“A life truly lived
burns away what is no longer relevant
gradually reveals our essence
until, at last, we are strong enough
to stand in our naked truth”
PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.
Hurray, hurray, the First of May:
outdoor f**king begins today.
To “May” or “go Maying” means to go out into the woods to gather the flowers and greenery that will adorn the May celebrations.
And Midsummer's Eve is the only night of the year when the magical fern flower blooms, conferring upon the finder health, riches, and the ability to understand the speech of birds and animals. In the North it's longstanding custom for the young to go out together to seek this wonder.
Or so they say.
Through much of human history, winter was the time when you were shut into the house cheek-by-jowl with much of your extended family and (depending on when and where), maybe the cow and the horse, too. Private it wasn't.
We all know that time, that heady thrill when you start to become competent at Witchcraft and you know which names to flaunt, who to be friends with if you want to be in with the in crowd, what paths will get you recognition, what is considered brave, daring and bold.
We also know who we are supposed to look down on....
See that hedge of roses, now?
(Beautiful, isn't it: Rose Moon nearly upon us, and the flowers at their opening.)
They say that there's a goddess in there, sleeping.
Centuries she's slept, now. Maybe longer.
Why, you ask? Well, now.
Some say it was a curse. Perhaps.
Or maybe some inner call, deep within? The inner life of goddesses, who can know?
But sleeping her hundred-years' sleep she is, and waiting for one to wake her.
And maybe it's you that she waits for.
Now they stand knee-deep in the good, tilled earth of our gardens and fields, bestowing their gift of fruitfulness, as they have since the end of the last Great Ice.
Call them the Clay Ladies.
But come winter, what then?
To ask is to know.
Of course the Mothers do not stand in the fields all winter long, buried in snow.
For many of us who were not raised in Pagan traditions, but who came into our Pagan identity later, there is often a catalyzing moment that births us onto our path. Perhaps it's a ritual we attended, or something we read, or maybe it grows out of environmental activism. For me it began in an ice storm.
I moved to North Carolina, to that central part known as the Piedmont, to attend graduate school. I rented an old Sears prefab house (“It was a shotgun shack and you know it, “ my mother's ghost chides me), tucked into the pine woods bordering dairy pastures. The house itself was so far below code the landlord couldn't advertise it. One side of the foundation was shored up with flooring tiles and a mallet; half the electric outlets did not work; there was not a right angle to be found in any corner. Wolf spiders the size of puppies would creep out of the shadows at night and even get in the bed. The well would freeze in the Winter and pump out weak ice tea colored water that reeked of iron in Summer. And I loved it....
Everyone needs a safe haven to escape to. It may be a room in one's home, or more ideally, a garden outside. I discovered a space much my accident in a cul-de-sac between two apartment buildings. It was a strange outdoor cubby, which could only be accessed by crawling out to it through the kitchen windows, or through those in the bedroom. Making sure to open the chosen window all the way– a few head bumps later– I crawled out into a strange new world. Since we were on the second floor, this was one from being directly on the roof of our building. It was much like having a side porch, but with the added bonus of total privacy. There was a high wooden fence separating ours from that belonging to our neighbor to the west. From the sounds of it, she could access hers through her kitchen as well, listening to the familiar clink-clinks of dishes being washed in a sink. All above were the roof tops on either side and clear blue open sky. I noticed that the individual who had resided here before had brilliantly installed two heavy-duty hooks– one diagonal from the other– perfectly designed for a lazy swinging hammock. And thus, the "Zen Den" was born.
I really became excited with the possibilities of this secret zen space, so I began to decorate it. I picked out a large, outdoor, bristly throw rug, so it would be inviting to take off one's shoes and stay awhile. I also found a cool vintage table to set drinks and reading materials on in easy reach. I fastened hooks on the fence to hang cheery items: a mini tiki hut and a straw-topped wind chime from Jamaica that used shells for chimes. Although this would mostly be a space utilized in the day, I came across some pleasant outdoor lights – little metal flowers – to festoon across the windowsills leading to the bedroom. Also in order was a seasonal, gaily colored hanging plant that could withstand both shade and heat, requiring minimal care. My mother informed me that begonias would do the trick, so I went with those. I imagined there should be at least one other seating option for a guest, so I invested in a small fold-up camp chair on sale. The pièce de résistance? The hammock. I found one with the brightest colored stripes imaginable, and voila! Other items found their way here in time– a scented candle, four assorted stones arranged in a glass holder, a small clay statue from the Ren Faire in Bristol.
When the spot truly became a haven for me was the day after my grandmother died. I will never forget what a bright shiny day it started out as, that May 29th. A robin crossed my path on my way to my car to go to work. It hopped really close and stared at me for awhile. Odd, I thought. I got the call from my mother while driving. She asked if I could pull over. I told her I couldn't, I was on the highway. When she hesitated to tell me, I made her anyway. She was right about pulling over. My eyes were so blurred with tears I could barely see. It was a beautiful day out. Gumma was gone. I didn't understand. She'd had a bout with illness shortly after her recent move to the retirement center, but I had a good long talk with her last week. She'd sounded strong. She was anxious to get out and celebrate her 95th birthday with us on June 12.
The next day I was home alone, deep in grief. My partner had asked if I wanted him to change his going away plans for the weekend to stay with me, but I declined. I thought it would be best if I were by myself to process this. And process I did – in my Zen Den. From morning until sundown. I ate meals, read, wrote, did yoga, listened to music, and napped in the comforting rock of the hammock. I sat cross-legged on the new rug trying to make sense of my loss. I looked up at the birds swooping across the sky above me and cried.
Now every year between May 29 and June 12, I reopen the Zen Den for business. I sweep it out of leaves, debris and dirt. I scour it clean with an old rag, a bucket of warm water, uplifting essential oils, and I unpack all the things taken down for the cold season. Six years after the first Zen Den and Gumma's passing, the rug needed to be tossed out. The table – which wasn't really an outdoor one to begin with – started to grow mushrooms on its edges, and the wood began to rot away. I'm not sure what became of the cheap little camp chair? The mini tiki hut and wind chimes have long since been retired, after losing many of their pieces in strong winds that have blown through. I keep meaning to replace things, but haven't quite gotten around to it. Since I've always kept rocks and candles in the space, I wanted to add some natural pool of water or a mini fountain, along with new wind chimes, so that all the four elements are represented.
I have made a point to hang a new basket of flowers in the Zen Den every year, though. Gumma would like that. She loved her flowers so.