I won’t lie, I love the fresh start of a new year. I love how empty my calendar is in January. The holidays give a nice pause, past which it is hard to schedule business as usual. Every year I too long to use this fresh start as a marking point for making a change, but I have learned that this kind of radical 180° turn rarely produces lasting change.
A number of years ago I stumbled on a system that works much better for me in actually achieving my dreams for the year. This process hinges on an ancient system called The Wheel of the Year.
The Wheel of the Year is a series of 8 earth-based holidays that follows the progression of the seasons through out the year. The New Year as we know it marks the end of the Yule Festival (or the 12 days of Christmas as many of us know it). This time of year is known for being a time of quiet reflection. I time for suspending plans, and conserving resources as we cozy up in the dark belly of winter.
Although New Year’s day does mark a shift from this holiday time, back into normal life, the energy of deep winter isn’t really conducive to making long-term plans.
Once I learned this system, I figured out why my New Year’s resolutions never worked. As I explained in this article, you can’t plant seeds in the snow. Winter is a great time for mulling over seed catalogs and dreaming about your future garden, but we really have to wait until spring before we know when the best time to do the actual planting is.
The same is true for life. I have found that if I wait just a little bit, and use the winter to continue dreaming about the possibilities for my year, it becomes so much easier to make lasting changes come spring.
For me the first major shift comes in February with a holiday known as Imbolc or Candlemas. This holiday usually coincides with the rising of the sap, and the noticeable lengthening of the daylight.
At Imbolc I set my intentions for the year, and make commitments to myself about what I want to say yes to this year. Then when the spring equinox comes around I am more than ready to take advantage of the rising spring energy and I have momentum working with me, instead of against me. Then I have the rest of the holidays on the Wheel of the Year to tap into the powerful energies of the year. At Beltane I connect to my passion, at Litha I let myself blast through any limitations holding me back, at Lammas I tune in to the energy of recieving, and at Mabon I focus on gratitude. By Samhain I am ready to release anything for the year that didn’t serve me, and at Yule I can truly rest and recharge for the next year.
I’m not saying you should never make a resolution on the New Year. But if you do, see it more as a possibility, not a rigid regime you have to impose on yourself.
Want to learn more about the Wheel of the Year and how you can use these 8 powerful days to transform your life? Join me for a free webinar on January 30th. Information and registration here.
These are dark times. Bloodshed, violence, and hatred all seem to be leering their ugly heads more than usual.
The old paradigm is dying. The patriarchal, white-supremacist, planet-killing old paradigm is dying. As it goes, it is doing what all dying things do, it is fighting back.
Daesh, Trump and his supporters, the KKK, these are all dying things. Violent, dangerous and nasty, but dying.
All this month, since the attacks in Paris, I have been praying for a less violent end to the old ways. Praying for things to pass a little easier. Last week as I was praying, I channelled the information for this spell.
It is a prayer for the peaceful passing of the old dying ways, and a prayer to bring the new way of being closer.
The students in my year-long immersion course, graciously agreed to help me bring the spell to life. This past Saturday we did just that.
But now the spell needs to be spread out into the world. Here is how you can help:
You will need: 7 white candles, matches or a lighter.
- Listen to the recorded meditation at the bottom of this post, and when instructed to do so, light one of your candles.
- When the meditation is over you can use the flame of the candle to ‘seed’ the other 6 candles. (To do this just light each candle from the flame of the first one and then blow it out, imagining the flame traveling down into the wax of the candle, charging it with the intention of the meditation.)
- Keep the first candle you lit, and let it burn down till it is gone.*
- Give the other 6 away. If you want you can copy the following paragraph to give with the candle:
This candle is a spell for peace. It brings a little more ease and light to the world during dark times. Burn it and hold the hope that a better world is not only possible, but is already being born.
If you like, you can replace the word ‘spell’ with ‘prayer’. Do whatever works for you, this is not about dogma.
If you feel called you can direct the recipients of your candles to this web page and they can pass the spell on too, but that is not necessary.
A few more things before we get started.
In the meditation you will notice that I talk about the White Dragon. I want to explain a little bit more about dragon energy before you listen to the meditation. Dragons are one of the few mythical being that shows up on all continents and in almost all cultures around the world.
I think of dragons as being energy patterns. They are the double helix spiral of DNA, they are the twisting and bending of a river. Some people think of them as energy akin to god or goddess energy, other people think of them as being tied to the energy and ley lines of the earth.
The idea to call in White Dragon energy for this spell was purely channelled information and does not come from any tradition other than the tradition of my magical community here in Portland.
