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.

Litha: A Time of Reconciliation

I’ve seen plenty of articles that emphasize the sensual nature of Litha, and I don’t wish to diminish the potency of the masculine or the appeal of sex because I happen to like both. Very. Much. My intention is to shift the focus to include the spiritual, since humans were given the blessing to experience both the sexual and the spiritual at the same time. So let’s go over the basics.

Litha, an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “midsummer,” is the third festival of the Lord celebrated circa June 21st in the first degree of Cancer. Also known as Summer Solstice, this is the time of the longest day and the shortest night when the sun shines upon the northern hemisphere in all its potency. Fire and the energy of the sun are celebrated at this time.

Cancer, the zodiac sign that rules the period of June 21st through July 20th, is a cardinal mode of the element of water. It is a cool, moist, and thrusting energy juxtaposed to the hot, dry, forceful energy of a midsummer sun. These two energies seem opposite, but it is the challenge of reconciling these two energies that shapes the purpose of Litha.

We are seventy percent water, yet what moves us is the fire of metabolism and the thrusting energy of our hearts. When working in concert, these physiological processes create health and vitality; when at odds and uncorrected, they create dis-ease within our bodies. Conversely, the fire of our wills and the water of our emotions, when at odds and uncorrected, create dis-ease within our spirits. Inevitably, the physical body follows the lead of the spirit: As Within, So Without.

Magickal people use the energy of Litha to reconcile and maintain the health of the elemental energies of fire and water within their spirits. The element of fire is used to burn away excess energies and dis-ease. The element of water is used to cleanse and to restore. A reconciliation of the masculine and feminine energies with you is but one application of this operation.

So when June 21, 2013 arrives (or June 22, because that is a Magickal Sandwich Day with Summer Solstice on one end and a Full Moon on the other), take time to commune with your significant other by immersing your awareness in the contrasts between you. If you are single or are inclined to get your hands dirty with inner work, take time to commune with the contrasting elements of your internal collective. You may either be faced with a reconciliation of illusory opposing forces, a battle of Holly and Oak, or something deliciously in between (think makeup sex).

IMHO: Feminism & Paganism

As a feminist, I am still turned off by the more militant of my kind. Patriarchal Christianity is the root of all evil in their minds. Though I’m not pleased with the political aspects of Christianity, I think the root of all evil is intolerance and that can be found in any ideology.

My understanding of feminism is that it places an emphasis on the welfare of women and children. What feminism opposes is not men, but a particular mindset put into place by a powerful political minority that happens to be white and male. Not all white males are part of this elite club, but many of them fall prey to the propaganda.

I’ve been told by books and well-meaning pagans that paganism focuses on the feminine to bring the world into balance after the scourge of centuries of Patriarchal Monotheism. Priestesses serve by providing strong feminine role models to young women and men . What I’m discovering, and one of the reasons that I withdrew from the community at large, is that the masculine is diminished, even at times degraded, by the mindset of paganism. This is not a strong, feminine role model in action.

Men and women are the flip sides of the same coin, opposites assuredly, but also complements in the evolution of the Universe. As pagans, we must remember the Law of Polarity and honor the feminine in balance with the masculine. We must recognize that everything without is a reflection of that which is within.

To be whole individuals, we must reconcile ourselves to all the components in our makeup, no matter how badly we have been harmed by one part or another in our outer realities. If we are in conflict with the men in our lives, if we diminish the masculine, then we are not at peace with the Divine Lord within. If we are not at peace with one side of the polarity coin, then truly are we at peace with the other?

What to Expect When Engaged in Ritual Activity

Ritual Defined

As a practicing Wiccan, the word ritual for me may have a different connotation from say, the understanding of a hopeful agnostic or a “red-letter” Christian (“red-letter” alluding to the words actually spoken by the Christ). So, I ‘m going to level the playing field with the dearly held assumption that my readership is made up of magickal people of all faiths and creeds who are similarly filled with wonder about our trip on this blue-green globe we call home.

Ritual is any collection of activities that memorializes or catalyzes a rite of passage. This rite of passage could be the turn of a season, a remembered event, or a new phase of life. Ritual, at its core, takes our consciousness from one mode of awareness to another (hopefully) more enlightened and/or reflective  mode of awareness. This definition could describe a birthday, Thanksgiving dinner, a fraternity induction, a presidential election, a wedding, and a host of other events that we take for granted because they’ve always been a part of our lives.

Ritual in Magickal Living

Magickal living is about cultivating awareness. Whatever happens, you choose to participate with the totality of who you are. Even observing, or witnessing, is an act of intention if done with full awareness.

