A photo of a rock with sunlight filtered onto it.
Goddess Thealogy, Pagan Practice, Sacred Spiritual Growth

The Goddessing Cycle: Resting

Cross-posted on my SageWoman blog.

This post is the second (after Releasing) in my year of sharing the Goddessing Cycle, which is the flow of energy and draw toward ritual I experience in my relationship with Goddess. The phase of resting, for me, extends from December through February. The name is deceptive, as if hibernation and drawing inward are the focus of this season. Rather, I believe it is a time of deepening into the fullness of our inner world, and then a slow but steady rush of growth outward into the world around us.

The processes I’ll be describing below fit best in climates that become cold, bleak and snowy. I would be curious if those who live in very warm climates experience some of these moments in the peak of summer instead, when the heat (rather than the cold) makes it nearly impossible to spend time outside. Although I am presenting the four parts of the Goddessing Cycle as they unfold across the year for me, keep in mind that they may show up differently for you no matter where you live.

Image showing the Goddessing Cycle. A circle with bi-directional arrows containing the words Fruiting, Releasing, Resting and Unfurling in a clockwise order.

Simple Pleasures

There is something both young and ancient about resting. Babies (and puppies) physically sleep most of the time as their brains and bodies develop. Some people grow more dormant with age, casting off the tasks they deem unnecessary for those that are closest to their hearts. I find a simplicity rooted in resting, a request from my Inner Being/Goddess to settle into myself and search out that which is vital.

I spend several hours each winter compiling a record of the previous year, and then, from that place of reflection, creating goals for the new year. Rather than whine about New Year’s resolutions being stupid, I look at my culture’s practice of them and wonder about whether there are ancient or ingrained patterns to which we are attending when we seek to make new our attempts at self-improvement. I believe something has to stir in us to cause those of us who live in barren, frigid lands to believe that, during the bitterest of times, fresh and hopeful rousings are afoot.

An Inflection Point

During the resting phase of the year, I experience a shift in energy. The previous phase of releasing is inward-gathering, letting go of impediments and drawing toward inertia. There is a stillness at the heart of resting that we will be further exploring during the meditation I’ve created below. The stillness is a pause in fullness. It reflects a holding and then then turning outward of momentum and impulse. If we take time to practice being in the moment, we likely experience many of these inflections throughout each day, week and month, but it is only around the start of the new year that I make a deliberate practice of this redirection of my energy.

A Mediation for Resting

This ritual is designed primarily as a meditation on the moment—a way to connect to ourselves and the world around us through direct experience. It involves concentrating on one’s breath as a symbolic representation of the energy exchange that flows through each of us and through the world around us. It utilizes four of our five main senses, so adjust as needed to your own abilities and preferences. Exercise caution if you have an respiratory difficulties. You may want to record yourself reading the directions and play them back to yourself as you practice it.

Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down (outside if possible). Breathe deeply and slowly, noticing each in and out breath. Close your eyes and concentrate on the sounds around you. Spend a few minutes bringing your awareness to noises both close and far. Breathe in and hold your breath for a few seconds. As you do so, notice the stillness in the sounds around you. Where are the areas of silence? Where is the energy lessened? Breathe out as you feel the rush of sounds amplify. Where is there energy flowing? What form does the noise take and how does it sit with you? Continue this practice of finding the silence and the noise in rhythm with your breathing.

Next, turn your attention to your sense of touch, temperature and pressure. Breathe in slowly and deeply. Pay attention for a few moments to any skin sensations. Breathe in and hold your breath for a few seconds. Where on your body is there stillness? What areas seem neutral, neither hot nor cold, constricted nor loose? Breathe out and notice areas of high energy. Perhaps places where you can feel air flow or the dampness of the earth. Areas that are warmed by the sun or cooled by a chill. Continue to breathe in and out in the rhythm of movement and stillness.

Now, concentrate on your sense of smell. Breathe in and out to acclimate yourself to the scents around you. Breathe in through your nose and hold your breath for a few seconds. What happens to the smells when you do this? What pauses in you as scents disappear? Breathe out and, as you breathe in again, observe the movement of odors. Continue this rhythmic breathing, being sure to pause with each in-breath to notice the hollow.

Finally, open your eyes and drink in the sights around you. Breathe slowly for a few minutes as you examine your surroundings. Next, breathe in and, as you hold your breath briefly, find the areas of low energy. Where is there void? Where does emptiness and monotony show up? What lacks in color and texture? Breathe out and find places of movement, light and complexity. Continue scanning as you breathe in and out, pausing each cycle to see the neutral.

