I recently wrote a piece about Pagan tattoos. Hundreds of people posted pictures of their artwork and many more folks told the stories of how those designs came about and why they were so compelled to etch them indelibly into their skin.
And this got me thinking - Tattoos are altars, of a kind. They are permanent representations of a moment or a belief or a particular rite of passage. These permanent, personal altars are like touchstones to those important times. In most cases, they are carefully thought out. They are planned. The placement, the design, the colours, the images and the symbols are all considered. Then there's the actual "building of the altar" itself.
So here I am at Samhain-tide again. Like many Pagans this is the "big one", our month when we get to be as witchy as we want and it goes mostly unnoticed because everyone out there in the Western world is hanging up skeletons and foam cut outs of owls and black cats.
It's also the month where I find myself running from pillar to post, organizing and priestessing all sorts of Samhain-related events. As is often the case, I'm part of the organising team for the 35th annual Reclaiming Spiral Dance in San Francisco. I'll be part of North Bay Reclaiming's Samhain ritual and this year I'll be at a four day retreat in the Mendocino Woodlands called "Mysteries of Samhain". I'm fortunate to be a busy witch.
We stroked his head and ran our hands along his body. He purred. We looked at him directly in the eyes and we sang songs. He purred. We told him of mice and birds and long summer days that would not end. He purred. We held him close, so very close, as the needle pierced his skin. The purring stopped.
The last few days have been filled with tears and with fond remembrances of our dear cat, Bear Claw. He lived for almost twenty years. I have children that have never known a time before Bear Claw. Simply put, he was part of our family.
I spent the last year of his life as a care giver of sorts. As his health failed, I cleaned up after him. I helped him up to his favourite perches around the house. I carried him out into the warm sun on my shoulders and made sure his "apartment" was warm and comfortable. He and I spoke about how and when his life would end. We had an agreement that when the good days were outnumbered by the bad days, we'd part ways mercifully and quickly.
It's Earthy Thursday, full of stories that emphasize our connection with Mama Gaia. We've got a giant volcano stirring, tiny altars, drawing strength from Nature, cleaning up after gatherings, fossilized forest fires, and indigenous farmers meeting to plan for climate change. Have a great Thursday!
What's an Earthy Thursday without a report of a huge volcano in Iceland threatening to erupt? Well, if you haven't heard of (Anglicized spelling) Bardarbunga yet, check out the story here. (Includes two great slideshows of previous Icelandic eruptions.)
As I mentioned in a previous post, our altar went from a 24” square of white cloth with two pillar candles, a leather pentacle about 4” across, a stick of incense, a bowl and a shaker of salt to one with larger purple altar cloth bearing a Celtic design, an abalone shell, some feathers, and a chunk of amethyst crystal.
Be advised that I will have no photos to illustrate anything that goes on inside the prison walls unless I happen to come across them on the Web.Needless to say, we volunteers are not permitted to bring cameras inside.
Neither will I be revealing any names or personal descriptions that might indicate the identity of anyone other than our supervising chaplain and myself.