If the idea of thinking of dragons as living breathing entities is too ‘out there’ for you, imagine them as energy patterns, or as a metaphor. Again, do whatever works for you, this is not about dogma.
I hope you find this spell comforting, or inspiring, or even hopeful. Leave me a comment below on how the meditation went for you, or whether you notice anything after joining the spell.
I wish you many blessings of peace this Solstice.
White Dragon Meditation:
* Never leave a lit candle unattended. If you can’t let your candle burn down all in one go, blow it out like you did the other candles and imagine the flame going down into the wax.
When I was in high school, I will admit, I loved experimenting with the mind altering power of hallucinogenics. One particular weekend some friends and I took a camping trip so that we could spend an entire day in the beautiful surroundings of nature, after ingesting one of these substances. Giddy with anticipation, we set out on a walk and each placed a tiny square of blotter paper on our tongues.
As we walked, the world began to take on a shiny hue. The leaves danced, and everything became highlighted in our surroundings. Every single sound became illuminated.
It wasn’t until about 30 minutes into our walk that someone in the group broke the enchantment. “I don’t feel a thing” my friend said, “do you?”.
The world snapped back into it’s ordinary hue and shape; the enchantment evaporated as quickly as it had come. I was forced to admit, that no, if I really thought about it, I didn’t feel the tell-tale effects of a mind-altering substance either. But if it wasn’t drugs, what HAD I felt?
In the moment it was a huge disappointment. Some one had sold us some very expensive blank paper and we were pissed. But what I had stumbled upon by accident, was my own sense of natural enchantment.
Later, much later, I was to discover that finding that state of enchantment was totally possible without drugs. We were already headed there, just by setting out on a walk in nature with an expectation to have our minds expanded.
Children come into this world with in a natural state or enchantment. As we grow up we lose that connection.
For me, one of the biggest attractions to walking the mystical path was recovering some of that enchantment.
What if the world is filled with benevolent spirits all rooting for my success?
What if rocks have personalities?
What if the world is one big song of communication that I am a part of?
As I move further and further into following my true purpose, I have realized that part of my work in this world is bringing back a sense of enchantment in people’s lives.
When we lose our sense of enchantment with the world, we lose our connection to all things. When we aren’t connected, it is easier to make decisions that hurt others or destroy the planet.
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Enchantment in it’s very nature is the act of falling in love. It means to be under the spell of something, enthralled, enraptured. When we are in love with the world, especially the natural world around us, we are in a state of grace.
Enchantment exists because it has a purpose. The true purpose of enchantment is inspiration. Inspiration is the spark of the divine within each of us.
Enchantment is the passive, allowing ourselves to surrender to the beauty. Inspiration is the active: using our divine force to create something new.
In stories and faery tales, enchantment is seen as something dangerous. It implies a sort of intoxication.
When we are just chasing enchantment without without recognizing or acting on the inspiration we receive from it, we are just chasing the high, the buzz. I think we all know by now that that usually only leads to a hangover.
The trick is to allow our state of enchantment to move us to a place of creation. To be receptive to the intoxicating beauty that surrounds us, and then allow our own unique creative spark to add something new to the world.
As I found out that one faithful day in high school, enchantment is a practice. I had stumbled upon the beginning realization that if I wanted to, I could find enchantment everywhere I looked.
That is the trick with enchantment: you don’t have to search for it, you just have to be willing to let it come to you. The big beautiful world is out there all the time. How often do we fail to see it only because we aren’t looking?
My wish is that we could all find the world an enchanting place once again: that we could look on our planet with such a sense of wonder and beauty, that destroying it would be a blasphemy of the highest order. To get there, all we need to do is be willing.
What about you? What do you find enchanting? Leave me a comment below.
Have you heard of Samhain?
It’s the celtic name for the holiday that we call Halloween. Pronounced sow-een, it is a holiday of honoring your ancestors and the spirits from the other side. It is said to be the time when the ‘veil between the worlds’ is the thinnest.
If you live in the US, I’m sure the arrival of pumpkin spiced everything has alerted you to the impending arrival of Halloween and Samhain, but did you realize what a powerful time this is for connecting with your guides and allies?
If you don’t already observe Samhain or some form of ancestor honoring (such as Dia de Los Muertos) here is a great way to get get into the spirit of this potent time of year:
Create an ancestor altar. Gather pictures of your ancestors, those whom you knew, and those whom you never knew. If you don’t have pictures, or don’t know who your ancestors are, tune into the symbols and colors and pictures that you are drawn to. You may also want to include images of your cultural heritage, or pictures of important people who have inspired you.
