I don't believe in coincidences.
I do believe in synchronicity.
Though I'm not one to see meaning in everything, and I'm skeptical about fate, the little events of life don't seem trivial to me the way most others view them....
Raven (yes, really), a pagan, homeschooling mother of two -- one teen, one tot -- shares her adventures in parenting from a pagan perspective. Watch her juggle work, education, parenting, cooking, gardening, and . . . how many balls are in the air now? Sometimes they fall, and sometimes she learns from her mistakes. You can, too.
Raven lives in a forest with her two homeschooled children, partner, and several demanding cats. She enjoys performing, cooks a mean burger, and is obsessed with farming, but has yet to adopt a goat. Her publications are listed at SatyrsGarden.com.
Though we've moved beyond the longest night, the winter prevails upon us a time for darkness and reflection.
Since mid-November, when the air filled with the scent of wood smoke and the days were growing ever shorter, the darkness has been heavy on me. I worked hard to celebrate the light's return at Solstice and made many children smile from homemade gifts and books, which was delightful for me...
Samhain is a big deal in our house. Our family plans its costumes (and cosplay) sometimes years in advance. We participate in a lot of the rituals common in the U.S. for Halloween, and we blend them with the traditional rites of Samhain. Whether you celebrate this holiday on October 31st (fixed date), November 6th (the cross-quarter date), or somewhere in between, there are a number of ways to get your children, both wee and tall to participate.
Visit a Farm
Since many of us have no gardens or only small ones, it is important to help our children connect our food during this time of harvest with the land from which it comes. Several farms hold special events and provide goods to families during this time of year (and some hold nearly year-round activities). From pumpkin patches to corn mazes to herbal labyrinths, it's possible to let your children see food at the end of the growing year. Sunflowers are drooping and have lost their petals, the largest corn has been picked, and all manner of squash have fattened and are ready for eating or carving.
Sometimes, where we least expect it, we can find spiritual communion. This isn't my usual monthly post with tips and advice, but perhaps this anecdote has something to offer you, as it did me.
It was my birthday about two weeks ago, and though I wasn't planning a birthday party, the gathering planned for testing my new fire pit and grill ended up being scheduled the weekend after. It seemed a good time: just after my thirty-sixth, just before Mabon. I was surprised when I did a head count from R.S.V.P.s that we were expecting up to twenty-seven people, something our house isn't used to accommodating, but I was determined to make it work.
Then, the morning of the gathering, my one year old had sniffles, and not knowing whether it was an on-coming cold or just an allergy, I posted a quick update to my guests. In under three hours, I had fifteen cancellations (understandable) and a fridge crammed full of food I'd bought and prepped specifically to feed the large guest list (unexpected).
By the start time, I wasn't sure anyone was coming, though I went to build a fire anyway. Then someone showed up: a friend from university I hadn't seen since I'd graduated. We sat alone together and carried on small talk, while I felt first embarrassed at not having anyone else there and then embarrassed because I didn't know what I was doing. I'd never grilled before, nor had I done so by starting a wood fire outdoors. (Can you tell I work mostly with water and earth?) As I'd expected other witches there, some far more experienced with fire who could give me a boost, and maybe join in a touch of spirit-calling to welcome the fire, I felt wholly out of my -- pardon the pun -- element.
My friend started giving advice from his own experiences camping, and we tried to implement them together. Shortly after, one of my dearest friends arrived, bringing along his mother, whom I knew from online conversations, and his brother whom I knew not at all.
Feeling a little relieved, we proceeded to acquaint ourselves to one another while discussing the best way to start a fire. As it turned out, two of the guests including my friend's brother, were experts. Together, they worked to both encourage the smoldering wood and to teach me how to work with fire in a practical way I'd not learned before.
Though there were a few bumps in the process -- and one very stubborn sweet potato that refused to cook -- after two hours of talk and finesse with fire, we had all managed to enjoy a host of delectable, locally-grown vegetables and meats grilled by our own hands.
What's more, we created camaraderie through the evening's adventure that led to a natural moment of reverent silence between us. Though each of us were from different backgrounds and honoring different traditions, the silence became a communion in which, serene and smiling, we found spiritual connection.
For several breaths, without intent to guide it there, our small group became one -- with each other, the food, the fire, and the night. The embarrassment and disappointment I'd felt earlier in the day had burned away, and leaving a spiritual community created just for the purpose of one evening and to teach me an important lesson.
Though my usual band of friends who share in similar spiritual pursuits were unable to join with me that evening, I learned that no matter who I'm with, it's possible to create a supportive, spiritual community whenever needed. Our paths need not be the same, only the willingness to sit with one another, share in the simple joys, and open our hearts to the possibility of communion.