Magickal people perform ritual with focused intention. They are sensitive to the fluctuations of energy all around them: the emotions of other participants, the weather, and even the ebb and flow of the moon’s tides to name a few. An act of blowing out birthday candles becomes a transformative affirmation that influences decisions made over the next year to bring the wish into being.

This focused intention cultivates deep feelings and awe-inspiring synchronicity. The world responds with a sentience that many would attribute to a Divine Intelligence. Whether this is the actuality or a perception is something you will have to determine for yourself.

How To Know When Ritual Is HAPPENING

Even if you’ve decided that the Divine Intelligence angle is only perception, the feelings evoked by ritual are sensory actualities. Goose-flesh, the raising of the fine hairs along the skin, and other tingling sensations, especially along the nape of the neck, are often indications that something powerful is happening (in the absence of a cold draught of course). If this occurs in a ritual event then you know that energy is moving. You may also experience various degrees of euphoria as well as cathartic emotions expressed in tears (joy as well as sadness).

Conversely, the presence of overwhelming amounts of energy, or power surges, can cause the following symptoms: nausea, hot flashes, sweating, dizziness, headaches and even a sense of displacement. Grounding, a form of drawing your awareness into the center of your body and affirming the “here and now” will dissipate the excess energy. The only time this would be a cause for concern is if you are ill or if you are experiencing unpleasant emotions like anger, dread or fear. Trust your gut.

It is unlikely that you will experience power surges during a birthday party or a wedding. Power surges indicate the opening of new paths (perhaps neural?) and since the aforementioned rituals are part of a collective societal experience, very few people will feel disoriented during these kinds of events.

Often I find that I experience a power surge during a ritual of worship (i.e. Candlemas) when my subconscious is “online.” This means that everything in the ritual has aligned so perfectly that I have opened up an infrequently- or un- used channel that permits energy to flow unhindered through me. These surges cause sudden nausea, sweating, and mild disorientation but only briefly as the body adjusts to the load.

What To Do If You Don’t Feel Anything In Ritual

Don’t sweat it. Literally.

Unless you are a cloned version of someone else, you are a completely unique individual “wired” like no other, even an “identical” twin. This means that in the same ritual, different individuals will experience different sensations. Also, there may be common reactions but they may occur at different intervals or in response to disparate inputs. Participant A may experience tingling during the calling of the Divine while Participant B experiences heat. Conversely, Participant A may experience  euphoria during the raising of energy while Participant B experiences euphoria during the Great Rite.

Some individuals feel nothing at all.

In fact, many first-time ritual participants are horrified to discover that they experienced nothing out of the ordinary. After all the hype you’ve heard from the seasoned participants, you are faced with a null. You’re left to wonder if you’re broken or inadequate in some way.

Relax. You’re fine.

The Mechanics

I want you to read the next two statements over and over until you feel comfortable with them.

Ritual invokes emotion.

Emotion is energy.

Emotion is created through the meanings assigned by each of the participants. Meaning is built through repetition and exposure not only to the ritual but to the individual participants. These meanings, or connections, create the engine through which energy flows. If you aren’t part of the engine, you won’t feel the flow. All it takes is a bit of patience and persistence; since everyone is “wired” differently, the rate of absorption into the ritual engine will vary from person to person.

Consider how you feel when you attend a birthday party for yourself as opposed to how you feel when you attend the birthday party of another family member. Even weddings are different though they celebrate the same rite of passage. You may cry at each one, but the timbre of your joy is unique for each union because your relationship to the participants is unique in each instance.

If you’d like to look into the mechanics yourself, just swap my term “engine” with the psychological term of “group mind.” That should make for some fun reading and even more interesting comments.

If you have a ritual experience or horror story you would like to share or a question you’d like to ask, please comment below.

The Winter Solstice

At the urging of my students, Clan Bradan will attend a public Winter Solstice ritual in Hampden tomorrow. My students are curious to see how other pagans celebrate Yule, also known as the Winter Solstice. I’m apprehensive and excited at the same time. I’ve been to a number of outside pagan events before and have withdrawn because like any community, there are egos and agendas to negotiate.

ImageThis is my lovely Yule tree (before the cats destroyed it).

I’m older and a little wiser (I think) but as a Mentor to this small group of wide-eyed witches, I am fretting over what they will get out of the ritual. Though they are experienced with moving energy, we’ve never worked on this scale. Others, or even my students, may realize that I have sheltered them to some degree (and for a good reason). I will be introduced to their new friends as their “High Priestess” (gah!). That idea is troublesome.

When I was younger, I wanted so much to be a “High Priestess.” I thought it was the be-all-end-all of my spiritual journey. Now that I’ve been through a number of evolutions (and devolutions) on my path, I couldn’t care less what title I’m given. I could be “Queen of Quite A Lot” or “Lil’ Miss Princess of Paganism” for all the good it would do me. Now I just see myself as responsible for the people I’ve taught. I’m hoping that what I’ve taught shines true within each of them.

