Magic & Phrase

Trust: The Journey

I.

American interstate.

Every metal beast believing its demon worthy

Of being last to leave and first to arrive.

Truncated forests reduced to boundary line.

People, once awoken, see themselves veering into the islanded field

Declaring the reed and grass as heartbeat and home.

Why do painted lines obey the cars?

II.

House of worship.

Calling on our dear providence, weary of weakness induced,

We supplicate that which we already possess.

Voices, only male, trilling dominance as salvation.

Female in form: Madonna or whore

Forced without choice, patterning our birthright.

The mantle we strive to shoulder pleasing and, in failing,

Burn it unmourning as defiled as we are.

III.

Social media.

She traces outlines in the fogged mirror.

Razor thin edges of who she, wisp, idolizes.

Body worthy only in breast and hip and ratio

Of pregnancy to submissive glance.

Her appeal loose flakes to her self-love.

Silver-hair and wrinkle holy gifts

She banishes same as bare flesh to contour.

IV.

Public gathering.

You count first the outcasts, then the leaders, then lastly, the judgmental ones.

Knowing full well to count thrice.

You widen your vision to encompass the uneven horizon

Declaring your name and all the sharpened shards who, molten, forged you.

Uttering actualities until nearby the birds pause and squirrels cease chatter

Nature curling up breathing the air of sovereignty embodied.

You believe your feet to tremble but roots encircle, collecting, as they descend.

V.

Inner sphere.

Transforming midst gates of Inanna and Persephone

Underwater, under world that demands my sacrifice.

All the while eyes forward, lean into the weight

Of boulders cast of shame.

I thought the scenery was superfluous.

Now, branch and pebble and bird feather are

Substance and bone of my offering.

Embodied Heart

Who Is a Woman Without Family?

Single. Estranged. Childless/child-free. No one word sums up my experience living as an adult woman without being in relationship with my family of origin, a romantic partner and without having had a child. It is a formless, unutterable identity that consumes me and yet I nearly never give it voice, mostly because I’ve allowed it to cause me shame. For today’s #EmbodiedHeart post, I explore some possible answers to the question my title posed.

An Orphan to be Pitied

What does a woman without family feel? In my case, lots of loneliness and longing. Desire and rejection. It is hard to fully articulate the bittersweet tang of watching others for whom I care start new relationships and give birth. I wouldn’t call my feelings jealousy in most cases, as I also often feel contentment on the path on which I’m walking, but I do experience sadness mixed in with the joy.

At times, I’ve received pity as a response when I’ve shared my identity. Usually followed by a rush to wish things would be healed with my family or that I’d find love. I think I’ve internalized a deep bucket of shame around this way of being in the world, one to which scoops are only added when people pity me. Not only do I experience shame, but I also distance myself from my own wishes for family. If I don’t “want” it, it won’t hurt not to have it.

People are often surprised at the ease with which I interact with children, perhaps mistaking my lack of energy towards producing or procuring one of my own through adoption as a lack of desire. In truth, I think I’ve simply given up on love stories and tiny toes. I’ve failed repeatedly when it comes to familying and it’s failed me. I believe the only rational responses to defeat, once one acknowledges its existence, are to try again after altering some variable, or to come into a place of acceptance of it. Right now I am noticing and being with my failure, rather than trying to turn it into a success.

A Witch to be Feared

Being too different, being too loud, not following the rules enough. These are the charges often hurled at women society sees as “witches.” Women whose eccentrics show a smidge too much of their own defined sense of being. As I’ve begun to move from young into middle adulthood, this is the place I find myself sitting more and more. I am no longer only a shy teen with downcast eyes waiting for someone to notice her, I am also a warrior singing her call regardless of who approves.

I cannot tell how much this impulse comes from within me and how much it is projected on to me by others, but I sense a woman alone after a certain age somehow appears more threatening. All the caretaking roles I “should” be fulfilling are going unanswered. There isn’t an easy shelf on which to place me of mother, devoted daughter or wife. My oddity feels like a cloak in which I wrap myself to hide but by which I instead end up revealing more than I intended.

