousness we allow those other songs to come through, to inspire us, to nourish us, to blend with our song in a wonderful symphony of energy manifesting, over and over again.

These cracks of consciousness are caught in the field of time (however you may view time, whether it be linear, circular, etc.).  Energy manifests, for a time, and then changes its form.  Time is what creates the impermanence that is so vital to life. Without time, there would be no conception, no materialisation, no death and no decay. Within the moveable boundaries of time we see a progression of the eternal processes of birth and decay.  Time is a gentle sanctuary, an indiscriminate boundary that allows these processes to occur.

And so, the sacred is that which allows us to glimpse the eternal. The sacred is anything and everything, if only we open up our senses and move beyond our perceptions.  Through the cracks of consciousness within the fields of time we perceive this sacredness, flowing and changing, manifesting and decaying, a boundless stream of energy moving through the cosmos.

May you see through the cracks to glimpse the sacred.

 

*For more writing on the sacred and other concepts witin Druidry, visit www.joannavanderhoeven.com for a full bibliography of the author's work.*

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Reciprocal Resolutions: Incorporating the Sacred Principle of "Ayni" When Looking to 2015

There is the giving of gifts and the receiving of gifts. There is the counting of how many who gave what and the reminders to say "thank you". Within the roots of holiday gift giving I find a lovely example of the Andean people of Peru's belief in "ayni" or sacred reciprocity. Ayni is the idea of the sacred balance of giving and receiving as the foundation of all life.

Different than the concept of fairness, ayni is not a dry calculation to balance the scales, but a living example of the Divine in action in our world. Gift giving, at its core, is the same. When we give gifts for the holidays there are certain social mores honored. We strive to choose gifts that will please the other person and show them our love. No matter what the content is of that next box we open, we plan to act delighted upon its unveiling because we care for the feelings of the person who gave it to us. Being a thoughtful giver is as important as being a gracious receiver.

In Peru, sacred reciprocity is not dependent on a holiday; it goes on in every moment. Every breath is considered a sacred exchange, taking in the One and letting out the One.

"Of the five principles, ayni is the single most important concept of the Andean way... it means the interchange of lovingkindness, knowledge, and the fruits of one’s labor between individuals, between humans and the environment, and between humans and nature spirits. Reciprocity implies that one’s labor is shared: I will help you today, and tomorrow you might help me. The purpose of reciprocity is the maintenance of life.

Ayni also implies respect for life... When we return the good that comes to us and show respect without judging the giver or what is received, it becomes benevolence in its highest form." - from The Shaman's Well

The act of holiday gift giving is meant to be a sacred act that is a demonstration of love and a celebration of the gifts of life. Ultimately, it is meant to be a ceremony revering the Divine no matter what religion or spirituality you practice. If that is always the case is another discussion and a hot debate in our avid consumerist society. However, for the sake of this line of inquiry, I am simply talking about the traditions at the heart of holiday gift giving.

When the holidays are over the cycle of giving ends in many of our lives. Any other times of year when we give gifts, the exchange is lop-sided or spread out over time. It is your friend's birthday. You give her a gift. She does not give you one until your birthday months later. The sacred act of giving and receiving at once is tucked away until next winter.

Already, by New Year's Day we have set aside reciprocity. We start out with our resolutions stating what we want for the year. It may be what we want of ourselves, what we'd like the universe to provide for us or what we'd like for the universe. Without taking a survey, I would say most resolutions are in the form of wishes which have us looking outward, waiting to receive.

What will we give this year?

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Moon Medicine

 

I have been returning my Moon blood to the Earth for years now. This practice began as an intuitive one that was followed by learning about the cycles of the Moon and my body. Just before I began to collect my Moon blood I had been drawn to cloth Moon pads and suddenly collecting my blood and offering it back to the Earth seemed the only reasonable place to put my blood.
 
My Priestess that mentored me, Aquarius, taught me that when creating ceremony it was often beneficial to first do the research that was needed into the subject being ritualized and then to let the intellect go and to follow the intuition, in the instance with my blood it went the other way around. I first followed my gut and then, began to research the practice of returning my blood to the Earth and the significance that it carried.
 