I see them as my children in some ways. I have encouraged them to look at other view points, to form their own opinions (backed up with painstaking research of course), and to spread their wings. They have taught me in ways that only students can. I can’t walk with them every step of the way and that is probably a good thing. Walking with them tomorrow is going to test me.

Will I be found lacking? Yep, the whole insecurity thing. I know it isn’t about me, but that doesn’t make the apprehension go away. I’ve been tested and have failed or have been found wanting on several occasions  and when I had least expected it. Will I stick my foot in my mouth and embarrass myself or my students? They aren’t just students, but friends, so that would be a huge disappointment for all involved.

Example: I took my son to his friend’s funeral a couple of years ago. His friend had died in a car accident on the way home from a party.  The young man hadn’t drank or used drugs. The tragedy was caused by inexperience. His mother had asked me if I had allowed my son to attend the party. I had said “No, I think I’m too overprotective.”

Okay. Grieving mom blames herself for her son’s unfortunate death. Think about how she’d take that comment. Yeah, you’ve got it about right. She was hysterical and in the words of Harry Dresden, “My gast was truly flabbbered.” I had spoken of my own short-coming in the matter (I had thought if my son had been with her son, this wouldn’t have happened) and she had taken it as a judgment against her. That, my friends, is Foot-In-Mouth-Syndrome and I have an epic case of it.

So I’m a bit nervous, but I must go out and investigate! I promised Sarah to write a post about how ritual might feel to people at different levels of experience so I’m going to go forth and ask lots of questions. Hopefully, I won’t be tasting any shoe leather tomorrow night. And if I do, it’s not like it’s the End of the World, right?

Dialogue With Shadow

If you are still having trouble communicating with your Shadow(s), there are other meditations out there. One that is reasonably easy to use was written by Timothy Roderick in his Wicca: A Year and a Day book. Our clan has used the meditation successfully. Also, feel free to add to my meditation if you need more visual or auditory stimulation. Writing your own meditation is another option to explore.

The idea is to meet your Shadow and open a dialogue. This takes patience and persistence. Keep returning to the practice of engaging and embracing these aspects of your psyche. You will become your own best friend.

I’ve been doing this since I was 16 years old so that puts me at 27 years of shadow work as of 2012. It has been an amazing journey of self-discovery. I’m going to introduce you to my “Shadows” so that you understand just how rich the experience can be.

* * * * *

There are no walls. Beyond the illuminated area we occupy is a deep, grey nothingness. We sit around a kidney-shaped, glass coffee table holding saucers and demi-tasse cups filled with rich, dark espresso. Al is seated to my right on the semi-circular, black velvet sofa. Her ash blond curls are scraped back from her studious features and her pale blue eyes regard me from behind wire-rimmed glasses. She has a tablet in her lap and holds a stylus poised to write whatever I say. A tattoo of a caduceus peeks over the collar of her white blouse.

Morti sits to Al’s right. She’s the bad-ass of the bunch dressed in sleek, supple leather. She’s dark everywhere, like a Hindu goddess, and her long black hair is a glossy spill of ink over her shoulders and arms. She’d agreed to host this little ‘party’ at her place. That way she could deliver a smack-down if anyone got out of hand.

To my left was Gina, the reason Ali had called this meeting. She was a true red-head, the kind with a peaches and cream complexion and emerald green eyes, and she was dressed in Jacobean finery. She looked like a beauty from one of Waterhouse’s oil paintings.

To Gina’s left sat Claire. She had grown since I’d last seen her. Her skin had lightened from an olive to a shade like milk with a drop of coffee in it and her dark eyes regarded me steadily, which was a change from the submissive sidelong gazes she’d given me before. I was pleased.

“Al called the meeting to discuss the consort business,” I said.

Gina crossed her arms and leaned back against the sofa, “She’s more interested in books and spells. What would she know about men?”

“I happen to agree with Al that you make lousy choices,” Morti said.

“You’ll settle for anything.” Al pointed the stylus at Clair, “And we need to set a good example for her.”

“Well, I don’t know if you ladies have been paying attention, but there isn’t much out there. I have to make do,” Gina waved a hand.

“We shouldn’t have to settle,” Al said.

“You make it sound like I spread my legs for any willing candidate. We’re dating, not hopping into the sack.”

“We fixate.” Clair’s voice silenced us all. She blushed and looked at her hands. “It could be my fault. It’s all new to me; the feelings are intense. I like it.”

Gina lifted a brow as I snapped my mouth shut. I hadn’t been paying attention to the fact that Clair, a scrawny, frightened child when I’d met her, had grown into a teenager. That meant hormones and craziness. That meant crushes and new feelings.