I encourage you to consider this meditation as a potential reflection of your inner world, especially if you are spending time as I am during this time in evaluating the past year and setting goals for the next one. I never knew I craved experiences like spaciousness and simplicity until I became more intentional in taking time to reflect. Modern-day life often sends us the message that we need to not only appear busy, but also effortless in our busyness. By finding the places where things are not moving or producing or changing, where they are still, we invite ourselves into internal areas of strength that we may otherwise view as weakness. It is okay to rest. Moreover, I believe we only find out the vastness of who we are (and/or who Goddess is) when we slow down enough to give every part of ourselves an opportunity to show up, be seen and just be.

Pagan Practice

Lemon Curd and Blueberry Crepes: Celebrating the Return of the Sun at Imbolc

For my Imbolc #PaganPractice blog, I created a cake out of crepes to represent the hope and anticipation present in this season. Even though it is barren and frigid outside, I hold on to the expectation that warmth and life will return to the barren and frigid earth, as well as a sense of confidence that our inner landscape can become equally fertile as we are poised to enter a time ripe with activity and action.

I used three recipes to make this cake:

Crepes

Lemon Curd

Stabilized Whipped Cream

A few tips for each recipe:

  • Crepes: I added about 1 TBS of sugar per batch of crepes, and made four times the amount of the original recipe. I also added 1 TBS of vanilla for each batch. I stored the crepes by putting a piece of waxed paper between each cooled crepe; this made it very fast to assemble the cake as they came apart easily.
  • Lemon Curd: This was the least successful of my recipes because I didn’t cook it long enough. I would err on the side of slightly overcooking if you make it, because the lemon curd does not play well with the whipped cream if it is too runny. For the cake, I doubled the recipe.
  • Stabilized Whipped Cream: Making this recipe feels like a trust fall to me. There is a point each time I make it where I am about to throw in the towel and declare it a failure because it seems it will never change from its liquid state. Then, suddenly, it becomes the most beautiful whipped topping I’ve ever seen. It is perfect for the crepe cake because it holds up well between the layers. I made four times what the original recipe called for in order to create my cake.

crepes slice

To assemble the cake, I first divided the stabilized whipped cream into two parts, and folded the lemon curd in to one of them. I then began the layers by putting down two crepes with no filling. I alternated layers of the whipped cream and the lemon curd whipped cream between crepes. I also added fresh blueberries in with some of the layers of lemon curd whipped cream—make sure any fruit you add is dried fully.

The crepes and lemon curd can be made ahead of time, but I would suggest making the stabilized whipped cream and assembling the cake the day of serving it. As you can see, I had some troubles with the lemon curd whipped cream running out, but I believe this was due to the lemon curd not being fully set when I mixed it in. Any of the components of the cake could be store-bought if you are short on time. You could also fill the crepes individually and serve that way. The taste was rich with a hint of sweetness. It brought home for me the feeling of the sluggishness of winter starting to lift just a little, with notes of light and fresh flavors peeking through. Happy Imbolc!

 

Inner Work, Pagan Practice

Yule: A Time of Dormancy

I’ve struggled to pull together a theme for Yule this year for my #PaganPractice post. It occurred to me that Yule is a time where there is an inner tension within some aspects of Paganism as well as within the time of year as a whole. Paganism which focuses on the Sun God/dess sees Yule as a time of light, heralding in rebirth. Goddess Spirituality during this time of year may include a focus on the myth of Persephone and Demeter, namely, winter being a time of mourning as Demeter brings death to the earth while mourning her daughter’s exile in the Underworld. Death and new life, utter contrasts on their face, are woven together.

As I sat with this divergence in meaning, I was drawn to remember the Earth-based aspect of my spirituality. At least in my location, this is a time of year for things to go dormant. Both plants and animals draw in their resources, having hopefully stored what they needed during the harvest time. There is little activity and indeed little indication of life, unless one is a careful observer.

Things appear to be resting and sleeping away the long nights. I do believe that this time of year beckons us inward, to shut out excessive distraction and activity, and to open the cupboards of our inner world and see what supplies remain. We may feel drawn thin in terms of spiritual provisions, needing to conserve our energy and our effort. It is not only acceptable, it is actually necessary to take some time to take stock of who and what we are in order to equip ourselves for times of plenty and activity.

I sense a pregnant pause during this time; we can not only count our inner inventory, we can also begin to shape our intentions for busier times. One symbol of Yule that I’ve found particularly meaningful this year is that of a candle being lit. As a representation of light and rebirth, it shares with us hope during the cold and the dark. It reminds us that this withdraw inward is only temporary and that something is coming. From a Goddess Spirituality perspective, I see the something as a someone, Goddess reborn in all her splendor as time renews. But for now, the long shadows of early nightfall make it hard to see beyond our feet, and, while we pause to rest, we’ve much to sit with and divide and cast off and hold onto and make new. Her light attends our latency.

Pagan Practice

Samhain Reflection: Leaves Changing, Falling, Decomposing

Cross-posted at my SageWoman blog.

For this season’s #PaganPractice blog, I decided to share a reflection on leaves and how, in the ending of their life cycle, they can embody aspects of Samhain.