With the combination of listening to my gut and agreeing with what I had learnt intellectually about the sacredness of one's blood, the shame of throwing our life force into the garbage and the power in giving thanks for our ability to create life on all levels by giving our lifeblood back to the body of the Earth that gives us life, I felt pretty complete in my decision. It was in alignment with my Priestess self and that was a sound way to be. What I didn't get however was the felt sense of sacredness, connection and the deep experience that I knew was connected to my revered action, yet I held hope that one day I would, that one day it would 'click' and I would feel the profound depth of my action.
 
That day came just a few weeks ago. As I blundered through my final days leading up to my Moon time, spiritually wandering and seeking I began to bleed. I sought out my Moon blood jar and for the first time, in a very long time, became  completely present. I was present as I washed the blood from my Moon pad into the jar, I was present as I walked to the door, the walk was a procession, a sacred walk and I was aware that the vessel that I carried outside of me, in my hands had become an external womb containing my essence and the seeds of potential life within it. I have a specific place of land that I offer my blood to and this time I slowed down, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude at the opportunity that I had to not only receive the life force into me over the past moon cycle, but also for the chance to release and to let go of all that no longer served me as I bled. I felt reverence as I offered my seeds, my essence and all that I was letting go of into Mother Earth, a profound sense of relief that She can carry for me what I no longer can, that She receives it all and returns it to the life of Her very own body. I was connected to the Goddess, I was out of my head, the intellectual business of trying to conceptualize and wonder about a Goddess much too mysterious to be contained within my tiny brain was lifted and I was, once again a conscious part of Her, I was Her daughter, Her Priestess, Her devotee.
 
This past Moon time the presence, the grounding, the stillness and the ability to slow down and be with my  process finally connected me to the depths of my practice, it has inspired me to spend the break from studying and listening to the written word that I am currently taking, getting into an active practice of embodied connection to the Goddess. This is a more feminine form of spiritual practice and is allowing me to grow closer to the feminine face of Source, it is strengthening my relationship to the Goddess and removing the barriers of a questioning mind. These barriers lifting is offering me a more innocent space of knowing my Creator. Outside of the realm of the mind lies the space of knowing, a simple gut awareness of my Divine Mother being with me and caring for me.
 
Collecting and offering my blood back to the Mother is my favoured way of doing this. The main benefits that I have received from this practice over the years are as follows:
 
  • An empowered relationship to my Moon flow. Every time that I lovingly collect my Moon flow and choose not to toss it into the garbage can, I am treating myself and my womanly flow with reverence and gratitude. The patriarchal shaming of my woman's blood is erased as I care for it in a sacred and holy way.
 
  • Time to reflect upon what it is that I am releasing each month, what I became conscious of over the past Moon cycle and what I am flowing rid of, this conscious awareness strengthens my ability to release and cleanse myself.
 
  • An example for my daughter, a living example. As she observes me over the years to come, her first impressions of a woman and her Moon time will be a magical, mysterious and joyful one.
 
  • An example for my Beloved husband, his relationship to the Moon and to the power that a woman holds within herself and within her Moon flow has increased exponentially as he has witnessed my flowing with the cycles of the Moon and observed the ritualized way that I have cared for my Moon blood.
 
  • A connection to my ancestors, to the Priestesses that have Priestessed before me, to the women that gathered in Red Tents to bleed into the Earth, to the Moon flow that has flowed through all women throughout time, I feel them close as I deepen my relationship to my Moon time. 
 
I began the process of collecting my blood organically and independently, it was after I began my practice that I met my Priestess that mentored me, that I connected to my Goddess group and began to learn about the phases of the Moon. My ritual around my Moon time has evolved over the years and I encourage every woman who feels called to deepen her relationship to her Moon time to also begin to collect her blood and to handle it in a reverent way in whatever way she feels called to. Listen to your gut, follow what feels right for you and listen to that. 
 
As a glimpse into my personal experience and as an offering to take anything that resonates with you, I have listed below a few ways that you can begin this process if you are looking for a place to start as well as an outline about how this practice might look. For those of you who already work with your Moon blood in a conscious way, please add any tips or rituals that you use below, I'd love to have some new inspiration!
 
  • This month send a prayer to the Goddess, ask for her to inspire you towards a beautiful, antique or powerful feeling container that will become your Moon blood womb.
 
