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Posted on:  Nov 4, 2020 @ 10:00 Posted in:  Sabbats
My friend comes home after an evening of dancing and moving energy with her activist friends. She’s exhausted from an intense week of community gatherings — first a Samhain ritual in honor of the beloved dead, with so many passing this year and so much collective grief in the air, and now tonight, a passionate, full-embodied group prayer for peace and justice.
All of this was a preparation for what awaits her. Death has arrived on her doorstep.
The bucks are exhausted, terrified. Fortunately she has a friend who is a gentle hunter. When he arrives, he’s able to take clean shots, killing the bucks instantly and saving them from an agonizing death. Strangely, in their dying the second stag lands on the first. In death, the combatants lie serenely on top of each other, like a pair of sleeping cats.
As sacred witness and gentle hunter, these two friends speak to the fallen bucks, pray for them, and mourn their passing.
The image of the bucks and the story I’ve just shared, in the words of my friend, appear in my Facebook feed. I stop what I’m doing, my heart wide open and broken, understanding that these bucks have gifted my friend, our community, this world, with a powerful vision that speaks to the tumultuous change of these times.
I too have been sacred witness this week, at our local Samhain ritual. In this role, I sat veiled and silent, dropped into the deep dream of our magic, watching between the worlds as the names of the dead were spoken, and our community danced a spiral in honor of the blessed newborn.
Another powerful vision that speaks to these times: a thousand deaths for a thousand births — we are living an epic death-rebirth moment
These two vision brew in me, colliding with the intense drama and building momentum of political, social, economic and environmental crises and unrest, and the mythic forces moving through our world calling us to an evolutionary, change-or-die revelation.
We know, in our flesh and bones, that things have reached a tipping point; we just can’t keep doing what we’re doing to the planet, and to each other, without dire and lasting consequences.
Take a deep breath. Feel your warm heart beating inside your precious body. Don’t despair. We’ve been heading toward this exact moment for years, decades, millennia.
This net is our known world, woven of the threads of our inner and outer conceptions of reality, and the infrastructure of culture and society. This net is everywhere, interweaving every aspect of our life in webbing that is strong, resilient and specifically designed to ensure there is no escape. Many of us call this net patriarchy, colonization, white supremacy, global capitalism.
Together in this net, we thrash about, stuck in the stories we tell ourselves about our world, each other, and this mess we’re in. We lock horns with the enemy, be it our politicians, those who hold contrary views, or who live by values and beliefs we find abhorrent. We lock horns with our inner demons and personal wounding that tangle us in our pain and our past. We lock horns with our judgments, rage, fear and despair.
Many of the stories we tell are true, and the battles are necessary to protect the Earth, the vulnerable and marginalized, and each other. Yet there’s always a combatant, across the battle lines, with a different story and agenda, ready to meet us full on. So we thrash about, terrified, exhausted, and headed for an agonizing future that will take us all down, and our planet home with us.
The sacred witness knows she can’t stop this battle. She can’t disentangle the combatants from the net. She honors death as a messy, heartbreaking business. She can only witness what is, knowing that this stuff of life — the angst and longings and beauty and horror and struggle and triumphs — is the crucible of our greater becoming and our deepest dreams coming true.
From a thousand deaths come a thousand births. Rebirth is not possible without death.
Her only desire is to ease the suffering for both sides of the struggle, and to bring a quick, clean ending. So she calls the gentle hunter to her side — to speak, to pray, to mourn, to facilitate death. This gentle hunter can be many things — a loving touch, a listening ear, an open mind, an incisive word, compassion, forgiveness, goodness, gratitude, tolerance, justice — qualities that are deep and ancient, arising from the best of our nature, outside of the net, outside of the battle.
What comes next for our humanity is unknown. We ride the razor-sharp edge of our evolution, still in the midst of the battle and the tangle of the net, and things have definitely taken a turn for the worse.
I won’t pretend that I totally understand these visions that I’ve shared. They’re new, raw, emerging out of the depth of my community’s magic, the power and presence of my friend, and my own deep-dreaming soul.
