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A Samhain Teaching: Born Into Life, Born Into Death

Posted on:  Oct 27, 2019 @ 10:31 Posted in:  Sabbats

The natural world and our human psyches turn toward the mysteries of death at Samhain. Cold and darkness descend upon the land, and the wild world shifts into decay and a death-like sleep. In many cultures, this time of year is marked by offerings and rituals to honor the dead, our beloved ancestors.

Death strips us to the basics: every breath is a miracle not to be wasted; every life is precious, sacred; and love, at the end of all things, is what remains.

Usually we don’t like to think about death. Most of us run as fast as we can from the frightening specter that decline and death conjure in us. It is the ultimate irony that the moment we are born into life, with our very first breath, we are also born into death. And we must live every moment, every breath, knowing that we will die, and that everything around us, all that we love and cherish, will eventually come to decay, to death, to dust.

Samhain teaches us that there is no hiding from death. It comes in the falling of leaves, the lengthening darkness and the cold grip of Winter. It comes in our remembrances of our beloved ancestors that have passed on. It comes in the wrenching of our heart as we witness a dear one slip from this world into the next. It comes with the graying at our temples, the sagging of our flesh and the unstoppable march toward our last breath.

And death comes with gifts in hand if we have the courage to show up raw and naked to our pain, losses and fears.

Death strips us to the basics:
that every breath is a miracle not to be wasted;
that each person, each creature and life form, is worthy, precious, sacred;
that life is oh so hard and oh so exquisite;
that pain and loss help us remember what we cherish most;
and that love, at the end of all things, is what remains.

Love is death’s most precious gift to us. Love, not money, possessions, career, social esteem and the many other alluring outer trappings of life, is the balm that soothes us in the face of death. Love is what connects us to those who have passed on. Love calls us to reach out and hold each other in our grief. Love is what joins us heart to heart and soul to soul to another. Love is our best offering from our Deep Self to the world.

Samhain is a time to contemplate the mysteries of death, not from a place of fear and resistance, but from an acceptance of death as a teacher and guide for the living. Yes we are born into life and born into death, and it is this very, inescapable fact that makes every moment so precious, fragile and bittersweet beautiful.

Death isn’t a summons to fear, it is an invitation to love, deeply, wildly, joyfully. And when death seeks us out at the end of our days, let our last breath be a prayer to love.

Excerpt from: A Path of She Book of Sabbats: A Journey of Soul Across the Seasons. Available in ebook and paperback--visit the Path Store.

Photo Credit: freestocks.org on Unsplash

Honoring the Mysteries of Samhain

Posted on:  Oct 26, 2019 @ 14:29 Posted in:  Featured, Sabbats

Excerpt: Path of She Book of Sabbats

Your journey of soul brings you face-to-face with profound endings and weighty choice making at Samhain. Nature’s death-like state and the potent mysteries of Samhain draw you into the deep roots of your spiritual journey as you embark on a new cycle of healing and personal growth.

The Crossroads call to you at Samhain, a place of endings that promise new beginnings, where your destiny is woven by the choices you make.

Nature makes its final transitions into its winter mode of dormancy at Samhain. The outer appearance of things changes dramatically. Deciduous trees shed the last of their leaves. Some plants and animals die. Others alter their life patterns, slowing down their metabolism, putting on a thick winter covering, and hibernating. Sleep and stillness spread across the wild landscape.

Our human realm also turns its awareness toward death and endings. The final crops of the season are harvested. Cultures around the world celebrate and honor their beloved ancestors at this time of year. Halloween traditions and imagery harken back to the pagan belief that the veil between the worlds is thin at Samhain, allowing for communion between the living and the dead.

Death on your journey of soul is not about physical death, but about soul-sourced, life-changing endings. And this can very much feel like death, stirring up your pain, sorrow, fear and resistance.

Yet endings are not what they appear to be. The death-like state of Nature at Samhain is an illusion. Yes there is physical death in the wild world, but there is also gestating new life. Underneath the outer dormancy, life is present, resting and rejuvenating in preparation for the glorious rebirth of Spring.

So too the profound endings that arise as you embark on a new cycle of your journey of soul contain the promise of new beginnings. And like the natural world retreating deeper into darkness at Samhain, your journey takes you deeper into the mysteries of the sacred dark.

Between the worlds, in the heart of the sacred dark, the Goddess Hecate stands at Her crossroads, offering the beacon of Her shining love-light and Her Crone wisdom to guide you in this season of life-changing endings.

Hecate is not the evil cartoon hag of Halloween and Hollywood movies, nor the corrupter of men portrayed in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. She is more primal and powerful than the Goddess that comes to us through Greek mythology, though Her crossroads magic is preserved in these mythic accounts.

