For today’s #InnerWork Wednesday, I wanted to share the ritual I enacted after witnessing a violent squirrel death. This is the second dead animal I’ve come across in the last month; I also found a robin outside of my door which had likely passed from West Nile virus. Just as I try to drastically reduce my consumption of animal products, my access to their suffering has increased.
As I walked with my dog, I hear a ruckus in a neighbor’s tree. My pup and I stopped to see what was causing all the commotion. Unexpectedly, three squirrels came hurdling at least ten feet from a nest in the tree and plopped on the ground. One landed with a smacking sound. My brain tried to sanitize what I’d just seen by telling me it was like a mother bird pushing her offspring out of the nest, even as I stood there covering my mouth with my hand, eyes bugging out. A single squirrel that remained in the tree squawked in victory.
I kept walking, believing everything was alright. As I passed the house on my way back, two neighbors came out, staring at the tree. I went over and explained what I’d seen. One of the men remarked that a squirrel, the one that landed with a thud, seemed like it might be dead. Before I could react, the other man started kicking and stomping on it. He kicked it into the bush where I could now see it. Its body laid there, still and silent. I felt sickened to my core and helpless. I was confused by the ambiguity of his actions—unsure if he was trying to “put it out of its misery” or if it was merely stunned and could have recovered. I left the scene but what I’d observed bothered me the rest of the day.
Words of Mourning
I decided to hold a small ritual to mourn the squirrel. Its manner of death was so abrupt and violent that I intuited on a visceral level the fear people have of ghosts and spirits who linger, unable to move on to their next destination. I’ve always conceptualized funerals as events designed to help the living grieve, but now I’m not so certain that they are the only ones in attendance. I burned some palo santo, lit a candle, and recited the following chant:
May Earth cradle.
May Air free.
May Fire guide.
May Water heal.
May your essence, emanating from Source, spiral its home in the cosmic web.
I also lit a candle outdoors the next day to finalize my actions. It flickered on and off like a heartbeat. Each time I thought it had been blown out by the wind, its flame started anew.
When I walked by the place of passing, the squirrel was gone.That is, its body had been removed or resurrected; I didn’t have a strong sense of its spirit either, but the tree, now empty, felt closed-in and shadowed to me.
We pass every day near places where violence has occurred, often on a much grander scale than what I saw. We can do all we are able to stop these types of events. When they do happen, how do we integrate them into our experience? How do we heal them and ourselves of our participation in them? How do we remember and honor those who have passed?
Today would typically be my next post for #GoddessingSelfCare Sunday. Unfortunately, my workload and health issues have piled up to the point where I feel like my day-to-day is a never-ending series of obligations. As a result, I need to slow myself down and respect my own limits. I want to carve out more time to dig into my spiritual practice so that what I write come as much from a place of authenticity as possible. I will still be blogging, but I am now planning to post about once a week, with additional posts as I am able. Looking forward to our continued conversations!
Grids can be created for any purpose you desire as a touchstone for your spirit. For today’s #InnerWork Wednesday, I wanted to make a layout that incorporated the pentagram with the intention of protection. I interpret the pentagram as representative of the four elements and spirit. Creating a circle around it evokes a feeling of power and safety.
Supplies You’ll Need
Chant, spell, poem, or other expression of protection. I encourage you to challenge yourself to either create your own or to reinterpret one that you find. If you create your own, you may want to include five specific aspects of protection and safety to represent the pentagram. I intend for this to be an inner working made to assist yourself in staying safe and establishing your boundaries, not something that affects another person’s will in any way.
Apples or another fruit.*
Pomegranate or cranberry.*
Nuts in shells, puffed corn or grain.*
*These were used to connect my work with the harvest season and Mabon. I would suggest changing the items you incorporate based on the time of year and seasonal produce in your area. Apples are great any time for this particular ritual because of the pentagram pattern inside of them.
Lay out the twigs in the shape of a star, and place the votive candles at each outer corner. Arrange the rest of the materials to your preference.
Step 1: Cast a circle, calling in the elements and Deity as you see fit.
Step 2: Use the materials to create a pentagram pattern. Respond intuitively to each object as you include it, and decide where it would best fit in or if it should be saved for another purpose.
Step 3: Center yourself after you finish your grid, and finalize the intention you have for your protection grid. You may want to write it down to mark it.
Step 4: Read or sing your protection chant.
Step 4: As you read your chant, visualize protective energy being welcomed into your space. See it infusing each object in your grid. Notice the colors, tones and textures of the energy as it flows through your created work.
Step 5: Make a statement of blessing and gratitude for the protection offered through your inner work.
