Spring is Springing!

Not everyone celebrates the spring equinox. I do, because you can never have too many reasons to eat food and party about stuff.

Spring weather has had a lot of false starts around here — we’d go from days in the 60s, to days in the 30s, from warm sun, to snow. My plants are all confused. But soon, with the sun passing over the equator next week, it will finally, officially be spring.

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(Also officially time for me to start up my antihistamines again, but that’s neither here nor there.)

It’s been interesting to see how the color and shape of spring has changed as I’ve moved around the country. In New York, I was young enough that it was basically the year’s equivalent to Wednesday — a hump season on the way to summer vacation (and pow-wow season). In Delaware, I met it with dread, knowing I probably had about three weeks before my doctor put me back on Prednisone. In California, I watched the landscape change as the farmers tilled and planted. Now, I mostly experience the season through trips to the arboretum or aquatic gardens to see the trees with their buds and new, green leaves, still bright and fresh and soft as silk.

I like to perform a ritual on the spring equinox. It generally isn’t a long or complicated one, just a bit of giving thanks that the long, cold winter is at an end, and sowing the metaphorical seeds of all of the things I want to reap in the upcoming months. This year, I have a ton to set up. There are creative projects I want to see come to fruition, we’re planning a move, there’re a lot of professional growth opportunities… All of them need hard work to make happen, but a little magical help never hurt anything.

The rituals I do all follow the ADF structure, but there are a couple of things I do that are specific to the season, like:

  • Put fresh flowers and ferns on my altar.
  • Create a list of all of the “seeds” that need planting, charging it, and releasing it to be fulfilled.
  • Light green and yellow candles, for growth and creativity.
  • Make seed bombs for a neglected spot. (Local wildflowers only!)
  • Open all of the windows and doors, to let the air blow through.

Also, there’s food. Back when I was vegan, I used to make lemon cake pretty often. It was easy — substitute soy milk for dairy milk, and use lemon juice, baking soda, and baking powder to make it rise. Many varieties of lemons are in season now, so these lemon cupcakes are a perfect addition to a spring equinox menu.

I also love mixing up a salad of spring greens, soft goat cheese, strawberries, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. The sweetness of the berries, tartness of the vinegar, and smooth creaminess of the goat cheese are really nice together, and it’s a great, light side dish.

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A green salad with a little goat cheese and fruit: good stuff.

Also, since I would eat my weight in goat cheese if science would let me, I like to make lemon, asparagus, and goat cheese pasta. I usually wing it (it’s really simple!), but this recipe from Smitten Kitchen outlines exactly what to do. I prefer to omit the tarragon, use lots of black pepper, and sometimes add some white beans for protein, but this recipe is very easy to remix according to your preferences.

Even if you don’t perform a ritual to mark the equinox, get outside, if weather and circumstances let you. Chow down on the fruits and vegetables coming into season. Bring the outdoors into your space, and let yourself experience the warmth and promise of a new season.🌹

 

 

Blessing Rite + S.J. Tucker Solo Show

This week was a busy one — fortunately, I didn’t actually have to leave my apartment for most of it!

Tuesday, I got to enjoy a solo show by S.J. Tucker. It was a pay-what-you-want online concert, and honestly a lot of fun. I don’t often get to go to concerts myself (IH is murder on my desire to hear things), so it was awesome to be able to support an artist I enjoy and experience their work in a place where I knew I’d be comfortable. There’s another concert coming up on the 19th, check out S.J. Tucker’s page on Concert Window for more details.

Wednesday, I took part in a streamed blessing ritual. As a solitary practitioner, I’ve had to build my rituals around the outline given by ADF without really having a live example to draw from. I’ve developed a ritual pattern and wording that’s comfortable to me (though I would like to re-write some to make it more poetic and give it some more “flow”), but I’m still curious about how other people do their thing. The blessing ritual was a great opportunity to interact with other Pagans in a warm, friendly atmosphere — again, without having to actually go anywhere.

The ritual structure itself was familiar, aside from a few things. The person who hosted the ritual silvers their well differently from me (I use the same, purpose-dedicated silver Mercury dime each time, as opposed to using a new silver bead each time), and draws three omens instead of one.

