That Is the Question

As I transition from know-it-all adulthood to not-so-sure-about-anything middle age, I am realizing that every breath I take is a new beginning and every exhale is an ending. The world is full of potential, a hot bed of chaos just waiting for my application of order and sanity.

Right now I hold my breath as I fight for a moment of clarity in a world of potentials that collapse in the blink of an eye. The responsibility is monumental. Who am I to impose my idea of order? Who am I to allow chaos to reign? I know N.O.T.H.I.N.G.

I am paralyzed at times by the fear that I must continue to breathe or die. Each breath changes the worlds of any number of subatomic particles. Not breathing does the same. The macrocosm is similarly affected though not in such a noticeable fashion. Lesson: I am responsible if I do and responsible if I don’t.

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The symbol of chaos.

I have reached that level of understanding that could make or break me. At least I think that’s what’s happening. It’s this tension inside, a rubber band stretched tight, and I don’t know if I will snap, bind some serviceable dogma, or soar in flight from the hands that hold me. I’m afraid to choose because I want all three.

If I snap, I will become a raving lunatic or a mellow mystic. If I bind, then others will ridicule or follow me. If I soar, I have no idea where I’ll land and I will be alone. Eventually, I will choose whether by chance or design. Meanwhile, I choose what I wear, the food I eat, and make a host of other seemingly mundane decisions. These decision don’t frighten me, unless I find out that the fate of the known universe depends on my selecting the right shoes for my outfit. If that’s the case, be a dear and keep that knowledge to yourself.

I’m not complaining. The whole thing is exciting in a mad-cap adventure sort of way. I have realized that all the crap I’ve experienced, that I experience now, is due to the choices of not only me but everyone else around me. All the joys, too, are the result of choices – to breathe or not to breathe? Right now, breathing sounds about right.

Read the Warning Label

I’ve reached the point where I’ve decided that labels are powerful. I’m not saying they are fair but one must reckon with them or fall victim to them. In our world of illusion, to make sense of our experiences, we must categorize and in this we are all guilty of delusion. A state of illumination is one in which the world is accepted for the illusion it is, the delusions of others and oneself are acknowledged, and the truth is sought in perfect trust and perfect love.

I haven’t reached a state of illumination yet. I’m working on not complaining so much. I’m working on keeping my counsel because I know my delusions aren’t anyone else’s problem. I’m learning that I don’t have the obligation to teach anyone else, because what the heck do I know? I might actually be leading someone astray with all my self-aggrandized wisdom and insufferable experience (or am I just shirking responsibility? AUGH!).

menagerie

Don’t throw stones at glass menageries.

Labels make it easy to complain. White. Black. Wrong. Right. Yours. Mine. An opinion is a label. We like to think we’re informed by Facts, but what is a Fact? Undeniable proof? If you’ve witnessed anyone labeled Crazy, you can’t argue facts or proof. The experience within is as real to him or her as your experience without. I propose that Crazy people were driven insane by Labels.

Realizing the effect of labels is difficult for me. I can’t even determine if this is an evolution of awareness or a devolution into the abyss of madness. Of course a label that could be applied in this instance is Mid-Life Crisis. Or Pre-Menopausal. It’s easy to write off a crisis of this magnitude once it’s labeled. There are many systems out there that would easily categorize my experience and thus make it more manageable. I have to ask: Manageable for who?

I don’t have any answers. Maybe I don’t want answers. That could be the most liberating aspect of this experience. Answers are labels too. I probably won’t be able to avoid answers and I probably will be compelled to share them. All I ask is that if I do and you take the time to read my posts, remember from whence I came.

Regards from a Land of Delusion,

I.O. Kirkwood

Lammas

Lammas, or “loaf-mass,” is the fourth festival of the Lady celebrated circa August 1st in the fifteenth degree of Leo. Also known as Lughnasadh, or “Lugh’s Day” this is the time of the first harvest. Leo, the zodiac sign that rules the period of July 21st through August 20th, is a fixed mode of the element of fire. It is a warm, dry, and constant energy, like the smith’s forge.

