goddess spirituality, pagan, life

Rites of Death: Requiem for a Squirrel

Content warning—description of animal death

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.

Witnessing Wildness

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?

goddess spirituality, inspiration, life, pagan

Honoring Limitations

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!

goddess spirituality, pagan

Pentagram Protection Grid

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.*

Twigs.

Votive candles.

Flowers.

*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.

Basic Pattern

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.

Ritual

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!

goddess spirituality, pagan

A World Underfoot: Meeting Goddess in the Smallest Creatures

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.

Bees

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.

Ants

ant-e1503615253380.jpg

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?

Earthworms

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.

Spiders

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.

Cicadas

ciadia
A cicada who’d just fulfilled its short life above ground.

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.

Cross-posted at http://www.witchesandpagans.com/sagewoman-blogs/goddessing-heart/a-world-underfoot-meeting-goddess-in-the-smallest-creatures.html

goddess spirituality, pagan

Developing A Personal Spiritual Philosophy of the World

As part of my own spiritual evolution, I decided to create and then answer a series of questions in order to help me further articulate my faith journey. My goal here on this #SacredSpiritualGrowth Saturday is to promote individual self-exploration, not to proselytize. I’m quite nervous to share my take on things, in part because I want to ensure the environment I create on my blog is welcoming, inclusive and diverse; statements of faith can quickly steer things into a more divisive and charged space. At the same time, I felt a sense of reclaiming my spirituality as my own when I articulated the specifics of it, knowing full well 99.9% of what I’ve written would be rejected by the religion of my youth.

I would love to see your responses to the questions I’ve proposed; feel free to select a few questions that most deeply resonate with you and respond in the comments, or create your own post by tagging this post and then describing your own spiritual philosophy by answering each question in response.

The Big Questions

What is the purpose of life? Why are we here in this time and place? I don’t have inner clarity over whether life has a purpose or not, but, if it does, I think it has something to do with our lives unfolding as an expression of love to ourselves and others.

What happens after death? I felt certain for years that death was the end and there was no afterlife. Through theories like quantum physics, I’m willing to speculate that there may be more after we die in some sense. I do not believe in karma or heaven and hell, but I’m can wrap my head around reincarnation on some level.

To what extent do humans have free will? I think we have varying degrees of free will, depending on the extent to which our frontal lobe functions properly as adults. I think there are many, many factors that influence the effects of our will.

Are humans basically good/bad/something else? I do not believe humans are inherently good or bad. I think we have varying degrees of healthy or unhealthy behaviors and characteristics. I think many of our behaviors are the result of our natural tendencies. This is contradictory to what I just wrote, but I do think some people are at least very close to being evil as I’ve been on the receiving end of behaviors I can’t classify any other way. I hope I develop a more nuanced view in these instances as I grow and heal.

What are the implications for those who view the world differently than you do? I think it is none of my business how others choose to conceptualize the world, with one exception. I believe in certain absolute human rights, and I think we need to do all we can to change beliefs that undercut basic freedoms all humans should have.

Can people control their circumstances (such as will something to happen or not happen) through mental intention? I do not believe we can directly control our circumstances through willpower, although I think we can subtly influence our own unconscious mind in ways that may lead to different outcomes than would have otherwise occurred. I have experienced a few moments of coincidence that really made me think magic is possible.

What is the nature of justice, and what is the role each of us plays in ensuring it occurs? I’ve blogged about my thoughts on this. I do not think the world is just and I’m not convinced true justice exists. I think we can each hold each other accountable if we are in close relationship, but I also think there is a place for letting go and accepting the unfairness life holds.

If you conceptualize Deity…

What is your conceptualization of Deity? Who is Deity? I believe in Goddess as a reflection of my Inner Wisdom and the collective human unconsciousness. I think we are all intricately connected through Her. I celebrate Deity in Her feminine form, but I also see avenues beyond this. I do not rule out masculine divinity, but I also do not give energy towards it at this time. I also envision gender-fluid or gender-less spiritual practice at some point in my future.