The Colors of Autumn

The orange hue of leaves is there throughout the summer! It is only revealed when the energy-generating process in the leaves stops. Something thrills in me to know that some leaves hold what we perceive as their aged color their whole existence, but it is masked for a bit by the green of the chlorophyll. What if each of us has who we will become already with us, but youth and immaturity keeps us from seeing certain truths until we are ready to do so? Other colors like purples are created once the leaf begins to decay, reminding us that some things take time to come into being.

Releasing and Remembrance

Once the temperature has cooled, trees begin to release their leaves. The leaves have exhausted their purpose and are not longer nourishing the tree through the action of chlorophyll. They fall, one by one or in a heap on a windy day. Unless tidied up by human hands, they surround the tree at its base in a vestige of past glory.

Samhain is a time to honor one’s ancestors, holding vigil for those who have passed before us. As a person who’s cut off from her family of origin, making meaning during this time has been difficult for me. Certainly I plan honor those who have served as spiritual ancestors to me, but they are either still with me or so removed in terms of time and place I don’t feel that the spiritual connection is strong enough for this practice. I love the idea of creating a shrine to acknowledge each of those who have brought meaning into our life, and spending time with it communing with them and sharing offerings of their favorite items. I did this for my cat (who I had cremated after he passed several years ago).

The image of a tree surrounded by its leaves left me with another impression. Perhaps we can also spend time during Samhain recognizing everything we have released over the course of the past year. All that has served its purpose and then fallen away. I’ve met people who are still in mourning, not for a loved one who’s died, but for a dream that was unrealized or a love that went unrequited. Decades have passed and they still cling to a paper-thin husk, devoid of energy. If I was a tree, I’d shed my leaves randomly, sometimes in the full bloom of summer, so determined am I to rid myself of anyone and anything which threatens my sense of integrity. Maybe as humans, whether we reject things quickly or hold on too long, we need at least one rite a year in which we sit and grieve for the people and situations that weren’t ever quite ours, but for which we still yearn.

I created a ritual related to the remembrance of empty shells, the haunting of losses I want to just brush past but which keep staring up at me in their fading colors and shapes. I need my practice to be tangible, so I gathered several leaves and then wrote on each of them. I then burned them one by one, letting the smoky haze muddle my eyes and my thoughts, sinking into what it felt like to remember each situation and then let it go. I spread the ashes under the oldest trees on my property, honoring their wisdom and taking comfort in the fact that they are more rooted than I.

Disintegration and Decay

It can be beneficial to allow leaves to remain where they drop; the nutrients they release as they break down provide sustenance for the tree. Eventually the leaf becomes a part of the soil, indistinguishable from its former neighbors and mingled into other materials. The leaf spends its time above ground in a symbiotic relationship with the trunk and branches of the tree, but the rest of the tree gets to keep on unfurling its existence while the leaf is consumed.

How I resist the decaying process! It is inevitable. The horizon of my life draws ever so slightly closer, even as a part of me searches for a road that will lead over the looming mountain. Our culture doesn’t even dignify our decaying by allowing us to remain where we are rooted, instead, the circumstances of our life are akin to a leaf who happens to take the plunge during a strong gale. We fling about, buffeted not only by the decisions of our past but also by the whims of whomever finds us in their charge.

We face disintegration as well as decay; the careful gathering and piles we’ve made of our life are only under our control for so long. We may not get to nurture the limbs and bark and being to which we’ve dedicated our life with our passing. Instead, we can find ourselves facing the process alone in unfamiliar terrain. But we are still who we are, and Goddess goes with us no matter where we go.

I am not afraid especially afraid of dying or of shaking out the last drops of youth that remain in the cup. But I am terrified of becoming old-old, of aging to the point where I lose my independence and self-determination. I know myself enough to know I will fight the wind, fight the cold, fight to end up under the same damn tree on which I’ve settled as my spiritual and literal home. If and when the forces of nature demand more of me, I pray to Goddess She grants me grace and patience to view the last journey as an adventure, as a final trek up that mountain. Perhaps the leaf of my existence can find a quiet place to break apart and fertile soil to join. Perhaps it doesn’t matter where we end up after all; it’s all the same forest, with each tree a world unto itself.

So for Samhain, I reflect on death and decay. Dying and decomposition. Instead of dreaming of a world beyond death, I sit in a world where death is a near-constant presence, often through violent and abrupt means. I take a bit of ash from the leaves I burned, and rub it on my feet. This way, each step I take holds that connection to dreams that end, relationships that end, life that ends. There will be time for contemplating renewal and reincarnation; the cycle of death that inevitability leads to new life. But for today, I hold space for loss and pain and sorrow and finality, knowing that in doing so, I’m letting myself look wide-eyed at what I often try to ignore, welcoming it as a part of who I am and what we all face. Blessings on Samhain as you remember and reflect.