Hecate is the Dark Mother who has been with us from the very beginning of our specie’s birth from the starlit realm into our flesh and blood form. And She has guided us always in the ways and mysteries of the sacred feminine, and in the trials and triumphs of our spiritual evolution.

At Samhain, your journey of soul leads you to Hecate’s crossroads in search of the deepest roots of your personal healing and spiritual evolution.

Her crossroads can reveal many things, from the critical juncture we collectively face in these Great Turning times of societal upheaval and transformation, to the profound endings and new beginnings that will guide your personal pathwork in the months to come.

In Hecate’s loving presence and the potent mysteries of Samhain, you can choose your path forward into Her life-centered ways and your greater becoming. And in this choice making, you can naturally play your part in the positive, evolutionary momentum we can create together in these Great Turning times.

Honor the Mysteries of Samhain

with the Path of She Book of Sabbats. 

Buy now at the Path Store.

 

 Photo Credit: Kayla Maurais on Unsplash

Your Undimmed Lightness of Being

Posted on:  Nov 23, 2018 @ 17:19 Posted in:  Path Basics

One Reality:

I’m in magical circle, celebrating Samhain. We’re in a group trance, traveling to the isle of the dead to commune with our beloved Ancestors. I’ve done this meditation many times before, yet this time is different.  As we reach the shore of this blessed isle, we unzip our flesh coats and step forth as beings of pure shining light, tethered to our living, breathing bodies by a silver cord.

Bring a little of your life light and unbounded beauty into today, and then tomorrow after that. This is how you help build the world you want to live in.

There will never be enough words to capture such a lightness of being. For this blessed time, I’m free of my human body, and my mindscape of fears and tangled habits that make me less than I am.  I’m pure light, untainted love, unbounded beauty, in the company of other bright shining beings, both my living companions and our blessed dead.

I understand, in the deepest parts of my being, the truth of this moment: that I am this being of light, always. This is my naked, true Self, and our naked, true humanity. We are, always, pure light, untainted love, unbounded beauty. When I follow my silver tether back to my human body, and zip myself back into my flesh coat, my skin seems to loosen its fibers, letting more of that inner light shine outward.

Another Reality:

A few weeks later, I’m on the treadmill at the gym, working to make my body strong.  There’s a screen in my face, blasting out the daily news: a gang rape by teenage boys from a Catholic high school; a high profile, high drama murder of an international journalist; the latest Trump cringe-fest fiasco.  My heart squeezes tight and my adrenals spike. Barely halfway through my cardio routine, I’m already drenched in the toxicity of status quo reality.

Damn! It’s caught me again, off guard, that constant, outer noise pushing its way past my defenses, triggering my fears and negative mindset, trying to spellbind me into believing in the worst of my humanity. I forget, in these short moments, my Samhain experience of the light being in my core. Loathing rises up in me, and horror, grief and rage. I feel dirty and ashamed of my flesh coat and our collective humanity.

Big breathe in. Big breathe out. I tune out the screen, and focus instead on the reassuring rhythm of my striding legs, my hard-working muscles and sweating skin. I love my wondrous flesh coat; I clear my mindset of fear and loathing; I remember the shining light of who I am, and the true, untainted nature of my humanity — the spell of our shadow humanity is broken.

Two realities.  Two versions of our human nature.  Which do we choose to believe in? Which do we give our attention and juice to? Which do we allow to steer our choices and actions? Which will help us build the world we want to live in?

The shadow side of our humanity is true. We are doing terrible things to each other and our planet home.  Rape, murder and political fiascos are daily occurrences. Our flesh coats and mindsets are burdened down by fears and tangled habits born out of our personal and collective histories of trauma and wounding.   Yes, these things happen; they are real and seemingly omnipresent.

The pure, shining brilliance of our humanity is true. We are blessed with the glorious gift of living in a light and beauty infused world. We ourselves are light and beauty infused beings. Love, kindness, justice, compassion, creativity, courage, humor, sensuality, and so much more: these are the shining of our inner light outward.  These things are real and truly omnipresent.

We talked about this dual nature of our humanity at the end of our Samhain ritual, and the overwhelming challenges and atrocities that have come to dominate our shared society and non-stop news cycles.  How can we be a force of positive change, we asked ourselves? How can we make a difference?

One of my brilliant companions answered simply, “we have to bring a little of our light into today, and then tomorrow after that.”

Nothing or no one can ever dim our lightness of being.  We’re meant to shine bright, gifting the world with the brilliance of our pure, naked Self, unbounded beauty and untainted love.  But we’ve been convinced to do the dimming ourselves.

