Friday, October 26, 2012

Veiling: My Thoughts

Dave and I, July 29, 2006

The controversy over recent months regarding veiling in the pagan community has been very interesting.  I'm not sure why it has been such a "hot topic."  It seems whenever a woman chooses to dress a certain way lots of people have opinions about that.  Personally I support an informed choice to dress however a person chooses to.  From culture to culture there are numerous examples of women veiling for religious, cultural and personal reasons.  From modesty, to devotion to ones gods, and then of course we have the forced veiling of women for control under men.  Pagan women like the ones quoted in this article are adopting this practice for diverse reasons, all of them stemming from informed choice.  I see this choice as thoughtful and subjective and for myself at this time not one I'm making.

Thinking about this topic has left me with two comparisons in my own life to experiences with veiling or not.  The most obvious one being for my marriage.  When I wed Dave I made my wedding dress and we had our ceremony outside.  When it came to what to wear on my head I chose not to wear a veil.  The casual aspect of our day and the style of my dress just didn't fit with a veil to me.  Also I wanted to feel open to the universe as I made my vow.  My hair flowed down my back and I work a sparkling silver headband of blue flowers.  I did now know it then but my choice was more in keeping with Anglo Saxon tradition of flowing hair and a crown of flowers since the current fashion of veils was ushered into vogue by Queen Victoria.

The first time I used a veil during trance work went very well.  It was encouraged as part of a Baba Yaga meditation and I found it much easier to journey that way.  Perhaps it was the covering of my crown chakra that helped.  I was able to look internally easier.  I felt more cut off from those around me and able to quiet ego and chatty internal dialogue.

Using a scarf or wrap in this way is very helpful in such work.  I think it encourages quiet and self reflection.  It can be likened to a horse with blinders on, keeping you focused on the task ahead or in this case inside.

Also I have read that head covering can help with keeping other people's energy from overwhelming you in public.  Again I think it helps to keep you from being open, or too psychically exposed so to speak.  In that way veils are a useful tool spiritually just like tarot cards or an altar cloth; serving a specific purpose to meet a  need in practice.

The cultural impact of practicing veiling in public is more complex and can lead to one being mistaken for another type of religious follower.  Since this choice is one that requires maturity and thoughtfulness I'd hope that anyone doing it in public would have the self assurance to take any misinterpretations in stride.  As pagan culture continues to develop and mature we will face many more new/old practices that will challenge our preconceived ideas of what and who we are collectively and as individuals.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

WIP Wednesday

Today I'm sharing what is in progress in my little sewing room.  A big leap of a project which will need to be finished by November 3rd for a jury submission.  Fingers crossed on this one.

And patiently waiting on a hanger is Ky's quilt.  The top only needs two side panels sewed on and then it is ready to be sandwiched.  Such a great feeling to have it almost complete with two months left before the deadline.  Ha..of course I say almost but I still have to quilt and bind it....but after two years it is way closer than ever.

Joining up with other quilters today.  It feels great to have something to contribute.

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Monday, October 22, 2012

October from Above

This month is flying by.  Each day a mix of school, play, food and work.  Sun, wind, rain storms and so many leaves keep reminding us of the earth's preparation for sleep.

We started the month by eating our last homegrown tomatoes.  Certainly a larger crop than ever before.

We've had lots of time outdoors.  The scheduled time of Kyan's outdoor preschool has given he and Elliott and I regular contact with being outside for long stretches.  It is honestly invaluable.  A blessing for us on every level.

Train play is it around here.  Whether you are 4 and a half, 1 and a half or 30 something or other, you'll be playing trains if you are here for more than a minute or two.

I got adventurous and steamed my first batch of artichokes for baked artichoke dip.  They are so funny and grey looking once cooked but the dip was a hit.  So I'll be making it again for sure.

I can't remember a busier October for our little family.  With two weeks left is it safe to say we've managed ok?  There are big plans for quieter times in November and December.  Just because it is good to honour the need for rest, quiet and contemplation.  There will still be plenty to do, but just a slower gait for us.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Unity - a ritual blessing

Whether working in a formal Wiccan coven, pagan outreach group or a family circle it is always a positive experience to solidify bonds and join together from time to time to re-affirm connection.
Unity is more than just a noun or a buzzword.  We need to nurture it, feed it and give it room to grow our roots together.

I wrote this blessing 8 years ago and it was spoken at Summer Solstice.  As always it can be adapted to suit whatever situation is unique to your path.  My only recommendation would be to use it when the moon is from new to full.