A Spinster to be Discarded

As I age, I anticipate moving into the role of the old maid if I stay unfamilied. As such, I will eventually be in a place of  needing instead of giving. Can I endure coming physical frailty without acquiescing or diminishing? Our society expects those who are old to silence their cries. What if I do not behave this way?

Several books I’ve read lately, including Belonging and The Body is Not an Apology, allude to the question of whether we have worth if we are unable to contribute anything of value to others. I struggle with this query from both sides, as I anticipate judgment of my failure to caretake my abusive, aging parents, and as I must also face changes in how others perceive me as I get older. Shame again takes hold. I feel a frequent need to apologize to my wizened crone self for my family failure, and to gift her an offering of my sovereignty as a person, won at a terrible price.

A Person to be Humanized

The themes I’ve identified—abandonment, eccentricity and worth—are by no means limited to individuals who fall into my particular demographic. Rather, I think nearly everyone who has an honest and deep relationship with themselves could connect to aspects of them. I so often feel apart from being a “regular human” when in fact I am a part of being a regular human. That is who I think a woman without family is; she is simply one blend of pigment in the rainbow of the human heart. She has every right to exist, to voice, and to move the world as best she can.

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.

Inner Work

Moon Ritual Pocket Tins

I am so excited to be sharing my newest pagan/witchy creation with you, just in time for the Full Moon in Aries this week! I’ve included all the materials I used so that you can create a similar system for yourself if it appeals to you. As I’ve grown in my spiritual walk, I’ve been drawn to conducting personal ceremony on the new and full moons in relation to astrological signs, but have felt a bit lost as to how to proceed. I wanted a way to remember the intentions I set on the new moon when the same sign comes around six months later on the full moon. I wrote recently about the meaning I find in small treasures. What I have settled on is creating pocket tins for each astrological sign, with materials I can use for the corresponding new and full moon. Tarot-Astrology lists the dates and signs for upcoming new and full moons.

Each sign invites us to consider a different aspect of our personality and selfhood as each moon unfolds. We may even find ourselves subtly mimicking the characteristics of the sign during the days leading up to and following the moon. If we attend to the astrological calendar throughout the year, inner areas that we might otherwise neglect will get attention and care.

Materials To Include

This is definitely a concept that welcomes artistic innovation. As I noted in one of my first blogs, I am not physically gifted in creative works, so I can only imagine what someone with artistic talent could do with this! I am somewhat obsessed with miniatures so that dictated my theme; take any special needs into account for your own work. The initial cost can be a bit expensive, but you can buy the materials in bulk to save money.

Tins or boxes

Crystals

Tealight candles

Tea bags or individually-wrapped chocolates

Wands

Decorative paper (This type includes materials for each sign).

Charms and jewelry creations

Herbs (in a sealed container)

Mini-journal (handmade—I glued tissue paper on regular strips of paper and stapled it together)

Tarot cards (these are by far the most expensive element. People with more self-control than I have can just use their regular cards during the ritual)

Handkerchiefs/Ritual Cloth

*I suggest connecting something in your tin or box to the element that the sign represents. Aries is a Fire sign so I chose a red cloth.

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New Moon Activities

New moons are for inner, intuitive work. They give us space and quiet to delve into our heart-space in order to better understand our unconscious needs and wishes. We can then make plans for how we would like to see these dreams come to fruition.

For each new moon, I include a poem I wrote related to the sign and my intended inner work. For the first year of using the tins, I will be purchasing a new mini tarot for each new moon. Rather than using it immediately, I instead bless it and include it in the box. I also create a small journal into which I write my intentions as well as a tarot card layout with corresponding statements or questions.

The basic format for my new moon ritual is to start by brewing tea with the teabag I’ve included and drinking it to center myself. I light the candle and sage. I cast a circle with the wand. The crystals can either be held to energize them during the reading of the chant I’ve included, or they can be laid out in a pattern that fits with the sign and its corresponding element. As noted above, I spend time writing in the journal and welcoming the tarot cards to my repertoire. I will pull cards if I need assistance with setting my intentions. I then close the circle and return the materials to the box.

Full Moon Activities

Full moons are for action and releasing. They allow us to realize the progress we’ve made for the previous six months on our intentions, as well as to let go of anything related to the inner work that is no longer in our best interest. We can gain clear sight during this time as to who we are and where we are going.