The theme of Lammas is sacrifice and gratitude. Sacrifice is traditionally seen as an offering made to propitiate a god. It is in essence an exchange. “I give you this if you give me that.” The traditional sacrifice at Lammas is the first reap of the harvest in exchange for the abundance of subsequent harvests.

Gratitude is traditionally seen as an acknowledgement of a blessing received. Again, it is a form of exchange. “You gave me this so now I give you that so that you won’t take this away.” The traditional gratitude expressed at Lammas is thanksgiving for rain so that the heavens will continue to water the crops.

What every Witch needs to remember is the exchange. Matter transforms into energy and energy transforms into matter. Everything is in balance. When a Witch offers gratitude, she is mindful that she gives equal thanks for what she has received, and then some, to keep the blessings coming. When a Witch offers sacrifice, he is mindful that the offering is equal to what he intends to receive.

One of the easiest ways to sacrifice is to offer to another what you would hope to receive yourself. When you want a promotion, you help others to promote themselves. When you want love in your life, you offer love to others. Like attracts like.

Though it appears that you are giving away the very thing you are trying to obtain, in essence, you are creating room for this new goal. Nature abhors a void, so “giving away” the very thing you wish to attract focuses your subconscious mind on how to obtain that very thing. The act broadcasts your intentions to the Universe. Observe miserable people, the things they say and do, and you will understand the principles of sacrifice and gratitude.

The Inner Warrior

The personal focus of Lammas is on the Inner Warrior. This festival of the Lady, Witches honor Her perseverance in the face of loss. Witches examine and hope to emulate how the Lady responds to the death of Her Beloved.

The path of the Warrior isn’t one of winning. It is a call to  self-discovery. It is a testament to how you respond to life’s hard knocks. As a Witch and a Warrior, you will be asked to confront your fears both inner and outer and all in the context of a seemingly “mundane” existence.

There are many paths to being a Warrior: emotional, mental, as well as physical. Emotionally, a Warrior may be called to confront the pain of past traumas. Mentally, the Warrior may be asked to overcome her inner, negative soundtrack. Physically, the Warrior may be charged to defend boundaries that society demands he relinquish.

The Warrior must be prepared. Through self-awareness she knows her strengths. He defines his weaknesses without judgment. She tempers the sword of those strengths and weaknesses in the fires and waters of the Lady.

Before any Warrior may set out on his quest in the world-at-large, he must ask important questions. Ask yourself the following:

  1. Who do you want to be?
  2. What is important to you?
  3. What parts of your life no longer serve you?

Lammas is an evaluation of what worked and what didn’t. The first harvest of a Witch’s magics happens at this time. Some magics are successful while others have fizzled and dispersed. These triumphs and failures are the markers of a Witch’s strengths and weaknesses.

Take some time now to evaluate the wins you’ve experienced. Write them down. When you’re done, evaluate your losses. Write those down too. Notice a pattern? What underlying theme do you notice? What does that theme speak to within you?

Witches understand that the tangible results of efforts that match their inner assessments are the true sign posts of success or failure. As you go through this process, try to identify where you are being overcritical or unreasonable. Apply reason and empirical inquiry to your soul-searching. This means you cannot rely on one opinion to come to a conclusion. Seek the opinions of others but always be sure to test those opinions against your inner compass.

The Great Rite

I’m told that Victor Andersen said something like this:

Clouds are the result of the elements of air and water making love.

In truth the Laws of Polarity and Attraction are at play in the creation of all things. The Big Bang? Yeah, that was the orgasm to end all orgasms (or begin?).

Sex is the joining of two concrete, separate entities that results in the creation of a third and separate entity that is greater than the sum of its parts. Air plus water, bow-chica-bow-wow, and voila! Clouds. Quantum physics is slowly figuring out that manifest creation is just one big porno, tastefully directed by and starring the Lord and the Lady.

We are alive because of Sex. Sex is a sacred act. Sex is Creation. The Lady’s desire to know Herself created the Lord. Her pursuit of the Lord, lying with Him, created EVERYTHING

Keep in mind that the Lord and the Lady are metaphors for yin and yang – you don’t have to believe in gods or God to get this part of the program. 