A Blessing to Encourage Unity

On this Midsummer day of lasting light as we sit beside the sea
Let us bind our souls,
Let us bond our hearts,
Let us set our minds.

have everyone dip their hands in water passing a bowl, cloth or sprinkling the water over each participant

With this water from the sea
We ask for the gift of truth

circulate again with incense, a feather or an air symbol

With this incense which mingles with the air
We ask for the gift of honor

have everyone grasp some sand or rub their hands with it

With this sand from the strong earth
We ask for the gift of respect

at this point everyone can join hands side by side in a circle or each put one hand in to the center like when you do a cheer 

As our hands are bound
So are our hearts, souls and minds
A bond of spirit
A bond of love
Empowered through truth, honor and respect.
Blessed be.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Power of "We"

Today is Blog Action Day.  A day when thousands of bloggers from around the world blog around a central theme in the hopes of inspiring thought and creating a collective consciousness.

This year's theme is The Power of "We"
There are many ways to interpret this theme, what it has brought up for me is getting back to the basics of human understanding.  Why is it that individuals so often stay apart and separate? Why do we isolate ourselves and focus on division, differences?  The further away we have moved from our communal struggle for survival has brought us to where we are today: drawing imaginary lines on land, putting up fences and signs to keep others out, closing our blinds so no one can see into our home, hiding secrets and pain from our loved ones...
All the while when doing this we feel bad.  It doesn't make one feel nice to push others out constantly.  So to compensate we watch tv and spend our time on social media.   Instead of talking face to face we text and post on Facebook.  But don't worry I'm not here to bash the internet or condemn the media.  All I'm talking about here is the ability to form connections.
What we have lost in being where we are today is the ability to hold ourselves and others accountable for focusing on division and isolation.  Strangers can attack others in horrible and degrading ways when they remove themselves from a sense of "we"  It's easier to lash out when you don't have to look someone in the eye as you are putting them down.  The shadow side of social media is that this happens, although I think it has always happened with gossip and the like.  Social media magnifies the problem, makes harassment illusive and anonymous.  No better example of this can be found than Amanda Todd's story.  This young woman was harassed and manipulated by an anonymous internet lurker who blackmailed her and circulated a video of her.  Then he sent this video to peers who ridiculed her and drove her into depression.  How one man manipulated countless teenagers to torment this girl which then pushed her to suicide is beyond me.
Our power, the power of caring, real people is to stop predators from finding our children.
We can protect our kids.  We can stand up against bullying, and force accountability from those around us.
400 people worldwide have sent the RCMP information regarding this crime.  Adolescence is a tough time of life.  Trying to figure out who you are, trying to make it through...human contact, real people connecting on a personal and deep level is the only thing that bolsters the spirit against the isolationism of our society.
If someone can back you into a corner alone it is far easier to attack you on any level.
If you are surrounded by love; strong people of character, people from different age groups and backgrounds you are lifted up.  Strength in numbers, support from the power of "we".
Our power is to link together and connect to each other.
Our power is to care for those around us as we would our own self or our own children.
Our power is to seek solutions and hold each other accountable for actions that do not support the nurturing of humanity.
And perhaps most deceptive of all is that our power is to see through the manipulations of outside factions that may be trying to use our fear and self-doubt to control us to their ends.   Somewhere inside those factions are people who need to connect to their own humanity, their own inner truths.  When they do they will no longer be able to target others because they will feel its wrongness and if they can't see their wrong doing we will be there to show them their errors.  We will hold them accountable.
That is the power of "we."

Friday, October 12, 2012

Until we meet again...

Mary and I, April 1978

My first profound experience with death was when my paternal grandmother died when I was 7.  Her name was Mary and she was a loving, strong and pious woman.  I spent many an afternoon with her and when I was hungry and she asked me what I wanted to eat I'd say porridge and she would lovingly make it for me.

Her hair was pure white and her eyes were a crystal blue.  She never saw me through her eyes.  She slowly went blind in her 40's.  Her blindness did not limit her ability.  She wrote letters using a typewriter, played piano, cooked and baked and did all these things well and with love.
In my memory she was warm and kind and indulgent.  I feel grateful that I was able to spend the time with her that I did.
At this time of year as Samhain approaches my thoughts always turn to my beloved dead.  Each year memories float in and some take hold and stay while others drift off with the mists.  For many years I was sad that my strongest memory of my Granny was her death and how the days around it played out.  But now I've come to understand that it all falls into place as it can in each moment.  Her death was the last part of her life to those left on this plain.  I can't separate it from who she was or who I've become because of it.

 July of 1944 wearing a dress she had made herself

One morning in the summer of my 7th year I awoke to the sight of my mother leaning over me.  Her chin trembled with sadness as she told me that Granny had died.  Early that morning my grandfather had phoned my mom asking her to come over to his home (just a short walk down the road).  When my mother arrived she checked Granny and confirmed that she had passed away in her sleep.  As I stared up at my mother, seeing her grief plainly on her face I knew first and foremost that I would see my granny again.  It was the first feeling I had and while I was instantly sad I felt a resolve that has never gone away.  I will see her again.
The next few days hold a sprinkling of memories.  My grandfather coming into the house with his head bowed and a coat draped over his shoulders.  It was the first time I remember perceiving his vulnerability, the first time I had ever felt the urge to comfort him.  I remember the dress I wore to the funeral home viewing - it was mint green with an eyelet edging and a sash.  I remember seeing my Granny laying in the coffin my first instinct was panic that she surely was only sleeping and would wake up in the ground alone and frightened.  And I remember the silken pillow that was beside her in the coffin.  It had blue and pink carnations and was meant to symbolize her grandchildren, all eight of us.