What is remembered, lives
This is also a potent time of year to honor all those who have died this year. Especially if you have lost loved ones this year, make sure to include their picture on your altar and spend some time giving space to your grief.
On my altar this year I will be honoring all those who have died this year due to police violence and in mass shootings.
This may seem like it would be a morbid or sad thing to do, but I have found that Samhain is one of my favorite holidays of the whole year.
As a culture, we tend to not want to think about death or dying, and instead cover it up with consumer goods, and an obsession with youth. Yet death is one thing that we are guaranteed to all experience. How many things can you say that about?
For me, it has been incredibly powerful to make room once a year to honor the dead. Doing so has helped me make peace with my own mortality.
I have also found it a deep comfort to spend some time honoring those I have lost. Nothing will bring them back, but by honoring them each year, I can feel their energy around me.
In my magical circle we hold a ritual every year on Samhain. The ritual is always different, but the underlying structure is the same. The names of those who have passed are read out loud, and a rite is performed to make sure they truly cross-over to the afterlife and don’t become stuck here on the earthly plane, never at peace.
Then we honor those who have arrived new this year. Birth and death, same gate, different directions. It’s not easy living in a human body, and we honor those who have joined us new to make their way in our world.
Letting go as a tool for manifestation
Samhain is also the time of year to let go of anything unfulfilled for the year. Look back at all the projects hopes and dreams that are yet unrealized and let them go. I know what you are going to say next: “but what if I still really want those things?” By no means am I suggesting that you will never have them, but by allowing yourself to let go, you will discover two things.
First, you may find that you no longer want some of them, and were just hanging on to them because you thought you were supposed to. Second, the act of letting go of things we really truly want, will allow us to grieve for not having them. Go ahead and allow yourself that release. What does it bring up for you when you think about never having them? Do you feel cursed? Unlucky? Unworthy? Let all those feelings come up and out.
This practice highlights any negative beliefs that you are holding about manifesting your desires. Guess what? Those thoughts and beliefs were in there all along, and now you have cleared them, and brought them to light. Not only is this incredibly healing for you, but it will create a strong and clear way forward towards manifesting them. Sometimes, it is only when we are truly at peace with not having something that it emerges.
Do you want to tap into the powerful magic of Samhain and the thinning veil between the worlds? There is still time to join the live version of my Spirit Guides 101 class. It’s a 4 week journey helping you get to know your guides, your ancestor allies, and all the other spirit beings who are here to help you find your path. Get more info and register here.
This article was originally published in Mutha Magazine on August 16, 2015.
Before we even started trying to get pregnant, my partner and I took her aluminum motorboat out to an Elk Island in the Willamette River to have a little ceremony. Our intention was to ask the help of our respective ancestors in bringing the spirit of our child into the world. Since my partner wouldn’t be contributing genetically to the child, we wanted a way to include her lineage in the making of our baby.
I’m not gonna lie, it was awkward. We’d never done magic together, she and I, mainly because she considers herself an atheist. I also worried we’d be spotted by some errant salmon fisherman. We called in the directions, and nervously asked our ancestors to find a spirit to come and be our child. All told, it wasn’t completely without magic. Just as we finished, we looked up to find that we were standing less than 5 feet from a very freaked out mama goose sitting on her nest. A good omen. I gathered a handful of stray down that must have blown from the nest to a spot near my feet.
I placed the goose down in a small gold cup, and added it to an altar I had made for the spirit of my future child along with other bits of things that I thought made sense for the spirit of a brand new human.
After the 3rd month of inseminations, I had a dream right exactly around the time the zygote would be implanting itself in my uterus. In the dream a friend was telling me about a spell where you have to cast an iron circle in order to bring your child through safely. My sweetie and I were salmon fishing in the wilds of British Columbia at the time, so I did my best the next day to imagine an iron circle surrounding me and the spirit of my babe. Everywhere I looked that day I found heart-shaped rocks scattered among the river rock.
I miscarried at 5 weeks. It was just the day after getting a very weak positive on the home pregnancy test.
Although this is perfectly normal, and I had no real cause yet to worry about my ability to carry or my ability to get pregnant, I was devastated. Wailing my sadness one night among a group of my witch-peers, a mentor of mine interpreted my dream for me, and gave me a spell.
“You have to physically cast the circle around him,” she said. “Find a doll or something to represent him and draw the circle. Cast it in blood, in breath, in fire and in salt.”
The next month found me painting a circle out of my menstrual blood on a large flat rock I placed on my altar. I’m not sure how familiar you are with witchcraft, dear reader, so the very fact that I identify as a witch might make you think that I do this thing all the time. But honestly, this spell felt like it was too much. I found myself simultaneously wondering if I had tapped into some ancient primal mother magic, or if I had finally lost my mind in my desire for a baby. When had I crossed the threshold into being perfectly willing to finger-paint with my own menses? But, I figured if I couldn’t handle a little menstrual blood, I probably shouldn’t be a mother.
