As Thanksgiving draws near here in the U.S., many people are getting ready to travel (myself included). Hopefully, we’re all also spending a little bit more time on gratitude each day; it’s a great time of year to count our blessings, and even though I do try to keep an attitude of gratitude throughout the year, I love overloading on thanks almost as much as I love overloading on turkey. In the spirit of the season, here’s one of my favorite methods of giving thanks....
There is a quiet place that burns brightly with the hearth fires. Family and friends gather round and love flows through each stone and tile. Food is prepared with loving hand and warmth flows like liquid honey sweetening the time spent together. There is no one location, for this space resides wherever there is heart enough to hold its flame of contentment and acceptance. The days are feeling shorter and the nights longer and I am ready to burrow in and tend to my need fires. In response to this turning within I have been thinking alot lately about the relationships and people in my life. About what nurtures and feeds my soul and which interactions could use a bit more tending to keep those fires of connection burning. And, the energy of gratitude has been called front and center as I am reminded of how truly fortunate and blessed I am.
As a child I was always told to be polite and to say please and thank you for what I hoped to receive and what gifts had come my way. I was taught that these were part of the routine of daily life and that gratitude offered would bring abundance in all endeavors. I was loved and cared for by my mother and grandmother and although we did not have much financially, there was always enough good food lovingly prepared by my grandmother and time to spend together with my mother despite her demanding schedule of two jobs at times. Hestia's flame burned deeply and love and gratitude was etched very deeply into everything that occurred in that home. The Goddess was present in the strength of the women who shared my life and actions were infused with the tools needed to teach how to call those flames of strength into my own life.
When I married and had a family of my own, the kitchen, although tiny and crowded for seven in a family was the starting place of special meals, candle making, pots and pans music making and at times the only space available for a one on one conversation with one of our children. Calendars hung on refrigerators alongside of treasured pictures drawn by tiny hands and offered with pride. What came out of Hestia's domain was filled with love and with always more than enough to feed seven hungry mouths. Smells of fresh bread baking, yogurt setting and homemade chocolate syrup wafted through the air and welcomed any who entered to linger a while and enjoy food and friends. Even when full time work and busy after school schedules held sway, the sacred fires of the hearth burned in the crock pot filled at lunchtime and set to greet the first one home with the tempting fragrance of soup or stew....
Lughnasad has come and gone. The altar was decorated with blackberry vines and wildflowers; fruits (apple, pear and avocado) were placed in a bowl of beans and grain to acknowledge the early harvest. My family gathered at table to celebrate the yield of local farms and fields. A vegetarian feast was prepared: light vegetable soup, zucchini and tomato tart, salad, and for dessert, blackberry buckle, made from berries my youngest son and I picked by the side of the bike path that runs along the river. There is bliss to be found in the smallest acts. I hope your Lughnasad was blessed with abundance and such quiet happinesses as you enjoy.
Today there is a stillness in the air, a certain sense of waiting, as though nature has taken a rest, leaving everything to watch over itself, if just for this short while. The breeze that is tugging at my kitchen curtains carries within it the fresh breath of fall before it is seasoned with bonfires and mulled cider, candle wax and long-simmered stews.
Against the overcast sky the green of the trees glows in shades of jade and emerald. They have no thought of changing color, not yet. But they know, oh, they do, that soon nature will be inviting them to drape themselves in ball gowns of exquisite shades: crimson, gold, russet. They will toss auburn and brunette heads as they sway to the wind's music. It is on days like today, the trees green, the breeze cool, that we truly realize summer has had its turning....
I felt like I was holding on by a thread after my husband’s heart attack. I found myself a caretaker while working a full-time job, dealing with our out-of-touch employer, editing my new manuscript for my publisher, keeping my radio show on the air and trying to pay the bills. Then the opportunity to spend a couple days floating on the Lazy River at a resort in Las Vegas presented itself.