One thing I’ve noticed about performing rituals is that I always end up very emotionally affected by the omen drawing phase. There are only a few occasions where I’ve ever gotten “bad” omens, and I could almost immediately trace them back to their causes. I talked to my S.O. about it afterward, describing how I invariably get misty-eyed when it comes time to draw the omen and see what blessings are offered.

Really, I think it amounts to the feeling of being seen.

I use the Animalis os Fortuna tarot deck for my ritual divination. It functions like a standard tarot deck, but the artwork and symbolism on the cards themselves make them open to interpretations that, to me, seem to mesh better with ritual divination than most other decks. I’m not fluent enough in runes or Ogham staves to use those yet, so, tarot it is. Since I use tarot, there are a lot of cards, and, therefore, a lot of opportunities to draw something seemingly irrelevant to my situation. This never happens.

I don’t mean in an interpretive way, either. I don’t end up with ambiguous cards that I can sort of apply to my situation if I really think about them. Whatever cards I draw are always a giant, glowing beacon pointing to whatever is on my mind, or whatever I need most. It’s a very, very validating feeling.

In the streamed ritual, the first omen drawn was kenaz. Now, kenaz and I go back about a year — to the Imbolc before this past one, actually. I hadn’t joined ADF yet, but I did decide to do a small ritual to honor Brighid. A lot of my rituals involve a trance state (something that has informed a lot of my artwork) and, during this particular one, I was shown a symbol drawn in a slab of wet clay. I didn’t recognize it, but I was intensely curious and did a lot of searching. As it turns out, it was the rune Cēn from the Anglo-Saxon futhorc: ᚳ.

Cēn (or kaunan, or kaun, or kenaz) is a torch. It’s the healing fire, and the fire of the blacksmith’s forge. It is passion, desire, vitality, and creativity. It’s one I’ve meditated on a lot in the year since, and having it come up again now was a very good feeling.

I don’t know if I’ll find a local grove with the same ritual structure and overall guiding principles as ADF, but I’m glad to have found an avenue to at least take part in rituals with others.

(Speaking of creativity, there’s a new post on my art blog about some stuff I’ve been working on!)

 

Let’s Read: A History of Pagan Europe

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Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick’s A History of Pagan Europe was originally recommended to me years ago, and I pretty much just read it for the fun of it. When it popped up on the approved reading list for the ADF dedicant path, I realized it’d probably be a good time to give it a closer look. It’s a rather dense read (though still an enjoyable one), and, considering the subject matter, it takes a couple of passes to really absorb all of the information presented.

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Jones and Pennick do an excellent job of connecting dots between disparate cultures, explaining each area’s stages of religious development in easy-to-understand terms. (The convergent evolution of the concept of sacred wells/trees/etc. between Mediterranean and Celtic cultures was especially interesting.) I particularly enjoyed the analysis of Celtic culture pre-Roman contact. There’s really a dearth of information available on this period — it seems like a lot of what we know is via the Roman conquest itself. Because of Rome’s relatively relaxed attitude toward outsider religions, many aspects of Celtic religion were preserved (albeit in an altered form) through syncretism with the dominant religion of Rome. The Druids disappeared. Their symbols, deities, and sacred sites, however, survived.

(Ultimately, it was this attitude that led to the persecution of monotheists — Rome didn’t particularly care what religion anyone was, so long as every citizen honored the ruler’s personal deity. It was believed that this helped preserve the state itself, and thus failing to do so was tantamount to treason.)

A History of Pagan Europe is a bit dry, as many books of this nature are, but it’s a book I find myself returning to now and then. There’s a lot to take in, and, as a Pagan, I feel that sources like this are important — simple, factual, without a lot of the editorializing you find in books geared toward a new-age or Pagan audience.

 

Honoring Your Blood Ancestors (even if you probably would’ve hated most of them)

Awhile ago, I had a DNA test. The results contained a couple of surprises, though the fact that there were surprises wasn’t, in itself, surprising.

Let me back up.

Years ago, when I was recently diagnosed with IIH, drugged to the gills, recovering from a spinal tap, and bored out of my mind, I decided genealogy would be more fun than staring at the ceiling and trying not to throw up. There was only one problem.
We’ll call him Albert.