Sex is sacred and beautiful. Sex is a sharing, a balancing, and a creation of diversity. A child is different from her parents. Clouds are different from air and water.

Dogma, (we all know who’s dogma is to blame here, right? Not that I’m trying to point fingers, but I sure didn’t lay that turd right there in the middle of the living room) has divorced us from our connection to the sensual world. We have been taught that Sex is Evil and shameful. How can something that gives humans such pleasure be anything less than a divine gift? How can an act that creates new life be viewed as anything less than a miracle?

Sex is an exchange. It is a sacrifice and a devotion. When approached this way, with worship, a magical person mindfully chooses partners who will acknowledge the gift. She will acknowledge the man’s sacrifice of energy as he brings her pleasure. He will acknowledge the woman’s sacrifice of her boundaries as she brings him pleasure. In this way, he cannot see the woman as merely flesh. She cannot see the man as less than divine. These ideas fall away in an atmosphere of sacrifice and devotion.

The same principle applies to same-sex partners, who may have more flexibility over who gets to play Yin or Yang. The approach is the same between consenting, adult partners, and I’m not assuming that only two are allowed to play at a time.

The Symbolic Great Rite, the sensual joining of Yin and Yang through ritual, and within and through the bodies of the participants (though actual sex isn’t being performed), is a magical person’s way of honoring the source of all creation. The positive, projecting energy of Chokmah (Yang) is blended with the negative, receptive energy of Binah (Yin). Force ensouls Form.

The Great Rite can be done literally too, but not everyone has a partner at the moment, so this is the happy compromise and can be done with good friends without getting too awkward.

Another way of looking at the Great Rite is through Alchemy. The tarot card Temperance represents the processes of Alchemy, the goal of which is to purify the alchemist and make her as “the world brand new.” The overall purpose of the Great Rite is to burn away impurities, dissolve boundaries, separate that which serves from that which serves not, conjoin that which is in apparent opposition, ferment the joined so that they blend completely, distill that further into its purest essence,  and coagulate the resultant shining body of the celebrant.

This process can, but doesn’t as a general rule, happen all at once. Just know that every ritual activity is aimed at raising the magical person’s consciousness. The process could also be viewed as what Tantra calls “awakening the serpent” of the Kundalini, a potent, sensual energy that “sleeps” at the base of the spine. When the Kundalini rises, the result is known as “Enlightenment.” How about that? Sex, when performed in an attitude of worship, enlightens. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.

A few resources for the genuine Seeker:

Dismore, Joseph D. “The 7 Steps of Alchemical Transformation.” http://ordosacerdotalvstempli.net/seven.html, accessed August 1, 2013.

Moonshadow, Lady Raven. “By Chalice and Blade: The GreatRite.” http://sacredmistsblog.com/by-chalice-and-blade-the-great-rite-part-1, accessed August 1, 2013.

“Nadis.” http://www.tantra-kundalini.com/nadis.htm, accessed August 1, 2013.

Racism: Like breathing air

Racism is like trying to see air. That’s what is so frightening about this illness of heart and mind. It exists, just like air, and we breathe it but we can’t see it. Sometimes we can hear it like a rattling against the windows or we can see its effects as it disturbs leaves or rips apart homes, but we can’t apprehend racism directly. We experience it and if you are on the “white” side of it, it is harder to acknowledge the inequity of it because it doesn’t reduce your comfort. The tornado or hurricane, as it were, has touched down in someone else’s neighborhood.

I have experienced sexism and understand the obstacles to understanding on both sides of a polarizing issue. I have experienced racism once and my heart goes out to anyone who has been subject to the following description:

As Black Irish, I have been told I look Puerto Rican. When I was in San Antonio, it was if I did not exist. Caucasians looked past me because I wasn’t blond and blue-eyed. Latinos looked past me because I had white skin. I had never felt anything so disturbing in my life. It shook me to my very center. My physical attributes, unchangeable genetic coding, were the basis of their judgment. My character, my heart, my mind, and my actions played no part in the opinion they formed of me. What frightened me more was how UNCONSCIOUS their behavior was.