  • When you have found your Moon container perform a ritual to sanctify it, set intention, say prayers over it, bless it with lavender or sweet grass and ask that the ancestors guide you in your journey with your Moon blood.
 
  • If you haven't already, look into purchasing some cloth Moon pads, making some, buying a Diva cup or a sponge tampon and cease to buy plastic, chemically laden disposable products. Whether a pad, cup or tampon you can easily collect your Moon blood during your next flow with one of these products.
 
  • Begin a Moon journal, the week before your Moon time begin to journal about everything that is irritating you, all that is frustrating, overwhelming and taxing to you. When your blood begins to flow, review what it is that you have written and release the energetic cause of your upsets with your monthly flow.
 
  • When you change your pad, cup or tampon rinse the blood into the womb container that you have chosen.
 
  • Once you have collected your blood, choose a ceremonial piece of clothing, a shawl, amulet or tunic and adorn yourself with it as you consciously and silently walk outdoors with your womb container and Moon blood (preferably barefoot).
 
  • When you step out onto the Earth pick a sacred spot that will be the place of receiving, say a prayer of thanks at this spot. Thank the Divine Mother for the blood that courses through you, for your ability to receive the Life Force, thank Her for receiving all that you no longer need and for purifying you through Her cycles.
 
  • Pour out your blood. Stand in silence. Be still. Be emptied.
 
  • Once you have released your blood return in the same fashion that you journeyed, place your womb container in it's sacred space and prepare to repeat this ritual each time that you change your pad, cup or tampon.
 
  • When your Moon time has ceased pour a little water into your womb container and keep it in the place that you have selected ready to receive all of you during your next Moon cycle.
 
As we women honour our Moon time and reclaim the power and beauty in our blood we rise up together, as sisters, mothers, aunties and grandmothers fully in our feminine power. When we offer what we shed back to the Great Mother our relationship to the Goddess strengthens as does the awareness of Her presence in our daily lives and the lives of those around us.
 
May our Moon times be held sacred and treated reverently from this day forward, may we embrace our cycles and may we become a spark of the Goddess as we honour and love our Moon times and may this practice bring us into alignment with the Divine Mother.
 
 
Grace Be With You,
Priestess of Grace,
Candise Soaring Butterfly
 
 
 
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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    Hi Ted - many thanks for your kind words, though I'm not all that sure that I qualify as a Wise Woman Yes, I know Danu - she is
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Something similar happened in Sedona, Arizona in 1987 in "celebration" of the Harmonic Convergence. So many thousands of people of

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Over at Patheos, Sam Webster wrote a most engaging essay on the revival of the Pagan concept of sacrifice. The article starts with the traditional and ancient concept of animal sacrifice and continues on to more symbolic sacrifices such as invocations and acts of service. Naturally, it was the part about animal sacrifice that generated the most comments, many thoughtful and appreciative, and quite a few that were angry and accusatory.

It’s not a surprise that some people have a natural revulsion to the kind of blood sacrifice practiced in the religions of the ancient world, and in some branches Paganism and Afro-revival religions. We have little exposure to death in our industrial world, and what exposure we do have is from the media ie. news, film fiction, and video games. Last week’s episode of Game of Thrones concluded with a scene of violent and dishonorable death, and more than one person I know found it deeply disturbing and unnecessary. (For the record, so did I) I’m not sure how realistically GoT portrays a feudalistic society, but the version we see on HBO is certainly nasty and brutish.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy says #
    Religious animal sacrifice increases the level of care. Increasing the level of care increases the level of caring. To give what w
  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch says #
    I can't agree with you enough, and in fact I posted on this very same issue back in December. Animals that are killed as part of t
  • Dver
    Dver says #
    Animals not under human care don’t ever die nicely. Oh thank you so much for a (sadly rare) reasonable and intelligent post on th

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Sacred Words

 


I am back to writing my blog after taking a break to take care of myself and the many lovely people in my life. My blog should be back on a weekly schedule, barring times when the priorities of my life are more pressing than an online presence. My heartfelt thanks to those that reached out to me and also to those who gave me space. I was also away at PantheaCon and will write about how it touched me next week.

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