Albert was my great-grandfather. He was my maternal grandmother’s father and, by all accounts, an absolute chemical toilet fire of a man. My grandmother wasn’t really raised by her parents — her mother died in a sanitarium at age 22, and her father, well…

Let’s just say I didn’t have much to go on other than that side of my family was French-Canadian, and their name was spelled wrong. It was extremely difficult to get more information about them, because every search result for my great-grandfather only turned up his many, many, many appeals from Attica. (Also, he was the one who changed the spelling of his last name, and was the only one in his entire family who spelled it that way. It’s like he went out of his way to make this impossible.)

I probably would not have liked great-grandpa Albert if I had known him in life. I have two toxic relatives who are both much closer to me and still living, and I don’t even talk to them. Neither of them have even been in and out of maximum security prison (as far as I know. It’s been awhile).

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Winter Things Yule Love

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(Also, that Yule pun was terrible and I’m not even a little sorry about it.)

Now that November’s almost through, I feel like I can talk about Yule. I confess, Yule isn’t my favorite holiday — like a lot of other witches, Samhain’s more my jam. Still, there’s a lot to love about winter, from bundling up with my partner, my cats, a cup of star anise tea, and a fuzzy blanket, to visiting the National Arboretum and Rock Creek Park to take in all of the things nature hides under the greens of spring and summer. (I’m a sucker for watching fluffy little titmice puffing themselves up in red-berried hawthorn boughs. They’re so freaking cute, they’re basically alive Pokémon.)

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As a Pagan, it can be tricky to find ways to make Yule feel special when so much of U.S. culture revolves around Christmas this time of year. So, I put together a short list of things that, to me, help make this season a little extra sweet.

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… And this is why I shouldn’t rush.

I celebrated Mabon the other day. Like most of my celebrations, it was small, short, and simple — lighting candles at my altar, sitting quietly, giving thanks, remembering the meaning of the season.

All of which are actually super difficult to do if I’m feeling anxious.

I have a tendency to try to push through things when I’m not feeling well. (Let’s be real, though. If I waited until I felt well, I’d never get anything done.) I’ve long held that rituals are not necessarily for me — true piety is observing them even when I’m not personally getting anything out of it. Prayer does not always have to be a refreshing, uplifting experience to have value. Sometimes even meditation is difficult work, but it’s work that I have to do.

The thing is, the ritual structure I follow has a kind of built-in way to tell if I’ve completely effed it or not. Tripped over my words too badly? I’ll get told. Unacceptable offering? Oh, I’ll hear about it. This isn’t something that’s been a problem before, luckily — even when my offerings have been small and simple, I’ve always been given signs that they were good enough.

It doesn’t help that it’s a structure I’m not entirely familiar with yet. It’s a bit more complex than what I used for most of my life (read: winging it), and the formality of it trips me up on occasion. To be honest, if you had come to me a little over a year ago and said I’d be doing things this way, I probably would have asked what you were smoking.
I digress, though. That’s a story for another time.

Anyway, for this ritual, I was confident! I had these fancy little cakes, I placed them in the offering bowls, I sat and said the words… and I rushed through them because holy butts anxiety sucks super hard and I felt like I was about to die.

And then came the divination.

I use tarot cards for the divination portion of my rituals. The particular deck I use (the Animalis Os Fortuna deck) is pretty helpful here. In addition to standard tarot meanings, the animal imagery of this deck gives it extra layers of meaning that allow the cards to be interpreted in a way that’s more conducive to this particular type of ritual divination.So I shuffled, drew, and…

Not only did I get called out, I got called out with The Moon. The warning, anxiety-indicating Moon, of all things. Like a big, black-and-white finger pointing right at my clenched hands and racing heart and going, “WTF?”

Crap.

I concluded the ritual, now wondering what I’d done. Sure, I had tripped over my words, but corrected myself. I’d said the wrong words at some points, but corrected that, too. But, while I’d been willing to offer fancy cakes, there were two things an impending anxiety attack kept me from offering — my attention, and my time.

I ate something, drank a little water, and waited for the feeling to pass, resigned now to having to repeat the ritual. I had no cakes to offer this time, just clean water and some sweet oil. But I took my time, I spoke well, and I let the anxious feelings dissipate.

And this time, even with my offerings as simple as they were, it was accepted.

There is no physical offering valuable enough to make up for an unwillingness to give my time and attention.