Racism is too complex, with its centuries of inculcation, to dismantle in a few short decades. MLK and Rosa Parks, symbols for the struggles of many unsung activists, started the process but it’s not over. This recovery idea has applicable wisdom: It takes half the time of the duration of a relationship to truly get over the breakup, sort of like the half-life of plutonium or uranium to give you a more scientific parallel. So we have a ways to go in fixing this and it’s one plodding step at a time, one day at a time, and you have to stay on top of the issue.

Bottom line: Racism exists and as long as it does, NO ONE is free.

Regret & Recovery

Io,

…Now if I could just get over some of the deeper regrets…. Do you have regrets? How deeply do they cut your soul? Does something within you shudder if you even approach the memories sideways? Post your response. I think it might be helpful for others. Peace.

—’Cu’

This question forced me to wrestle with angels all week.  When I was a girl, I had the bedroom that shared a wall with the bathroom. My mother takes baths and I don’t remember a time when she ever took a shower, so on many an occasion, I was in my room when she took her baths.

Baths are relaxing, womb-like experiences for those of you who have forgotten this simple pleasure. For my mother, it was as if the restraint she kept on her thoughts and feelings dissolved in the water of the bath. She would talk aloud as her thoughts drifted into her past; for some reason, she never spoke of happy things. She didn’t reminisce about the most joyful moments of her life.

“I hate you,” she would say or “you bastard.” These outbursts— always spoken in the musing voice of one who is very relaxed—would put me on edge. “What kind of experience,” I would ask myself, “Could make my mother, a paragon of self-control, say such awful things?” I couldn’t get my head around it; even when I was in my twenties and early thirties, I just had no context in which to place her remembrances.

Then one of the most frightening and awful experiences of my life occurred; something perhaps that I could have avoided if I had understood the signs along the road. During a ritual in which I held a significant role, I had let down my guard to such a degree that I had a psychotic break. It was something akin to possession. I was trapped within a body that was not under my control. I witnessed the reactions of the others around me: fear, revulsion, anger.  It was one of the most crushing experiences of my life and until this day, I felt responsible for the unknown, untold damage I may have caused others within my sphere of influence. I regretted—with a passion that I had once reserved for the joys of my life.

There is no way I can ask for forgiveness from the people who were traumatized by my temporary psychosis. I don’t even know if anyone there remembers or even cares about what happened. For me, that moment in time has irrevocably changed me. It was not my intention to allow my inner demons free reign, but some part of me knows that I was working up to that singular event.

I consoled myself with efforts to repair the damage and prevent a repeat. I sought therapy. I removed myself from the pagan community for five years as atonement since I could not make amends. I ritually scarified my body after extensive research and soul-searching. I even studied exorcism.

After considering this question about regret to a depth and degree I had not previously granted, I realized that forgiveness only truly comes from within. It was when I chose to stop beating myself up over what could not be revoked or changed that I realized that I was transformed. I am no longer the woman who stood in that ritual helplessly ridden by an aspect of the Morrigan. That woman is a part of me, but she no longer defines or rules me. I am stronger, more soulful, and more compassionate than that woman knew how to be. She was the seed of who I am now.

Today, I choose to move forward and recognize that if I worked to recover and learn from such a ground-zero experience, then those who witnessed that event are responsible for how they have recovered and learned. They did not help me in my climb back to the light, and they did not require my help to bring them to where they are now. I wish them Bright Blessings.

As for my regrets, they have gone in peace. Merry part.

Mercury Retrograde Rx

One of the best things I ever learned, something so liberating I wept with relief when I was told, is that if you know what Mercury Retrograde (MRx) is about, you can weather the storm with optimism and even—gasp!— gratitude. MRx is a time to Re-visit, Re-do, Re-think, even Re-member.