Yes, it was in the hottest part of summer in Las Vegas, but anything was better than being in the office where I could not shake off my boss’ demoralizing words. I thought our performance for the last thirty years in his employ buffered us from the angst and vulnerability so many workers were feeling these days, but no. His reply to my query if my husband could expect sick leave during this health crisis kept echoing in my ears. “I don’t want to pay Roy for sitting home on the couch!” It took all my strength to refrain from hoping in his next life he came back as the guy who cleans out port-o-potties.
So we packed up the car and headed for Las Vegas and the Lazy River. Days of floating in quiet contemplation was just what I needed to recharge my batteries and have a moment to think about something besides stents, pills and doctors and how unappreciated I was feeling. At first the Lazy River just allowed, allowed, allowed me to just be, with no pressure. I could drift with no place to go but round and round, softly, gently, and quietly. Even the kids sharing the Lazy River were not a source of aggravation. It was peaceful and my brain could click off for a few hours.
As the hours turned into days, I began to feel like myself again and before I knew it the creative juices were flowing and this Lazy River became a source of inspiration.
Sometimes we can just float along in life, easily avoiding the chaos all around us, without having to put forth much effort to avoid turbulents. We see others around us going under but somehow we’ve managed to catch the current that just steadily pulls us along out of harms way. We may be lucky enough to continue like that for a bit but sooner or later we’re going to brush up against the rocks. We might even feel as if we're drowning as we are unable to avoid getting sucked beneath rapids and struggle to the surface gasping for air. If we’re lucky, in the next few times around the bend, we might be able to catch our breath. We feel lucky to maneuver ourselves away from the crushing weight of the waterfalls, large and small, we see along the journey.
As we go round and round, with each turn of the wheel, we learn to adapt. We try different positions to discern how to place ourselves so that we float along as stable as possible. We stretch and strengthen our muscles to avoid the rocks and waterfalls. We keep an eye on the horizon so we might manage to avoid chaos and not get stuck in log jams. We wear protective covering to ward off direct hits we might not avoid along the way. And sometimes, if we look for it, gifts present themselves during the struggle, and it is oh so important to embrace those moments in gratitude. I am grateful. I am grateful. I am grateful.
In the two months since the election my broader outlook has become less defensive. I have begun turning from battling the nihilistic right to the vastly more rewarding challenge of helping build a attractive alternative to modernity’s collapsed moral foundations. That collapse facilitated the right wing’s attempt to impose traditional authoritarianism in both secular and religious guise. Now, instead of constantly uprooting the right’s intellectual and moral weeds I hope to help prepare the ground for new growth and beauty. We sure need it.
My reading has shifted from politics to exploring recent studies exploring how our world is truly conscious “all the way down.” So long as materialist reductionism dominate the intellectual conversation, with irrational monotheism as the alternative, we will be regarded as exotic outsiders, and not taken seriously. This conversation desperately needs widening. More and more people are becoming aware of the inner bankruptcy of the Enlightenment project and its monotheistic alternatives, and so are open to views such as that of many Pagans if they are skillfully presented.
Mainstream philosopher of science Thomas Nagel’s short Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, argues materialistic reductionism will not work and suggesting possibilities with more promise. All involve making consciousness in some sense a fundamental aspect of reality “all the way down.” Coming from the perspective of process philosophy, Christian de Quincey’s Radical Nature: The Soul of Matter is a more demanding work making the positive case that nature is conscious. After Nagel demolishes, de Quincey builds. These two books are an excellent beginning, and for most, probably a good ending to seeing how a Pagan friendly outlook helps solve problems in the contemporary worldview, and does so from the perspective of contemporary thinking....
In the little corner of the world where I exist, on the small 13 acre plot I call home, it is quiet. The hurly-burly of 'the shopping season' is far away from us, and that is something for which I'm very thankful. By-the-by, 'hurly-burly' is one of my favorite words picked up from reading Homer. At our place, this is not a time of holiday shopping, frenzied consumerism disguised as 'needing to stretch my money further'. Our families know that if we give any gifts at all that they were made by our hand. No, this is a time for something much different..