Thus were my needs met that night, and I realized, have been at every point in my life when I needed connection of this sort. This event helped me recognize and appreciate the abundance and connection we bring to one another, and all it took was sharing a fire.
Of course, it's been a week now, and despite a lot of creativity, our fridge is still burgeoning with food. What a blessed challenge to have!
May your Mabon and harvest be as abundant!
We've all heard the advice about how to conserve water, especially during the summer months when drought and brush fires hit even the Pacific Northwest. Water conservation is incredibly important and intrinsic to all of life on this planet. For those of us who work with Water as a spiritual aspect of our paths, practicing water worship can sometimes leave one feeling guilty.
So, how do we honor Water without wasting it?
We start by honoring methods of conservation to preserve what is sacred. We also must be mindful as we perform rituals to use only as much as we need, and show our gratitude at every step.
These are a mix of familiar, practical ways of working with water, as well as spiritual ones.
1. Showering. If you're like me, stepping into a shower is invigorating, and if I'm not paying attention to my actions, or I'm not in a rush, I feel a strong urge to stay in the water and be embraced by its fluid arms. Thankfully, I spent a few of my formative years in California, where water conservation is drilled into the heads of middle schoolers several times a year. Unless you're especially dirty or have an illness that demands staying in the water longer, showers can be kept three minutes (my daily target) or up to five minutes in length.
When starting up the shower, it's recommended you collect the cool water in a bucket or bin while waiting for the water to get hot, and while it's great on a garden or to water your plants, it's also excellent for any divination work, blessings, or other water work you're planning on doing that day.
2. Baths. Whether you clean or just soak in a bath, make it count. Plug up the drain as soon as you start, turning on the hot water only until it gets hot, then begin to adjust the cold water. If it's too hot, turn down the hot water rather than turn up the cold. Fill the tub only to the amount you need. Use this time in a tub to meditate, cast spells based on water, or give thanks to the water beings, gods, or goddesses with whom you manifest intention. A bath oil at the end of the bath will help seal in the water you've enjoyed, and continue its blessings.
I use my bath soaks primarily for self-healing work. I add epsom salts, herbs, or oils depending on what I need. Mugwort, steeped as a tea for two hours ahead of time, is an excellent addition for women needing to balance their hormones and regulate menstrual cycles. It's very cleansing, and if you have tea left over, it's good for a once-a-month lucid dreaming session when drunk at night. For women needing an after birth soak, or if you're a person who suffers from cysts or tears in your pelvic floor, a postpartum sitz herbal bath* is incredibly beneficial. When healing in the tub, I ground, open chakras, and then perform Reiki on the affected areas that need the most healing.
3. Kitchen Rituals. The water you drink each day is a blessing in itself. Before taking the first sip of each glass, take a moment to thank the water and to put into it the intentions for healing, continued health, or ritual. I recommend avoiding bottled water, as its production and consumption wastes water, harms global and local ecologies, and often harms the people living near bottled water plants by destroying local aquifers. If you find your tap water unpalatable, add a filter to your faucet, keep a water filtration pitcher (add mineral rocks for an extra boost), or add fresh fruit and herbs** to your water pitcher for a hint of flavor.
Any kitchen witchery that uses water from boiling to washing should employ basic conservation methods: save water after straining, left over teas, etc. for watering plants. If your ritual or meal left a bath of broth, freeze it for soup or reduce into a magical sauce. (Don't forget to sing while you cook!) The glass of water in the image was used to water my indoor plants after its intended use; remember to give back to the earth or a nearby stream as often as you're able.
When cleaning your ritual tools, set aside a bin or half sink for soaking, to minimize water waste.
4. Gardening. From shower and kitchen come rich water that can be used to tend your garden. Pay attention to what might have mixed into the water in question and use where most beneficial: you don't want to use a broth that came from peppers in the same soil where you're growing them! Also, save your cooking water for outdoors, or you might have odors you didn't expect. Your shower water is better for indoor plants.
If you have an outdoor garden and can afford either the cost or the energy to install a gray water system, such as a reed pond, you can create a luscious place for meditation and ritual while making the most of your water and attracting beneficial wildlife (here, froggy, froggy!).
Another wonderful feature to include in any witch's garden is a rain barrel both for irrigating medicinal herbs and casting late night spells. A splash of captured rain water on your feet as blessing or into the soil where you've planted a fertility talisman is perfectly safe. Just be certain you use potable water for any portions of your ritual that require drinking.