We’re combatants, tangled in the net, fighting for our life, our beloveds, the vulnerable and marginalized in our midst, and the Earth. We’re sacred witnesses and gentle hunters, bringing love and presence to the battle and the combatants. We can hold all of this, be all of this — complex, resilient, bruised, wise, powerful, loving — knowing that death will come, one way or another, because the world as we know it, the net of patriarchy, colonization, white supremacy, global capitalism, has run its course.
In these visions and realizations, I find my hope, my inspiration, and this prayer, from my open and broken heart to yours: out of our struggles, out of the pain and suffering of so many, out of the great harm we have inflicted on our Mother Earth, out of the thousands and thousands of deaths, rebirth will come; we will live once more from the love, beauty and goodness that are the best of our nature, and the world will be forever changed.
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Photo Credit: Shellyse Szakacs
Posted on:  Oct 30, 2020 @ 10:00 Posted in:  Sabbats
We gather in a heritage hall on my island home for our Samhain ritual. Warm bodies squeeze close together to form a circle of pagan and non-pagan folks, grownups and children, and even a couple of dogs, with the room filled to capacity.
It’s been a hard, heartbreaking year for our community. The Ancestors altar is covered with photographs and mementos of those that have passed. There have been many deaths, and the tragic loss of two precious youth in one September weekend that shook this island to its core. I feel this collective grief in my own heart, and in this gathering. Samhain is the time when we honor and name those we’ve lost this year, and commune with our Beloved Dead.
Yet there’s more than grief and loss in the room. At the opposite end of the cycle of life are the youth, our children, and the souls waiting to be born. These beings we honor on the Descendants altar, and through the naming of the newborns this year.
I stand beside the Ancestors altar with another priestess. Across the circle from us, two priestesses stay by the Descendants altar. The four us will be calling in the Ancestors and Descendants, and then shifting into paired partners of Deep Witness and Tender.
The Deep Witnesses don’t actively participate in the ritual. They sit — veiled, empty and silent — acting as anchors and observers of the deep dream of our magic. I’m one of the Tenders. Our priestess role is to support and protect our Deep Witness, and to stay by her side for the duration of the ritual.
Together we create sacred space. The circle is cast. We ground. The Elements are called in through song. Goddesses and other Mysteries are invoked. Our priestess group calls in the Ancestors and Descendants.
I listen from the edge of the action, attuned to the movements of bodies, weaving of energy, and quality of presence, more than the individual words and actions. I step forward to do my calling in task, and then settle into my role as Tender.
I notice the seamless sharing of leadership, power and space — the many priestesses working together to co-create this magical experience for our community. The talent and expertise in this room are immense, diverse, breathtaking, yet I don’t sense inflated egos, jealousy or competition.
We move on to the reading of the names of the dead who have passed this year — what is remembered lives. And the dead come, slipping past the veil that separates us, to drink of our grief, our love, and our honoring.
Two priestesses begin to trace a path in the center of the circle, one drumming and together weaving a hauntingly beautiful guided trance to the Isle of Apples, the Pagan Land of the Dead. Everyone settles into a comfortable position, and makes their way to the blessed Isle to commune with their Beloved Dead.
The Sacred Witnesses don’t make this journey, nor do we, their Tenders. Together we anchor this magical circle, while the Sacred Witnesses hold vigil and observe all with their dream eyes. My only job is to stand guard. I don’t pry into the visioning of the ritual participants, nor of the Sacred Witnesses. Whatever is happening here is intensely soul-to-soul private.
The two priestesses speak once more, calling the ritual participants to rise up and dance the Spiral Dance with their Beloved Dead, and with the Souls of the Unborn who also reside on the Isle of Apples. Hand to hand, the dancers form a moving spiral that turns inward toward the circle center, and then back outward again. Dancers pass each other by, shining face to shining face, with voices raised in song.
I first notice how crowded the space is, not only with the living, but also with our unseen guests of the Beloved Dead and the Unborn. My guardian instincts kick in, and I expand my energy to create a protective barrier between the Sacred Witness and the dancers.