If you have no clue what Mercury Retrograde is, please have a gander at this article:

http://astrology.about.com/od/advancedastrology/p/MercuryRetro.htm

Since an MRx happens approximately 3 times a year and lasts up to 3 weeks each time, the influence is perhaps one of the most frustrating (as opposed to difficult or painful, though it can be both) astrological events we experience. Below, I am going to give you a few steps to follow so that you can do your own research on how an MRx will influence you (or any other astrological Rx or Return or—you name it).

Step One

Find out which planet is the key player(s). Do your research on what the planet governs and influences.

In this instance, we have Mercury the Messenger. Mercury governs communications and all other types of transactions between two or more entities (i.e. the bank and you OR your lower Self with your higher Self). This includes law, commerce, and emotional interactions. Mercury also influences the mental processes—how we think. Don’t just limit this influence to logic though. Mercury touches on our visualizations and our fantasies as well.

There may be another planet involved in your astrological event so be sure to repeat the process.

Step Two

Find out which zodiac sign the planet(s) occupies during the astrological event. This  zodiac sign has its own attributes that impose another layer of influences on the event.

The MRx is exclusively occurring in Cancer, the Crab (sometimes an MRx will back into the previous sign). Cancer is a sign of the mother and the home. This sign’s energetic/elemental signature is cardinal water. Cardinal energy is thrusting, like a seed pushing a plant through the ground. The element of water governs the emotions and is fluid in nature.

Make sure you address the zodiac signs of the other planets in your astrological event, if any.

Step Three

Determine the house governed by the zodiac sign in general and in your natal chart.

In general, the fourth house is ruled by Cancer, and again we find the theme of home life and the mother. However, in your chart, Cancer may have a different governance. In my natal chart, Cancer governs the 2nd house of Finances (I like to consider this Portable Prosperity).

Repeat for any other zodiac signs in your astrological event.

Step Four

Determine which planets are in close configurations or aspects with the MRx.

The Sun is always in close configuration with Mercury but the big Kahuana is the conjunction and it happens on July 9, 2013, which is the midway point of the MRx. Conjunctions are where the influences between two planets (or luminaries) can be most harmonious but it can also be like shoving the same polarity ends of two magnets together. The Moon conjuncts the MRx the day before on July 9th and squares the MRx on July 1st. Since the Moon rules Cancer, this is a significant interaction.

Resources

You can create your natal chart by using this link:

http://www.cafeastrology.com/articles/howtoobtainchart.html

You can look up where the planets are at this moment and how they’re interacting here:

http://www.cafeastrology.com/monthlycalendar.html

The calendar starts with May 2013 but scroll down and you’ll see not only a Key to the symbols but July through November of 2013. The day before the 1st of the month or after the last day of the month gives a low down on when planets go into new zodiac signs. You may have to look at the month before (i.e. Mercury went into Cancer at the end of May) to find out where a planet is.

Application

The MRx is in Cancer, ruler of the 4th house of home and the mother, and happens to be moving through the second house of Portable Prosperity in my natal chart. I’m also going to consider that my natal Moon in Cancer will be influenced by this MRx because it resides in the second house and is in its sign of rulership.

Hmmm, this would explain my intense irritability lately, especially with my children and their constant demands on my resources as their Mother, the state of my financial affairs, and my pervasive sense of not feeling satisfied with what I have. I will need to revisit my feelings and relationship with my Portable Prosperity, first and foremost, and I will need to reassess my feelings about how my children make demands on my liquid assets. The idea is to re-concile the mental and emotional tensions around prosperity.

On July 1, 2013, when the Moon squares the MRx, I better watch what comes out of my mouth because I will probably have a hair trigger. On July 5th, the MRx is sesquiquadrate to Neptune. Though the aspect is minor, confusion is bound to interfere with the reconciliation process. The conjunction with the Moon and then the Sun one day after the other (June 8th and 9th) is probably going to be tense, though in a good way. This may be where the frustration has mounted to an intolerable level and I’ll have a breakthrough!

Sharing Traditions: Dance of the Standing Stones

Our Clan’s ritual book is a Llewellyn tome, so I include the title here:

Kynes, Sandra. “Litha.” A Year of Ritual: Sabbats and Esbats for Solitaries & Covens, pp. 49-55.