After the very next insemination I knew I was pregnant almost immediately.
Wait….Let me back up. Because don’t you kind of hate women who say that? I knew. And, then I didn’t know. I felt something. But then I had felt little somethings every single attempt we had made. So did I believe it? No fucking way. But I felt something. It was kind of like that feeling when your stomach drops on a roller coaster, except it was happening all the time, just a subtle upward movement at the pit of my belly.
When the pregnancy test confirmed positive, I still worried. Worried constantly I would miscarry again. In between the worry I found time to rest in trust, or maybe it was just the pregnancy hormones.
My son was born at home. In the days before his birth I kept adding to his altar. I placed an image of the Black Madonna on it. I made a birth candle, anointing it with oil and filling it with the intention of opening and protection. When labor started, I lit my candle.
I had asked a friend, and fellow witch, to priestess my birth: tending the gate between life and death as it opened to let my child though. I had taken my hypno-birthing class, and like the Aries that I am, I went into labor with the smug confidence of someone who has no fucking clue what they are doing.
It was a long labor, it started on Sunday and my son was born late Tuesday night. I cussed and swore, and cried through my labor, even as I breathed and did my best to hypo-birth. At one point my friend came in to the room where I was laboring to give me some information about my ancestors that they had channeled and I remember thinking “I don’t even understand what you are fucking saying to me, I can’t do anything other than this right now.”
It was a magical birth, but not in the way I had imagined. Whatever magic there was existed in the brute strength of my body, and the reserve I didn’t know I possessed. I worked harder physically than I ever had before in my life and then I worked a little harder. I have a friend who is named after a vision her parents had when she was being born. There were no visions in my birth, I didn’t feel close to anyone. In fact I had never felt so alone in my life, even with the amazing help of my partner and our sisters who were there. It got real the moment I realized no one could do this job but me.
And then he was there. And I recognized my son. I knew him from somewhere. I want to make up some kind of story about him and I in a past life, but honestly maybe it is just because he looks like me.
After 3 months of incredibly blissful but exhausting parenting we held a blessing ceremony. We gave him the blessing of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water–his birthright. We took a piece of his placenta, plus the goose down and other bits of things I had put on my altar, and buried them in the back yard. I placed the stone with my blood on it face down in the dirt to let the spell of protection root into the earth.
The fourth trimester was over, he was now held by the earth, and his own spirit guides. It was no longer my job to stand at the birth gate and keep him from slipping back to the other side. Not that I could have, if it was meant to be. But still, I had been holding that weight, and now it was time to let it go.
My job in getting him here was done. Now it was my privilege to parent him for as long as I as allowed.
In my tradition we have a prayer that goes “I would know myself in all my parts.” I hope that my son will grow up knowing that I tried to honor him in his full humanity. I hope that he will grow up knowing his connection to the earth, that I might be able to show him a way of being spiritual that is better than the Church-on-Christmas-and-Easter that my parents gave me.
Then there are times when I’m just a stressed out mom who checks Facebook too much and serves French fries with ranch dressing for dinner because I’m too tired to cook anything.
In the perfect idealism of a person who has only parented for 2 years, I have set aside ritual objects for him. A chalice, a blade, a wand and a pentacle, representing the four elements, thinking to give them to him on his 13th birthday, along with the opportunity to begin learning magic. Will I be met with rolled eyes? Will the fact that mom is into magic make it the least-cool thing on the planet? Even if, will some of it sink in anyway, and regardless of how he labels it, will he grow to know he is powerful and to love himself? I hope so.
I have fantasies of us observing the traditional Sabbats together. Learning the meaning of each ancient holiday: making corn dollies on Lammas, and plantings seeds on Ostara. But so far each time a holiday rolls around I’m too tired, and he is still too young. The irony of being a parent is not lost on me: I feel as if I am undertaking the greatest magical working of my life, but it has left me with almost zero time to devote to my own spiritual practice.
All parents want better for their children than they had. We want to raise our kids equipped to deal with the problems we are leaving them on this earth. This is my attempt to do better.
I think of all that my spirituality holds for me: a way to heal the wounds of the patriarchy, a way to connect to the earth, a way to claim my power, and a way to maintain hope in a sometimes hopeless world. I want to raise him with this knowledge, with this perspective.