Step 6: Close the circle, thanking all Deities and elements who were present. Keep your grid laid out for as long as you see fit; cleanse the objects of their protective energy in some way before reusing for another purpose. Several of the items can spoil, so consider how you can use them creatively. I have plenty of wildlife in my area who were more than happy to share in my work!
Picture a girl or woman coming across an insect unexpectedly. Perhaps you just heard her shriek. Women have been trained to let men stand in and defend them from this fearsome beasts. It’s kind of strange if you think about it, given that any physical strength advantage is relatively meaningless in response to something about an inch or smaller in length. I think I’ve fallen into this squeamish behavior myself for long enough; it’s time to put on my hiking boots and get to know some of Gaia’s smaller beings. As a practitioner of Earth-based Goddess Spirituality, I wanted to take some time on this #NaturallyMindful Monday to explore ways in which we might learn spiritual lessons from insects as they reflect the presence of Goddess.
Many insects, including bees, function as a collective. The queen bee is responsible for laying eggs and releasing a pheromone to give the bee colony a unique chemical perfume. The female worker bees feed her, tend to the hive and take care of the offspring. The drones have it pretty rough; they exist to mate with the queen. They are killed in the mating process or kicked out of the hive to starve during winter.
In re-familiarizing myself with the types of bees in a hive, I was surprised to learn that the reason some bees become the queen or a worker is actually due to the type of nurturance they receive in the developmental process. They are raised in different parts of the hive and fed differently. The worker bees are not sexually mature because the queen’s scent constrains their biology; they will begin to lay eggs if she dies.
I see an analogy here to the maiden and mother in Goddess theology, with Goddess being present in both forms. There are times where there will be an aging queen and young daughter bee in the same hive, which allows us to incorporate the crone concept. To the extent that we use the three-fold model, the part in which we find our resonance relies not only on our own biology and age, but also the familial and communal relationships in which we find ourselves placed. Perhaps it is time for you to move into a new role, but you must first negotiate with the maiden, mother or crone in your life in order to transform that relationship as well.
Ant society is pretty impressive. Their colonies are so well integrated that they basically harness their individual computing brainpower together so that the colony acts almost as one being. I think here of Gaia, and the idea that the entire earth could be conceptualized as an entity. Some human societies create an image of an individual, distinct from society, who can act autonomously. This may be true to an extent, but the metaphor falters when the intricate ways in which each of us is dependent on the rest are explored.
Ants go to war, fighting to the death to protect their territory. If we see the Earth as the territory of humans, what does it mean to protect it? Does fighting over artificial boundaries really make a lot of sense when we are all one and the same? On the other hand, on a psychic level, how do we draw our boundaries and marshal our resources to protect our inner work?
Depending where you live, the main time you may see earthworms is after it rains. They aren’t purged from the ground because of the high water content. Instead, because they absorb oxygen through their skin, a cloudy, humid moment is the perfect time for them to try to relocate.
This makes me think about transitions in our lives. We may appear to be underwater, or even drowning, but we are instead sometimes taking advantage of our circumstances to launch ourselves into our next regeneration. So many Goddess myths have to do with the Goddess going to the underworld, only to return in a new form.
I couldn’t resist studying up a bit on spider cannibalism. Female spiders often eat male spiders. In some cases, they do this after mating, which might give the male spider’s genes a better chance of being passed on because the female has a tasty bit of food to keep her going as she produces offspring. In other cases, aggressive female spiders just seem to kill all the male spiders that they come across, without mating with them! The female spiders of the Stegodyphus variety commit matriphagy, meaning that they allow their young to dissolve and eat them.
These behaviors strike me as extreme examples of sacrifice. I’ve noticed many Goddess mythologies have this element of someone needing to die in order for others to live and prosper. We can take this literally in relation to humans in terms of the cycle of life, death and rebirth, or we can think metaphorically about what in each of us needs to be birthed, sacrificed or regenerated in order to move forward with our lives.
I will never forget the moment my dog, who was about a 5 lb. puppy at the time, suddenly stopped on our walk. I sensed something was off. I noticed something large in his mouth; the next thing I knew, out flew a cicada! He apparently helped it shed its crunchy shell. Their song leaves me feeling I am in peak summer; I experience myself transported back to a time before electronics and artificial lights when I hear its cadence.
Cicadas can teach us about rhythm, ebb and flow, fertile and fallow. Some species develop underground and only emerge in adult form every 17 years. This year, they have actually been seen almost half a decade early in some parts of America, likely because of climate change. What responsibility does each of us have to respect the earth, and protect the natural patterns that sustain her? For our own lives, what happens when we get out of sync or try to rush things before their time?