Though Ms. Kynes is a practicing Hedge Druid, the Sabbat rituals have a distinctly Feri flavor to them. I only say this because I was secondly taught by a Feri coven and the rituals of both book and coven, though not similar in content, have a looser, more shamanic structure than more traditional Sabbat rituals that I have seen.

One of the practices from Kynes’ Litha ritual is the Dance of the Standing Stones. The stones are seven in number and set up in two rows to allow celebrants the freedom to dance about them, which is a powerful way to raise energy. This arrangement is meant to recreate the standing stones found on the European continent. A number of scholars have put forth the idea that the stone circles, like Stone Henge, are astronomical observatories marking the winter and summer solstices.

Our clan has seven large, garden stones, roughly rectangular, that we set up to create an avenue. We took the idea a step or two further by marking each stone with the symbol of one of the 7 planets/luminaries: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. When we dance, the implications are cosmic and the energy raised comes from a higher source because the astronomical observatory has become our own solar system of possibility. The Microcosm becomes the Macrocosm.

A table of influences is provided below:

The Sun rules the Ego, the conscious mind, and personal expression. It influences creativity and willpower (Tifareth).

The Moon rules the subconscious mind, emotions, and memory. It influences moods, receptivity, and imagination (Yesod).

Mercury rules communication, technology, and commerce. It influences analysis, diplomacy, and secrets (Hod).

Venus rules money, love, and desire. It influences cooperation, finances, and pleasure (Netzach).

Mars rules leadership, the Id, and ambition. It influences passions, drives, and sexuality (Geburah).

Jupiter rules justice, morality, governance, and ideals. It influences generosity, expansiveness, and optimism (Chesed).

Saturn rules ambition, motivation, and restrictions. It influences duty, responsibility, and discipline (Binah).

Helpful Links:

http://www.cafeastrology.com/articles/planetsinastrology.html

http://www.astrology.com.au/astrology/planets/index.php

Face of God: The Big Sun

The solar equinoxes and solstices are a time when Clan Bradan celebrates the Lord, the masculine aspect of the Divine.  At the summer solstice the First Lord is in his prime. He is known by many names: Lugh, Apollo, Baldur, Christ, and Ra to name a few. Clan Bradan adopted the aspect of Lugh, the Sun god of skill and bravery.

Lugh’s myths portray the archetype of the Warrior King, who brings knowledge and justice to his subjects while protecting them with his strong sword arm. He is a learned man, compassionate with his subjects yet fierce against his enemies. His word is his bond and his keen mind and zest for life gives him the ability to illuminate what troubles the mind and heart.

This archetype is also the Sacrificial King. As the Oak King, he dies for our continued survival at the hand of the Holly King, who begins his reign at the Summer Solstice. The Oak King’s blood and flesh are symbolically represented in the fruit and grain harvests of agricultural societies and his energies are invoked in Cakes & Wine. He is also reborn at the following Winter Solstice when his return defeats the inevitability of death represented by the Holly King.

So ask yourself, which facet of the Lord is your Warrior King? Who comes to your defense from the Inner Realms when you are under attack? Who illuminates your troubles and leads you to the skills that will overcome your obstacles? What kind of relationship do you have with this archetype? Litha is the perfect time to explore this face of god.

Resources:

Jones, Mary. “Lugh Lamhfada.” Jones’ Celtic Encyclopedia. http://www.maryjones.us/jce/lugh.html, accessed June 18, 2013.

Lyrica. “About Sun Gods and Sun Symbols in Mythology and Your Psyche.” http://www.lyricalworks.com/stories/amaterasu/sunsymbols.htm, accessed June 18, 2013.

Wigington, Patty. “Lugh, Master of Skills.” About.com Paganism/Wicca. http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/godsandgoddesses/p/Lugh.htm, accessed June 18, 2013.

Ibid. “The Legend of the Holly and the Oak King.” About. com Paganism/Wicca. http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/yulethelongestnight/p/Holly_KIng_Yule.htm, accessed June 18, 2013.

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