Individually and collectively, we’ve been bullied, shamed and abused. We’ve been indoctrinated into the shadow reality of humanity, fed to us constantly, unrelentingly through the one-sided messaging of mass culture. We’ve been spellbound through lies and illusions about our unworthiness and tainted nature. We’ve become lost and fear tangled, our flesh coat and mindset made into prisons, and our shining inner core forgotten.

But this doesn’t have to be your truth. You don’t have to give your attention and juice to the shadow reality of humanity.  You can choose to believe in the shining brilliance of your Self and human nature.  You can begin to undim your life light, loosen the fibers of your flesh coat, and let more and more of that glorious beauty that you are shine through.

Big breathe in. Big breathe out. Tune out the outer noise. Focus instead on the reassuring rhythm of your beating heart, the wondrous motions of your hard-working body, and the caress of air on your sensing skin. Reach inward to that shining light at the core of your being. Unzip your flesh coat, just a little bit, as much as feels good and safe. Take a little bit of your light into today, and tomorrow after that. Little by little, breathe by breathe, moment by moment, shine your lightness of being outward, and brighten the world around you.

In each of these undimmed moments, the shadow spell of humanity is broken, and you are set free. You may forget, be caught off guard, or choose to hide again. Don’t worry, these are natural parts of your journey of reclaiming your full-shining Self. Once you unzip your flesh coat, and taste your own innate brilliance and beauty, even a little, you’re no longer lost. You’ve woken from your spellbound sleep, and set your feet on a path that will guide you home to your true Self, undimmed moment by undimmed moment.

Trust that this journey takes time and practice. It’s done in small steps and big leaps, where, again and again, you choose to wake up, disconnect from the negative, shadow-reality messaging and experiences outside and inside of you, and re-align yourself with your shining core and a positive, love-filled vision of our humanity.

With every bit of your light you reclaim, you’re gifting yourself and everyone who crosses your path with bright new possibilities.

In these small steps and big leaps, we build the world we want to live in, each of us bringing a little of our unzipped light into today, and tomorrow after that. Together we can break the spell of our shadow humanity, forever, and bask in our collective, undimmed lightness of being.  From this vast, untapped resource of love, beauty and power, anything and everything are possible.

Photo Credit: Seraphina Capranos & Ben Skorguson

A Samhain Tale: Hecate & the Crossroads of Choice

Posted on:  Oct 27, 2018 @ 12:04 Posted in:  Sabbats

Excerpt from The Path of She Book of Sabbats.

At Samhain, when the veil between the worlds is thin and the mysteries of the sacred dark permeate the mundane world, Hecate calls to us. Never before has Her voice been so loud, so urgent. She speaks to us not only in our dreams and ritual magic, but also in the stark language of wildly erratic weather patterns, dying oceans and barren lands, and in the cold despair and hungry hopes of our own warm, beating heart.

At Samhain, when the veil between the worlds is thin, Hecate calls you to Her crossroads of choice and destiny. Never before has Her voice been so urgent.

Photo Credit: Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash

It`s not easy to heed Her call. She raises our own spectral fears about the fate of our human society and planet home. Environmentally, socially, politically and spiritually, we are destroying the fabric of our physical and social world. We have reached a critical tipping point, and if we continue on this trajectory, things are not going to end well.

But how do we change? How do we shift from denial, apathy and despair into a place of hope and inspiration? How do we turn this destructive momentum into an evolutionary, birthing moment? And what is our personal part in weaving a better world into being?

“Come to my crossroads,” Hecate whispers on the wind, “Come and you will find the answers you seek.”

Take a deep breath, summon up your courage and say, “Yes, Hecate, I am coming. Guide me to your crossroads.”

In the world between the worlds, where the mysteries lie in wait, you will find Hecate. She appears before you in Her Crone form, with a thick mane of moonlight silver hair and intense, amethyst eyes that shine bright with Her ageless presence. She wears a cloak of midnight black that shimmers as She moves, as if brushed with starlight. An aura of light surrounds Her, a way-showing beacon in the enveloping darkness to guide travelers to Her crossroads. Her arms open wide to welcome you, casting a circle of illumination that draws you into its center.

With a sweep of Her hands, two roads appear before you.

To the left is a neglected path, overgrown with the luscious fecundity of the wild realm.  Memories arise within you of the feral innocence of childhood with its simple pleasures of play and wonder in your dance with the outer world. And beneath this, older, ancestral memories percolate, of a time when humanity lived in loving, sensual communion with the powers and mysteries of the Mother Earth.

To the right is a paved-over surface that obscures any trace of the living land under an unforgiving, tar black sheen. This path exudes a deadness that lays bare the tear in our human psyche from the natural world and our true, beautiful essence, and echoes with the keening pain of our battered souls and broken hearts.