Yet the Sacred Witness is unfazed. She rocks and sways with the music and building energy of the dance. This energy is immense, intense, but also peaceful, harmonious, and so, so heart-wrenching.
This is how we hold our grief and losses; with this much love, power and presence. We are one community: the living, the dead and the yet to be born. The spiral dance is life itself, a turning into and out of the mortal coil of our flesh and bones form.
As the Spiral Dance and guided journey come to a close with words of parting and gratitude for the Beloved Dead and the Unborn, it’s time to honor and name the newborns for this year, and to circle back to the celebratory beginnings of life.
Then there’s one last task before the circle is opened: the Deep Witnesses speak on behalf of the Ancestors and Descendants.
The Ancestors remind us that we are each a light in these dark times, and we must shine our brightest to make this world a better place. The Descendants tell us that special souls are being born to this world, and that we must make space for them and heed their teachings.
For this Samhain eve, our magic is done. We devoke, thanking and saying goodbye to all that we’ve called in. Priestesses and participants alike are called back from the Mysteries to return to the waking world. Our circle is opened, yet unbroken.
As a community, we share food and conversation afterwards, and I continue my Tender duties until my priestess companion is returned from her Deep Witness journey, and fully grounding in her human form. Then it’s time to go home, nourished, healed and transformed by our evening of magic.
Let this wholeness be our prayer and our practice in the year to come.
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Ritual Credit: This Samhain ritual practice arises out of the Reclaiming Tradition of Witchcraft.
Photo Credit: Janko Ferlič on Unsplash
Artwork by Sarah Sheil
On Samhain eve, in the pitch blackness of deep night, light a single candle in a quiet, private space in your home.
Open yourself to the energies of the natural world as it transits into its winter state of death and dormancy. Sense the withdrawal of energy inward to darkness and stillness, the falling away of leaves, the slowing metabolism of birds and beasts, and the sleeping life force within the barren landscape.
Breathe these wild realm energies into your body. Follow them inward to the dark stillness of your inner core. Tap into the deep roots of your spiritual journey that give rise to your soul-sourced impulses to reclaim your Deep Self and the best qualities of your humanity.
In this self-reflection, remember that life is a constant cycle of death and new beginnings — in the shifting of the seasons, the turning of day into night, and the rising and falling of your breath — in the consciously chosen and outwardly imposed losses and endings of your day-to-day life — in the suffering and passing of a loved one, and in your own fragile mortality, mapped out in the inevitable morphing of your physical form.
Surrender to your own constant cycle of endings and new beginnings, and be present to the personal change that is emerging for you at this time.
When you find the parts of your life that are ending and calling for your conscious engagement, speak them out loud to the listening darkness, and state your intention to travel to Hecate’s crossroads to seek out Her guidance. Then imagine a path appearing at your feet that will lead to the heart of the sacred dark, between the worlds, where Hecate awaits you
See Hecate’s luminescent form before you in the ebony darkness and close the distance between you. Take a few moments to connect with Hecate. What does She look like? How does it feel to be in Her presence? What words of welcome does She share? What words do you speak in return?
Let Hecate place Her hand upon your solar plexus. Commune with Her in the rich, dark stillness of your inner core, sharing with Her the endings that are arising within you and the soul-sourced roots of your impetus for change.
With a sweep of Her hands, two paths appear, intersecting diagonally at your feet. This is your personal crossroads, unique from any other individual or any other season in your life. One path holds the stories and energies of your life as it is, and the other the life your journey of soul is calling you to. Here you can find everything you need to make wise, soulful choices in this death moment of shifting into a new cycle of healing and personal growth.
Let yourself feel everything, know everything, for Hecate’s is the middle path that calls you to be big, wise and powerful enough to embrace the full breadth, the good and the bad, of your life story.
Yet also practice self-care. If at any time you feel overwhelmed by the information and insights coming to you, remember that you are master of this journey and can choose how deep you want to engage your crossroads magic at this time.
As you return to the space between the crossroads, it is time to choose how you will respond to this particular death moment, and how to conceive and engage change itself.
You can choose to see change as your enemy or your teacher. You can choose to embrace the lessons and new beginnings offered by the endings of this death moment, or to let fear and resistance rule you and chain you to the path of your life as it is.
