We remember the important Muslim women who contributed to American society. A Confucian center opens in Houston. And religious rights activists look with concern towards the next year. It's Faithful Friday, our news segment about faiths and religious communities. All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!
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This Winter Solstice, I suggest getting in touch with your shadow side. This is the season to become introspective – and with the weather often urging us to spend more time indoors – this is the perfect time to look inward.
Brew some good spiced herbal tea and burn some frankincense and myrrh incense on your altar. Light red and green candles and turn off the lights. Get in a comfy spot and slow your breathing. I have found the best way to completely relax is to first contract, then very slowly release all of the muscles in your body, starting with your head and working your way down to your toes.
Sit cross-legged or lie in the corpse position on a yoga matt on the floor. Start with scrunching up your facial muscles, furrowing your brow. Then relax your face in slow motion. Do the same with your shoulders, hunching them up. Tighten your arms off the floor and make your hands into fists, then release down the length of your arms, starting with your shoulders, and unfurl each of your fingers, one by one. Repeat the exercise with your chest muscles, stomach and lower belly (these Navel and Root Chakras can store an awful lot of stress, so take extra time to release the tension here if necessary). Tighten your legs all the way down to curling your toes under, and very gradually relax these muscles as well.
To clear your mind of tedious recurring thoughts and worries, concentrate on breathing in deeply through your nose, letting your diaphragm fill and let go while taking your time. Be sure to keep the deep breaths coming from your belly, not up in your chest. Count down backwards from 20. Repeat several times, until you feel your mind clear and open.
When you feel ready, meditate on your shadow self. What are the sides of yourself that you keep hidden? Could any of them be positive that you are hiding from the rest of the world out of fear, or any other reason? Whether it is something really adventurous – like trying downhill skiing for the first time, or simply attending a community event you've been curious about – give yourself permission to explore that. Think about the ways you could nudge yourself out of your comfort zone, and discover one of your hidden shadow selves more fully. When you've settled on one that particularly speaks to you, resolve to act on it between now and the new year.
Send an image of yourself participating in and enjoying this activity out to the universe, thank the Goddesses and Gods of your choice, and when you are ready, carefully roll up to a standing position. Gather a bit of icy snow from outside and sprinkle it in the candles to put them out. Drink your tea and experience gratitude. Peace.
I grew up in a house surrounded by trees. The backyard maple was a favorite perch for reading the afternoon away when I was a child. Before I climbed I was careful to loop a rope around the branch above me so I could pull a basket of apples and books up after me. The willow tree often found me seeking faeries among her branches, and later, after I had deemed myself too old for tree-climbing, reading or drawing, imagining myself one of the elegant ladies I read about so often in my beloved faerie tales. More and more I would seek the willow, both a source of wonder and magick as the Pagan Path opened before me. My greatest heartbreak at leaving home was that there were no trees near my new apartment.
Four apartments later, I now have some trees, not many, but enough for the dryad-at-heart to feel satisfied if not happy. A leggy young maple grows against my back steps, towering over a neighboring lilac bush much in the manner my nineteen year old son towers over me. Indeed, in tree years, the maple may very well be his contemporary. The grapevine that coated the back of my building, lush, leafy, gorgeous; the grapevine that grew so prolifically that one of my kitchen windows had a beautiful green screen was torn down earlier this year, a sacrifice to the siding that needed to be replaced. (Probably due to said grapevine. I'm no fool.) She has taken her own back, however. A newer grapevine grown from sturdy roots has wrapped herself around the lower railings and is beginning to wind herself around the maple. Outside my bedroom window grows my favorite of the trees, a crab apple, so close to the building that her branches tap the window every time the breeze sets her dancing or a bird leaps amid her branches....
When I tell people I follow a Minoan spiritual path, one of the first things they ask about is the labyrinth. Often, all they know about the labyrinth is what they've heard from the Theseus-and-the-Minotaur story. The thing is, the Greeks invented Theseus as a culture hero centuries after Minoan civilization had ceased to exist, so the Minoans never even knew about him. In Theseus' tale, the labyrinth is a deadly maze full of confusing twists and turns, impossible to escape with the help of Ariadne's thread. In reality, the labyrinth is very different from that.
If you have a look at the labyrinth design at the top of this post, you'll see that it has a single path that leads unerringly to the center. Sure, there are twists and turns. These are designed to disorient the person walking the labyrinth so they can enter altered states of consciousness and reach their own inner spiritual understanding. But there's only one way in and the same way back out. This is called a unicursal (one-route) maze. And it's not a tricky trap. It's a spiritual tool....
Jews in Britain celebrate their heritage and their survival in the face of centuries of persecution. A Taoist offers perspective on mourning and facing death. And an interfaith calendar is provided which outlines some of the most important holidays and festivals of the year. It's Faithful Friday, our weekly segment on news about faiths and religious communities around the world! All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!