“Behold the crossroads of these Great Turning times, where humanity faces a critical, precarious juncture in its spiritual evolution,” Hecate says, “Before you are two ways of living and dreaming.”

“One path holds the good dream of humanity where you walk the Earth in accordance with my life-centered ways and your best nature of love, generosity and communion with others. The second path holds the bad dream where your worst instincts of dominion, fear and greed lay barren the wild realm and the heart of your human society. It is this second path, reeking devastation on the living world, that rules humankind.

“Both of these paths exist inside of you and in your greater society. Humanity is neither good nor bad, but some complex weaving that includes the best and worst of your nature.”

With another sweep of Her hands, the two paths merge into one.

“This is my middle path,” Hecate says,” it holds the opposing paths of the good and bad dream of humanity. A mirror path exists inside of you that contains the joy and sorrow, and beauty and wounding of your life story.

“To transform yourself and your world, you must walk this middle path. To travel its ways is to accept and take responsibility for all that you are and all that you have experienced, and from this greater awareness choose whether the good or bad dream of humanity will hold sway in the core of your being. You must choose whether love or fear will rule you.

“Love is the way forward for you and your human kin — love that can hold and heal the sorrow and wounding that burden your soul and the world soul — love that chooses generosity over greed, and communion over dominion  — love that can turn the destructive momentum that threatens this world into a positive new beginning.

“This love is my way, the way of the sacred feminine, that is awakening within you and leading you home to your Deep Self and a better world.”

As Hecate speaks, the light that emanates from Her being shines brighter and brighter. This wondrous luminosity is the very love that She speaks of, offering a beacon of guidance and hope in these turbulent, Great Turning times. Hecate, the sacred feminine, all life on this stunning Earth, your life, are woven of this love.

Hecate turns to you, taking your hands and squeezing them tight.

“Time is running out. Do not turn away,” She says, “By your choices, and those of your human kin, will your destiny and that of your Earth home be decided.”

She folds Her arms inward, drawing Her brilliant light back into Her body until She is gone, and you find yourself alone under a star-studded sky. Your hands still tingle from Her touch and the responsibility She has bequeathed to you shines strong and bright within you.

After the crossroads vision is done, the real magic begins. With your every thought, every word, every action, you choose which path your lives serves, and the kind of a world you want to create. Never have the stakes been higher; life as we know it hangs in the balance. To change this world, you must start with yourself.

Celebrate Samhain

with the Path of She Book of Sabbats. 

Buy now at the Path Store.

Making Magic: A Tender’s View of a Samhain Ritual

Posted on:  Nov 2, 2017 @ 10:29 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.

As a Tender for our community ritual, my role is to be a guardian and observer as we enter the mysterious, powerful, sorrowful experience of Samhain.

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.

As the ritual begins, I notice that I feel different than my usual, high-intensity magical engagement. I’m somber, watchful and empty present — a guardian and observer of the Deep Witness and our community as we enter the powerful, mysterious and mournful experience of Samhain.

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.

I notice how natural this is, how right for us to be with our honored dead in these ways. They move among us, touching the faces of their beloved kin with their hands of light, soothing the broken hearts of those left behind, letting us know that they are still with us, just a thought, a name, a song away.

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.

I notice a current of power that runs between the two Sacred Witnesses: one an anchor for the lineage of Ancestors that stretches into the far distant past, and the other an anchor for the lineage of Descendants that reaches into the far distant future. I sway back and forth, back and forth, my movements an involuntary response to the magnetic pulse of whole time, where the future and the past are both present in this now moment, and the yet to be born, the dead and the living share this communal, magical space.

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.

Tears run down my cheeks. Love is what fills this room, overflowing from heart to heart. Love that joins us all in this raw, bittersweet dance of death, life and birth.

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.

I notice how everyone in the room turns their rapt attention to the Deep Witnesses as they speak. When the Mysteries walk among us, our only job is to listen to the power of their voices, and the hope in their messages. The Ancestors and Descendants leave us with sacred responsibilities: to show up as our bright shining Selves, and to welcome and honor the newborns and our children as teachers and guides. This is how we can mend and remake our world for the better.

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.

The next day, I notice that I’m filled with a profound sense of wellbeing and wholeness. Magic makes me whole. Honoring death, loss and grief makes me whole. Deep communion with the Beloved Dead, the Unborn, the Ancestors and Descendants makes me whole. Sharing these essential things with my community makes me whole. Love makes me whole.

Let this wholeness be our prayer and our practice in the year to come.

Ritual Credit: This Samhain ritual practice arises out of the Reclaiming Tradition of Witchcraft.

Photo Credit: Janko Ferlič on Unsplash