I have often called on her in the years since her death.  I know she watches over all of us and sees us in a way she couldn't when she was alive.  There have been two marked times when I felt her presence, both at Samhain rituals.  The first was the fall before I became pregnant with my first son.  While in the Summerland during a trance journey I sat with her near a stream.  I remember being so happy to see her and the light around us being soft and golden.  She spoke lovely words that I do not remember.  When I left to journey back I was filled with the knowledge that I would soon have a child.   Five months later I was pregnant.
The second was almost a year ago also during the trance journey at our local Spiral Dance.  She came and was there with me.  I was so overwhelmed by her energy that I wept, something I've never experienced at that ritual in the 9 years I've been going.  It certainly was profound to feel that energy again after so many years.  I am very grateful for that gift.

This is a sad post I suppose but I see life's moments as important whether they are sad or happy.  As I've told the birth stories of my sons I have told the death story of another loved one.  The universe saw fit to grant another gift when my son Elliott was born on Mary's birthday.  It is a link that he will share with her forever, something that warms our family and honours her memory.

 Cecil & Mary's wedding November 1944

I didn't share my knowing at 7 that I'd see her again.  Perhaps I knew that it was a personal truth and not something that everyone would find comfort from.  Whether she comes to me again on this plain or not there will come a day when we will meet.  That stays with me.   It is a feeling for which I am always so thankful.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Creative Overload

So I've got this deadline.  It is approaching rapidly as these things tend to do when you've stepped out on a limb.  I'm working at a pace that seems fast for me...that is most of my "free" time each day,  an hour when Elliott naps, maybe an hour and a half and then at least an hour when I finally get the boys to sleep.  I have some weekend childcare lined up in the next few weeks and will soon be calling in a few more troops for some weekday hours.

As I sit in my sewing room and stitch and look, then stitch and look some more I'm getting slightly distracted.  I mean, I've never had such long periods of fallow time in art making as I have since becoming a mama.  Never had to concentrate my time for deadlines with so much life stuff on my plate before.  What I'm noticing is that as I'm trying to focus my energy exclusively on this piece other ideas are floating into my head.  Website re-designs, ideas for drawings for new pieces!!! Um..ok, that's great and all but I'm on a deadline here.  I'd love to flit around and move from idea to idea in a more fluid (water sign much?) way but I'm torn.  There are only so many hours in a day and I can't afford to devote this precious time to another project.  Not if I'm ever going to make this deadline.

I've given myself the luxury of sketching the ideas down when I'm on "Mama time."  This is fairly new for the boys.  They've seen me reading or with the laptop open, and even stitching something or other but sketchbook out not so much.  This feels good to me in the sense that it will give them another dimension of who mama is.  Even if they can't yet grasp that I'm other than theirs at all times.  In the future they will internalize the notion that parents are more than just there for them, that we too have dreams and goals that run deep into our personal journey.

As this overload of ideas hits I've tried to avoid a feeling of slight panic by letting them float through my mind and out again.  Yoga and meditation training has helped with this.  Acknowledge the thought, then let it go.  Focus on your breath, stay in the moment.  Stitch and look.  Stitch and look.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Book of the Month: A Witchy read

As is my usual October offering I wanted to share a story that tends toward the darker side as we enter the dark time of year.  What is so magical about this novel though is that it is dark and full of light at the same time, a rare and wonderful gift from a story I'd say.

This novel has two titles it seems.  For readers in the U.S it's Corrag: A Novel by Susan Fletcher and in Canada it is called Witch Light.   This is a story about Corrag, set in 1692, who was raised by her wild mother and looses her at an early age to a witch hunt and how she makes her way.  It is told from her memories (which are lyrical and epic but also simple and intimate) and for a second perspective a Jacobite interviews her in her cell where she awaits her execution for witchcraft.  

This is a truly magical read but is very humanistic as well.  The descriptions of Scotland and England transport you there.  I tried to savor the story so I could stay there with the characters who are well rounded and empathetic but I could have read it quickly because you are compelled to learn more and hear the mystery of the Massacre at Glencoe.