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The main material I add to the tin during the full moon is a poem proclaiming the action I will take as it corresponds to the astrological sign’s focus. I also include a tea bag for the next new moon practice. I update any materials that need to be refreshed. I expose the materials in the box to the full moon a day or before the ritual, and leave them sitting out for a day or two afterwards in order to capture the energy being transmitted. I have a lot of curious creatures where I live so I have to settle for placing them near a window.

My full moon ritual begins by lighting the candle and sage while I cast a circle with the wand. In addition to the uses for the crystals I included at the new moon, I may also work with them to remove negative energy I am carrying and absorb positive energy they carry. I refresh them in the full moon light before storing the box. I review the intentions I set six months earlier, and record the manifestations I’ve already seen of them in my life. I list the actions I plan to take in the next six months to bring them to harvest. I also note anything that needs to be released in the journal; I use the scrap paper to write and then discard/burn anything that feels like a significant burden. Using the layout I wrote on the new moon, I draw tarot cards and make meaning as it relates to the focus of the sign for the outcomes they reveal for my life. I close the circle and, as noted above, let the materials “breathe” for a few days before putting everything away.

I encourage you to find the particular format of celebrating the moon phases that best suits your needs. I lived decades of my life with minimal awareness of the astrological signs and the moon phases; tapping into their patterns has become very grounding and kept me focused on positive, uplifting aspects of life. Engaging in a practice that changes every two weeks (new moon to full moon) invites us to recharge and renew our process with regularity and dedication.

 

 

Inner Work

Self-Growth and Exploration Through Oracle Cards

The first oracle cards are thought to have been created by Madame Lenormand in the 1800’s in France. Oracle decks contain fewer cards than Tarot decks. The artwork and images are often the central focus of the card. I like using them because I find them easy to interpret and because there are certain decks that I think are very positive and uplifting.

My intention here for #InnerWork Wednesday is to describe a few ways in which you can use oracle cards, as well as some topics to consider at a reading and specific layouts you can use. I am not a professional card reader, so please view this as informational only.

Styles of Use

Oracle cards can be used as a part of inner work, during a formal ritual, or as a source of daily inspiration. The layouts I’ve included would work best during inner work, but the “questions to ponder” section could be relevant during a daily card pull as well. If you are developing a formal ritual, you can incorporate a specific focus into your reading and record the results so that you can process them over time.

Questions to Ponder

Some questions you can ask yourself as you create your sacred space in which you will draw your cards:

  • What do I want to gain from today’s inner work?
  • Which spiritual need do I have right now that I’d like to address?
  • What’s my intuition telling me to consider?
  • How am I showing up in my life, and how can my inner work right now impact that?

Card Layouts for Hope and Inspiration

I encourage you to research different card layouts that you can use for specific purposes. Be sure the oracle cards you are using make sense with these types of questions; some decks are more conducive to this type of work than others.

Hope for Healing From Trauma Card Layout

The process of healing from past traumas is often non-linear, with continued layers of self-discovery and change. The card layout here is a spin on the classic past-present-future reading. If you are working with mental health professionals or spiritual coaches, consider sharing any insights you gain with them.

Draw three cards and place them on top of each other. Uncover one at a time, and line up from left to right.

 

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Soulful Woman Guidance Cards by Shushann Movsessian and Gemma Summers.

 

Card 1: What is the wisdom that have you gained from your past experiences that can function as your gift to the world?

Card 2: Which resource can you access in the present moment in order to assist you in your healing process?

Card 3: Which area of growth remains for you to discover or access in the future?

 Creative Endeavors Layout

This layout is intended to represent guidance when you are either considering a new creative endeavor or feeling stuck in your process in terms of inspiration. Pull cards and lay out in the following arrangement:

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Card 1: What do you need to cultivate in your life in order to drive your creative enterprise?

Card 2: On what trait or behavior may you be focusing too heavily, so much so that it may get in the way of your ability to be creative?

Card 3: Other people often serve as a wellspring of our own creativity. Which trait or behavior could you seek in others in order to boost your endeavor?

Card 4: What trait or behavior do the products of your creativity inspire in others?

Card 5: Which resource do you have that serves as a foundation for your creativity?