But even if we succeed in making things better for our kids, we don’t get to choose their own unique struggles. We have to let them struggle anyway. If I do my job right, he will never know the importance of what I chose to try and make better for him. If I do my job right it will be taken for granted, and he’ll find some new level of better-ness to try and bring his kids, if he has them.
But this is all I know. So this is what I do.
Photo by Filipp Kozachuk
As I write this we are poised roughly halfway between the gates of Beltane and Litha on the ancient wheel of the year. When I mapped out the curriculum for my Sacred Wheel Immersion last winter, my spirit guides showed me a clear picture of this being a time of great expansion. I saw the women in my immersion circle with their arms outstretched, as they victoriously realized their true hearts desire and had the courage to step into the sun. I saw this part of the path as being a continuum from the bliss and fertility of May Day to the expansion and power of the Summer Solstice. Ecstatic, victorious, glorious, luscious and blissful were the words that came to mind when I looked at this part of the circle from the safety of Midwinter.
Now that we are here, a very different picture is beginning to emerge, both for me personally and for the women in my group. Instead of ecstasy and bliss, there is old grief being uncovered, never ending health crises and for some: the lowest of the lows. If I weren’t so certain in the magical container we built together, and in the truth that everything happens for a reason, I might begin to wonder where I went so wrong. Our homework for this time period was to fearlessly investigate our own bliss and desire. Much of the work we did on Beltane was around releasing our own blocks to true desire.
When I think of how this is playing out, I am reminded of something a teacher of mine once said. You cannot experience any of your feelings to their fullest extent unless you are willing to experience ALL of your feelings to their fullest extend. The good and the bad, the highs and the lows.
My two year old son is proving to be the greatest example of this right now. As his awareness of the world around him expands he is faced with so much desire:
Blueberries, holding the car keys, getting to go swimming, opening and closing any sort of gate or door ad nauseum…….
The level at which he experiences the desire for these things is about on par for how I might imagine feeling about getting a publishing deal, or how I felt about getting pregnant the first time. These are no small desires to a toddler, and consequently he experiences no small grief when denied the object of his desire. We are talking meltdowns of epic proportion, tears, wailing, inconsolable grief. Inevitably he will learn to regulate these feelings, learn patience and his desires will grow smaller in number, but more grave in their importance. While I’m not advocating that we all throw tantrums like a 2 year old, I do marvel at the unfiltered purity with which he is able to express his grief, and then how he is able to shift back into joy and desire almost instantly.
Our culture puts a lot of limits on grief, we have lost many of the rituals associated with the grieving process (sack cloth and ashes anyone?), and we are expected to get on with it and get back to normal after a relatively short amount of time. We certainly don’t condone sitting on the floor and wailing like a two year old. So it doesn’t surprise me that we have such a collective problem with desire in our culture. We deny our grief and in the end, deny our truest desires.
Don’t get me wrong, we WANT a lot. We want new houses, shiny electronics, the latest the greatest, the biggest and the most expensive. But how much of that stuff truly satisfies? And how much of it do we want because we think it will make us happy?
I don’t know about you, but many many times I have experienced getting exactly what I thought I wanted only to have it feel empty and unsatisfying. I also have been lucky enough, and I hope you have too, to experience those rare moments of having a desire truly and fully satisfied. To me it feels like “this is what I was born to do” it happened the first time I looked into my son’s eyes and it often happens when I am in the zone with my work.
Many spiritual practices espouse transcending desire, moving past the endless cycle of wanting, but I don’t believe that is the answer. As humans we were made to want. My son proves that to me every day. But in a world where we are so in denial about our grieving, letting ourselves want, truly and deeply want, is frightening.
So instead we create a labyrinth of small desires, each one hiding and obscuring the truth that lies underneath it. The truth which is our purest, rawest desire.
To look this desire in the face we have to claim it. In claiming it, we make it real, and we also make real the possibility that we may not get it.
Or worse: get it only to lose it.
This is frightening.
Why would any one ever try? Desire is messy. There is no way around that. But here is the thing. Doing things any other way isn’t working.
Desire doesn’t go away if you ignore it. It just twists itself into another form, usually a less satisfying, and ultimately more destructive form. The countless people who have taken their own lives because they believed their desire and sexual orientation were wrong, is proof enough of that.
So this is my love letter to you, if you are sitting in the depths of grief, and facing old demons. Don’t give up. Feeling the bad stuff only increases your capacity for feeling the good stuff. Stay with it, be present. Let the screaming two-year-old that is your heart have it’s time on the floor. And notice if you have a moment, that in the middle of the pain and grief is a nugget of desire, shining like gold amongst all the messiness.
That, my darling, is your truth. Don’t give up on it.