5. Community Involvement. Whether you're a solo practitioner or part of a group or coven, show Water you're dedicated by taking part in community conservation efforts. Reach out to stewardship groups, societies for the conservation of a given body of water, or watershed protection groups.^ Many of these groups need volunteers, as well as donations, to help clean or maintain local bodies of water. If your local watershed is being threatened by a company, talk to your representative about stopping or constraining harmful practices.
Take time to both offer prayers and blessings to your favorite ocean, pond, lake, or river, while also picking up garbage along the water's edge. Get others involved in your efforts, and you can begin and end each volunteer session with a call to Spirit, a prayer, or a sung blessing (you might even dive right in, if the day's warm enough).
Water provides us with life, take care of it, bless it, and it will bless you right back. Don't forget to go for a swim!
*Use a premixed blend of sitz bath herbs, or make your own using 1/4 cup each of comfrey leaf, plantain leaf, red raspberry leaf, yarrow flower, calendula flower, sheperd's purse, uva ursi (a.k.a. bearberry) leaf, and epsom salts. Steep for thirty minutes in boiled water, and add to a shallow bath.
**Making my own fruit waters has made summer more enjoyable. Some of my family's favorite blends are: blackberry with sage, raspberry with mint, blueberry with peach, cucumber with lemon slices, strawberry with nasturtiums, and orange with lime slices.
^There are a host of non-profits working both on local and national levels to conserve waterways. Those I love most in Washington include Stewardship Partners, People of Puget Sound, and Water Tenders.
As my family prepares for Lughnasadh by building a fire pit -- digging the area, laying a foundation of bricks and gravel -- I'm reminded in these tasks of returning to the foundation of my practice. I mentioned in my last post how I reconnect when it's been a while since I honored the sacred: at times of reconnection or high stress, I go "back to basics," which for me involves simple steps in grounding and meditation. Whether these tools are foreign or familiar to you, I'd like to walk you through my process, using tools from a variety of traditions.
Step 1: Breathe
This is also my Rule #1 for all the challenges I meet in life, and I teach my children this as well. Sit or lay in a comfortable position, and take a deep breath. Let it fill your chest and abdomen, causing both to rise. Inhale to a slow count of six, hold the breath to the count of two, and exhale to the count of eight. Repeat two more times, and then breathe normally, but remaining focused on the process. This mindful breathing has been scientifically verified to alter brain chemistry, which can ease stress, reduce cortisol, affect the heart, and improve certain medical conditions (see research by Herbert Benson for supportive studies).
Step 2: Ground
Sometimes I feel I could float away, at other times I feel disconnected from Source and Spirit. If you have that head-in-the-clouds feeling either from distraction or stress, and need to focus, moving from the deep breathing exercise to this will help. Imagine your legs and coccyx (tailbone) are the roots of a great tree. Inch them down into the soil, reaching for the bedrock below. Do this until you feel fully connected to earth energy (if you feel daring, you can even reach your tailbone root all the way to the core of the earth, drawing from the center and the molten rock between). Draw energy up from the roots and feel it filling you from your toes up to your head. While doing this, I combine grounding with ...
In busy lives filled with work both paid and unpaid, it can be a common oversight to take time to honor your path.
I frequently find myself overwhelmed by my errands, roles, and ever-lengthening to do list that I end most days without taking a moment to cherish the sacred and reconnect with what grounds me. When I've made it a habit, I tend to be grouchy and snappish, spend more time in activities that don't serve me (procrastination), and feel less fulfilled.
Here's how I pull myself out of this spiral of futility, and it only takes setting aside five to ten minutes a day.
First, I go back to the most basic of basics: I breathe. Sometimes I don't remember to do this until I'm in bed and ready to sleep, but taking three deep breaths, holding each, and releasing them slowly creates a physiological shift in the body that calms, the mind, soothes stress, and helps a person re-center.
Next, I determine what I need most and can accomplish in five to ten minutes. It can be anything: a focused breath meditation in bed, lighting a candle and concentrating on a single wish or prayer, clearing chakras and grounding, drumming, or journeying to guides.
Once I've re-established my evening routine, I begin to remember other small ways to honor the sacred throughout the day. I greet the day with greater excitement, stretching my body into wakefulness. My showers are more fulfilling when I'm mindful of the water -- both it's sacredness and its role as a finite resource that shouldn't be wasted. At each meal, I take time to be thankful for the food and the sacrifices and love that went into its path to my table.
And in the end, I remember to breathe more -- with awareness and purpose -- several times a day. I feel grounded, more connected, and more appreciative of the gifts around me.
What can you do five to ten minutes each day that can help you reconnect and stay true to your spirit? Make the time for these small moments of awareness and joy and all of your time becomes sacred.