I am curious to hear about the insects you’ve met and what you’ve learned from them. Taking time to remind myself of some of their behaviors and characteristics will undoubtedly shift how I see and respond to them. I can really see a place for a mindfulness practice here of spending time simply watching insects live out their roles and behaviors. The childlike wonder, with its desire to trace the path of worms and pick cicada shells off the trees, has likely faded for many of us, but maybe it doesn’t have to if we see it as a gateway to Gaia—a door to a world of cooperation, sacrifice, loyalty, rhythm and life itself.
I’m interrupting my normal themed posts in order to share a part of my personal journey as it relates to mental health and being a trauma survivor. This particular post does not have a focus on spirituality, but I will be seeking out themes to which I can make a connection. I would welcome any comments about how what I shared impacted you or if you find yourself relating to any of my experiences.
“Yes,” he said, “I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.”
― G.K. Chesterton, The Innocence of Father Brown
My mother remains a mystery to me. I lived with her from birth into young adulthood, but I never glimpsed behind the mask of mirrors she projected. She kept everyone at a particular distance; close enough to control but not so close that any vulnerability or genuine emotion was expressed. She would let me sit next to her and then unexpectedly shove me away.
She hid her true self under a mask of a loving, caring parent, when in fact she alternated in private between terrorizing, smothering and manipulating her charges. As soon as the phone was hung up or the car door shut or the last guest left, her polite, demure demeanor instantly transformed into an enraged, overburdened and abandoned character. And even this was a mask for whatever deep shame and revulsion drove her psyche, tossed aside for another version as soon as it suited her. She would scream and cry for days during her cycle, and, when asked what was making her depressed, would respond by saying “What do you mean? I’m always happy.” Every time I thought I saw her, she shifted and another mirror appeared.
What (not who) was I to this woman? I think I was an extension of her that she despised but needed, or maybe despised because she needed. She desired to possess me. I was to be her servant, happy that she allowed me to exist to ease her suffering. But of course I could never get it quite right and could never win her affection. She didn’t just fail to love me; she actively hated me. Had I stayed at home into adulthood and done nothing with my life aside from making a meager financial contribution and orienting myself towards pleasing her, she would not have made any effort to push me towards adult maturity. One of my greatest emotional burdens is that I’ve seen some of my siblings come close to this destiny after I rejected it. I was the oldest so the task fell to me initially; when I finally said “no more,” she simply adjusted her aim and found another target.
I’ve hesitated many times to share my experiences for fear of being called ungrateful and being judged for my estrangement from my family. Something settled anew in me when I decided to own it. I am ungrateful. Ungrateful for being sexually, emotionally and verbally abused. Ungrateful for being mocked and ridiculed every time I expressed an opinion. Ungrateful for being treated like an object or as an appendage. Ungrateful for the breadcrumbs of attention I was thrown, for which I was expected to grovel.
I want to wear my inner strengths that she labeled ungratefulness, entitlement and selfishness as a mantle; I would not be a fully functioning or even a marginally functioning adult without them. For wherever I am over-confident or proud in my everyday life, I offer myself grace and succor. To the parts of myself that are filled with shame and self-doubt, I extend hospitality and shout a message of “You are important!” “I see you!” “You have a right to exist!” to quiet the inner critic who wishes them gone.
I cobbled together a person from the fragments of my shattered mind. The embarrassment I’ve felt for my Frankenstein creation is being steadily replaced by an abiding sense of astonishment that the stitches are so well placed and the parts amble in a coordinated fashion. She broke me apart, seeking my soul, but I hid it away and now the rest of me—my mind, my body and my heart—have also been reclaimed as my own.
A major task of adulthood is making sense of our childhood, integrating the disappointments of our parents with their strengths in order that we may form our identity, develop close relationships and caretake the next generation. I cannot do this very well with my mother. I do see how hard she worked and I value the perseverance she instilled in me. I wish to feel sadness towards her limitations without being consumed with guilt, but she blamed me ceaselessly for her suffering without considering any of her own flaws. I wish to forgive her, but she never acknowledged that she did anything wrong towards me. I wish to connect to her, but she always kept me at a distance. I wish to focus on the silly, joyful, carefree times, but she didn’t allow herself to indulge in them with me.
So the best I can manage is acceptance. I accept that I’ve never really known who my mother is, that she’s existed in a kaleidoscope of interchangeable facades, and that she has been incapable of loving or even of seeing me as a person. I wish I could experience a genuine moment of humanity from her once in my life, but I accept that I will instead treasure every single one of these moments I’ve co-created with those who do love and care for me.