Hávamál offers us a glimpse of a past that had already become somewhat nostalgic when a single hand transcribed the poem around 1270 CE. As David A. H. Evans writes in the Viking Society for Northern Research’s edition of the verses, this second poem of the Elder Edda “is deservedly one of the most celebrated works to have survived from the early Norse world.” It’s full of gnomic advice that continues to be of interest—and application—to us in the modern world. Old Norse text via the Heimskringla Project.
áðr gangi fram,
um skoðask skyli,
um skyggnast skyli,
því at óvíst er at vita,
sitja á fleti fyrir.
Gestr er inn kominn,
hvar skal sitja sjá?
Mjök er bráðr,
sá er á bröndum skal
síns of freista frama.
Elds er þörf,
þeims inn er kominn
ok á kné kalinn;
matar ok váða
er manni þörf,
þeim er hefr um fjall farit.
Vatns er þörf,
þeim er til verðar kemr,
þerru ok þjóðlaðar,
góðs of æðis,
ef sér geta mætti,
orðs ok endrþögu.
Some slightly more modern history and a slight indulgence: witches always end up in the news around this time of year. Suddenly every news paper or local news station wants to do a 'did you know there are real witches?!' story.
It all gets a bit tiresome.
I originally wrote this poem for my annual Halloween cards (a habit that has been lost to my gypsy ways and busyness). My father reminded me that he associated 'Devil's Night' with much more unpleasant memories: 1960s Michigan it was often a time of angry destruction. If you've seen the original Crow movie, they use it in a similar way -- an excuse for serious mayhem....
Being a devotee of *cough* "lesser-known" Deities does occasionally suck. In my case, while I honor well-known Deities such as Hermes and The Muses and Artemis and Hekate, I am also very devoted to The Charites.
The usual response to that statement is "who?"
If I said "The Graces" instead, would that help?...
This one little word gets ignored in our lives a lot more than we’d like to admit. I for one have been trying to use it more when confronted with self-doubt, new things or even old things which I’ve tried to put off rather than dealing with because I’ve convinced myself that they’re some how easier to ignore than address…I’m human after all.
Incorporating spiritual practice into ones daily life seems to be one of those things that so many of us desire, but so few of us actually do. When I wrote an article here at Witches&Pagans about starting a morning routine which involved appreciation and an informal conversation with a deity, it got very little public response, but the number of emails and Facebook messages I got not only let me know that many of you read it, but that most of you are afraid to even try to do something like this on the off-change that you’ll some how “fail”. As is you can actually fail at feeling gratitude and appreciation for what you have in your life or that your god(s) are so ready to give up on you that they won’t even aid you during your attempt to strengthen your relationship with them.
See how silly it sounds now that it’s out there? I hope so. In classic “me” style, can I suggest that you do one small thing…get over yourself and try it. You have nothing to lose, and so much to gain. How much? That’s up to you, not me, however, it shouldn’t be about how much you can gain. I discovered long ago to let the “how” not even enter your mind. All you ever have to do is the work which would allow a “how” to manifest in the way appropriate to whatever it is you’re intending, and someone else takes care of it from a universal sense. I know, I got a little “new agey” just then, sorry....
I am sometimes teased in a gentle way for always going on about grounding and breathing. My friend Jude would like a photo of me, looking sternly over the tops of my spectacles and pointing to the ground. I write it so often as my status update on Facebook that people must grow tired of my constant carping about it.
Yet, even as I type these words and smile at these memories, I feel my big feet stretching, the heels digging into the carpet below my feet. I start the process of grounding that I was taught so long ago that it has become second nature to me. Tiny roots begin to grow from my heels and wend their way through the carpet and the sub-flooring and past the basement and sink at last into the cool moist earth. As they move into the soil, they widen and strengthen, heading into the darkness of the Earth's rich breast.
I imagine the cares of the day flowing down from my belly and into the strong foundation of the planet I call home. The roots continue on their way as I begin to breathe deeply, each breath filling my lungs all the way to the bottom. Belly full of breath, roots down deep. If I take a moment to check my pulse, I will feel that it is slow, strong, steady....