I do not adhere to a particular viewpoint on Goddess but am eclectic in my approach. I see nature as a direct reflection of Goddess and do not see an inherent difference between the inner and outer worlds or the natural and spiritual worlds.

To what extent is Deity involved in humans’ individual lives? I think Goddess pervades all of human experience but allows us to make our own choices. She provides guidance to the extent to which we are open to receive it.

How can you communicate with Deity? I believe each of us can approach and communicate with Goddess without an initiation or training. At the same time, I think we can learn from each other the ritual and practice that most easily and deeply connects us with her.

What affects your relationship with Deity? I think my relationship with Goddess is affected by my relationship with self and others. I will experience alienation from Goddess to the extent to which I experience alienation from myself and those around me. I also think that carelessness towards the Earth and natural resources will disconnect me from Source.

Can your Deity directly change your circumstances (miracles, etc.)? I feel ambivalent towards this idea. If it occurs, I think it is a highly unusual and rare experience and does not occur for personal gain.

If you do not conceptualize Deity…

              What elevates your beliefs and practices to the level of the Sacred?

What are some areas of areas of your spirituality over which you have less clarity? How can you go about growing in these areas? I do not have a lot of exposure to some of the more traditional pagan viewpoints, such as Wicca. I have a general conceptualization of Maiden-Mother-Crone, but when I’ve attempted to write about it, it falls flat. I am going to be doing more reading and seeking Goddess on an experiential level to deepen my understanding in this area.

Another area of disconnect happens when I read the original mythology of a Goddess; it is a struggle at times for me to see Her through a contemporary lens. I want to sink into the stories in Her presence more fully so that I can emerge with a richer understanding of Her journey.

Personal Values

What labels, if any, do you give to your faith journey? Why? I consider myself to be a practitioner of Earth-based Goddess Spirituality. I consider myself part of the community of Pagans. I am currently a Solitary Practitioner but I am exploring the role of Priestess in my life. These labels help me to identify others with whom I share common beliefs.

What are the spiritual values that you espouse? The core spiritual value I strive to uphold in my life is to do whatever I can in my life to become the best version of myself, with the knowledge that this will then lead me to relate in the healthiest possible ways with those with whom I come into contact. My best self is loving, kind, graceful, patient, bold, wise and balanced.

Articles of Faith

How do you show your affiliation with your Deity, and with the community of like-minded individuals? What are the implications of these behaviors for those who think differently from you? I am starting to both wear and surround myself with symbols of Goddess. I think the more important identification is the way in which I present myself and my participation in Pagan/Goddess events. I try at all times to speak about my experiences in a way that makes clear I do not see my path as the only path, while also honoring the deep impact it has had on me.

What rituals and rites do you celebrate to mark important holidays and moments of transition? I celebrate the Pagan Wheel of the Year. I also want to become involved in celebrating certain aspects of womanhood such as pregnancy, birth, and menopause.

What sites are sacred, and how do you show them reverence? There are some places I would love to visit such as the White Spring at Glastonbury. My practice is to see every place as potentially sacred, especially in natural settings. I think ritual to honor Goddess, as well as a simple mindfulness practice in a sacred site, are acts of reverence.

Relationship Implications

How do you share your views with others? What is the purpose of sharing your views? I share my views here on this blog as well as with those I trust in person. My main reason for doing so is to create a conversation, because I know that I have much work to do to reclaim my faith as my own, and I need to bounce ideas off others and hear their perspectives to grow.

How should you treat others? How should you expect to be treated? I would tend to follow the Wiccan Rede here: “An it harm none, do what ye will.” I believe I should respect others’ ability to make decisions for themselves as well as support them, and I hope for the same from others. I do not believe in sacrificing who I am or what I stand for in order to maintain a relationship.

What is your responsibility to nature? How can you uphold it? I have a long way to go here. I want to respect nature and conserve natural resources. I’m trying to take small concrete actions and make incremental changes that reflect my beliefs in this area.