Treat yourself to the journey of a young woman who lives a wild authentic life and sees with the perspective of one much older and wiser.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Trees are Life

My favorite part of the natural world has got to be trees.  I live on a mountain full of them, from every view out of the windows of our home their leaves reflect the sun in the summer.  In fall they drop colourful leaves in the heavy rains and in winter their strong branches bare the weight of occasional snow fall.  Spring brings buds and flowers on some varietals and birds sing of the wheel's turning.

The concept of the World Tree, Tree of Life as axis mundi or the connector of the sky, earth and underworld is one that resonates deep inside me.  In my trance work a large smooth tree with wide branches and curling roots acts as my entrance point to my sacred space.  Sometimes the tree is full of leaves, sometimes its branches are bare.  Always I feel secure as soon as I see it, its energy being familiar and grounding.

The scientific magic of trees is still being studied but I have been reading small snippets of articles that talk about the ability trees have to communicate with each other.  They clean the air, keep soil from eroding and provide shelter to countless other beings (us included).  Check out this video relating the connections trees have through their root systems.

I tend to shift which tree to focus on depending on the seasons.  In spring cherry, plum and apple blossoms herald new beginnings and maple trees share their sweet sap.  In summer I love willow, oak and birch trees; all the leaves in their shapes and textures and how the sun shines through them.   When fall arrives I tend to notice the trees laden with fruit and nuts and which ones turn colour first to signal autumn.  And as Yule comes the conifers whisper quiet words of reassurance and lend their evergreen to the starker landscape of cold, wet days.

Here are some books on my future reading list if you are just as passionate as I.  Don't forget to hug a tree today or stand in Tree pose and just be.

Arboretum America: A Philosophy of the Forest by Diana Beresford-Kroeger

Arboretum Borealis: A Lifeline of the Planet by Diana Beresford-Kroeger

Remarkable Trees of the World by Thomas Pakenham

Mythic Woods: The World's Most Remarkable Forests by Jonathan Roberts

How to Plant a Tree: A Simple Celebration of Trees and Tree-Planting Ceremonies by Daniel Butler

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Walk through

Autumn Equinox brought with it a certain blast.  It was a small inkling at first, a hesitant maybe next, and then that familiar swell of possibility overcame me.  I consulted with my partner, since all things for me affect him too.  And then I stood at an entryway waiting for just a second.  Is this it?  Am I going to do this?  Can I do this?  And then that blast pushed me over the threshold.  No more someday, there is only now.  So do it.

And so the last few days have been about laying a foundation and marking new territory.  The map I'm making has been made countless times by countless parents who pursue a personal passion while navigating the day to day life of their family.  I am not breaking new ground in theory.  But it is new ground for us.  Because just like that my focus has shifted, divided in two.  I don't know if that is a good approach but my instincts did it for me.  For now I'll ride it out and see how it goes.  I feel like this is asking a lot of the ones around me who love and need me.  But again, the journey twists and you have to follow where the universe leads.

Without a doubt this is a small step towards many years of hard work for me.  What turned into a ten year hiatus from pursuing the career I studied for is daunting.  I have so many fears.  I look back sometimes and wonder why I wasted so many years when I could have been building an art career.  But I know deep down that my current career of mothering has given me the courage to be an artist now.  I did not have the courage before.  Oh, I dabbled here and there, I tried a thing or two, but in the face of adversity I split.  Excuses made, moving on, I'll do that when ____ happens.

Being a parent has removed that internal bubble that I retreated to.  I can't find it anymore.  All I am is stripped bare of excuses.  I do it or I don't.  I make this happen, I take my chances and roll the dice.

I feel so grateful to have this chance.  To have the backing of love and support of loved ones.  Learning that life is about seasons and rolling with them.  Understanding that each time a challenge presents itself I have the chance to make a different choice and start again.   But now I begin making choices that are about my future fulfillment and not just about the little lives that I harbour.  My mothering journey is far from over, heck honestly it is never over per say.  What I've done though is walk through a doorway leading to something stemming from deep within.  I dream as big as the one I'm already living with my boys.  And having two big dreams co-existing never seemed doable until this moment.  And I'm going with it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Poem of the Month: Apples

I wrote this poem in October of 2008 less than a year after becoming a mother.   Looking back on the seasons and how quickly they pass as I sit here 4 years later and now have two sons blows my mind.

Kyan in 2009

Our World in an Apple
My son, it is the time of apples
as you sleep, curled
rosy cheeks, round and full
the dishes sit in dissolving suds
leaves fall,
cold rain pounds the ground
and I think of you
how you have changed me
how you have opened every part
the nooks and crannies of my soul
how with this opening
I am fuller,
than before
inside apples are five pointed stars
your smile, your temper, your laughter, your hands and your eyes.
Yes I am open.
I am susceptible.
I am vulnerable.
I care more
about everything
my maiden could be withdrawn
she could turn away
she could stay inside her dream
as mother I love in the raw
my heart pulsing in one of your hands
while in the other you hold our world
reflected on an apple