Take several slow, deep breaths and fill yourself with the shining light of Hecate’s love. Feel the power and beauty of this love that can brave profound, life-changing endings, and can hold and heal the sorrow and wounding, and the joy and the beauty, of your life story and pathwork. This same love is inside of you, supporting and guiding your journey of soul.
Then ask yourself: are you ready to walk Hecate’s middle path, consciously engaging all that you’ve been shown and all that you are in service of this transformational death moment? What endings are you willing to embrace? Will you let love and your best instincts guide you on your journey of soul? Be brave, choose wisely; these are powerful times requiring powerful choices.
Your time at Hecate’s crossroads is drawing to a close. Look into Her eyes and acknowledge Her for who She truly is: the Dark Mother who knows you, loves you and is here, always, to guide you in these profound, tricky ending moments in your journey through life. Offer Her your heartfelt gratitude as you bid Her farewell. Then use your breath to bring yourself back into your physical body and waking reality.
Blow out the candle and sit, quiet and still, within the enveloping darkness. This too is a crossroads moment, as is each breath and each moment that follows, because change comes to you in the little and big ways that mark your passage through time and space. In each of these moments, with every thought, word and action, you get to choose how to spend this precious offering that is your life. And by your choices, your destiny and that of our Earth home are woven.
Excerpt from The Path of She Books of Sabbats: A Journey of Soul Through the Seasons.
Let The Path of She Book of Sabbats transform your life through teachings, guided meditations and pathwork exercises that reconnect you with the seasonal energies of the Earth, the mysteries of the Goddess, and the deepest roots of your life’s purpose and story.
Artwork by Sarah Sheil
Posted on:  Jul 31, 2020 @ 14:18 Posted in:  Sabbats
Excerpt from The Path of She Book of Sabbats.
Lammas marks the end of the current cycle of your journey of soul. The wheel of the year has turned from darkness and death, through light and life, and now shines out the last of this season’s light before a new cycle begins. So too you’ve come to the end of one turning of your journey; it’s time to harvest its bounty of life lessons and personal growth, and to seek out the seeds of your next cycle.
At Lammas, the summer sunshine has baked the land a golden yellow. Fruits, berries and grains bend branches and stalks with their plump ripeness, ready to offer up their bounty to the harvest. Yet the outer look of things can be deceiving. Day by day, the light wanes and the dark waxes; cold will soon replace heat, and the powers of death overtake those of life. The balance has shifted, and the abundance that is now so evident will soon be gone.
This theme of self-chosen sacrificial death in support of life and rebirth infuses the mythic roots of Lammas. The Corn King, John Barleycorn and the Harvest King are some of the names given to the sacrificial God who gathers His energy into the crops that are cut down at Lammas to feed the living and to ensure a new harvest in Spring. In Celtic mythology, the Goddess Tailtiu cleared the land for cultivation as a gift to the people, and died from Her tremendous efforts. Lammas is also called Lughnasadh, in reference to the Celtic God Lugh. Tailtiu is Lugh’s foster mother, and legend has it that Lugh instituted a Lughnasadh harvest festival and games in Her honor.
It is Lugh — the Shining One, the many-skilled God, bearing His Sword of Light — that illuminates your Lammas harvest pathwork. Lugh meets you on a hilltop, offering you a wide-ranging viewscape that can help you see deep into the heart of your life story, and deep into the heart of the struggles of the Mother Earth, as one cycle of your journey of soul and one turning of our collective humanity end, and a new cycle and turning begin. In these profound mysteries of life, death and rebirth, Lugh is your luminescent, loving guide as you embrace the incisive, demanding, and often painful tasks that Lammas asks of you.
At its core, Lammas is a season of hope and the miracle of new beginnings. In the golden field that is your life story, you can find everything you need to heal your soul, transform your life and mend our world. Within you are the lessons, endings and seeds of a powerful new beginning that can lead you ever closer home to your Deep Self and authentic humanity.
Celebrate Lammas with the Path of She Book of Sabbats.
Artwork by Qistina Khalidah