Al glanced at me and then stared at her tablet. She hadn’t noticed either. Morti rubbed her hands over her face and let out a sigh as collectively we grasped what this new complication entailed.

I don’t think any of us here could be called experts in relationships. In fact, we were all pretty lousy. The only person qualified enough to guide Clair through these waters was Gina and her only talent in that area was that she knew how men operated. She could at least keep Clair out of serious trouble.

Clair was the gentle soul of our collective. She was quick to forgive and she’d been through a hell that the rest of us had witnessed but in different ways. Al was the brains so what we experienced was processed on an intellectual level by her. Morti was the muscle, and she’d fought us through the nightmare of our childhood with a raw determination that showed in the firm set of her mouth.

Gina was the passion of our collective and she fueled our creativity and emotional expression. She wanted to be surrounded by beauty and love. She craved these things the way a starving child craved a pastry, to the point where she would beg, borrow, and bend to get it.

I was the Director. I wanted everybody to get along and I had to figure out how to coordinate their individual talents into a unified effort. Fun.

“The part of us that can experience true love is a teenager,” Morti bounced her head against the back of the sofa.

“And you thought it was me,” Gina studied her nails. “I think someone is owed an apology.”

An airborne pillow surprised a muffled squeak from Gina. Thank the Lady she’d set her espresso down or she’d have been wearing it. Morti tossed her hair over her shoulders and leaned forward.

“This is a distraction.”

“Anything to do with the finer, gentler aspects of life are a distraction to you,” Gina said.

Morti grabbed another pillow and I held up my hands, “Ladies, we need to focus on how to make this work. Clair is growing up. We should celebrate her coming of age. Al, we’ll need a ritual. Gina, we’ll need a crown. Morti, we’ll need tattoo equipment—”

“I don’t want a tattoo.”

All eyes turned to Clair. Her hands were fists at her sides.

“Everyone gets a tattoo,” Morti said.

I thought maybe Clair would capitulate but she squared her thin shoulders, looked Morti dead in the eye and said, “No.”

Morti looked ready to leap across the coffee table and grab Clair by the scruff of her neck. Clair’s eyes narrowed as Morti growled.

“I will kick your ass, little girl.”

“No, you won’t. Io won’t let you.”

Morti looked at me. I sighed.

“She’s right, Morti, but so are you. Everyone gets a tattoo. It’s the rule. It is a way of joining us into a greater whole and you don’t have one yet. You were too young but now, you’re not.”

A big, fat tear leaked from Clair’s left eye. She let loose a quivering breath and took a tissue from Gina.

“It’s going to hurt.”

“Yes, it is,” I said.

“It shouldn’t hurt.”

I rubbed the bridge of my nose and looked to Al. She shrugged and pretended to read the tablet.

“Hurting is part of life. It makes us more compassionate when others are hurting,” Morti said.

Clair wiped at her eyes, “Really?”

Morti nodded, “Even I’ve been hurt.” She shrugged out of her jacket to reveal her tattoo sleeves. “Each tatt tells a story. See this one?”

She pointed at an image of the Kraken on her right bicep, “That’s what we escaped. I killed it so that you could come out of hiding. And this?”

She pointed to a heart pierced by three swords on her left shoulder, “That’s what beats inside my chest when any of you are hurt. You should let me out more often to defend you instead of trying to be so damned civilized.”

Morti shrugged back into her coat, “You only have to get one and it can be very tiny so you decide.”

Clair nibbled on her lower lip, “I want a heart.”

“You already have a heart, Tin Girl,” Al teased.

Clair smiled and I was a little unsettled. Our youngest member was growing up. She was changing before my eyes.

“On your shoulder?”I asked.

“No. On her right cheek.” Gina pointed to a spot just beneath the outside corner of Clair’s right eye. “Right?”

Clair nodded. Morti rolled her eyes but didn’t contradict Clair.

“This isn’t some strange teenage ritual, is it? Like the number of tear drops telling those in the know how many bodies you’ve left on the ground?” I said.

Clair chewed her lower lip, “It could be a sign to the universe that we are ready to love.”

I hadn’t thought of it that way.  I looked at Morti, “You think you can handle something that small and delicate?”

She scowled but said, “If I must.”

“And the crown?”

“Oh, I’ve got something in mind,” Gina said as she stroked Clair’s cheek.

“What?” Clair asked.

“Butterflies, of course—for transformation. This will be the most beautiful crown ever.”

* * * * *

Remember that coffee-clatch I told you about in the very first paragraph of this series of posts? That’s how it rolls. Those are my girls. Each one is much more integrated now than when I first met them.

When I met Morti, she was a furious biker-chick gone bat-shit crazy. She would hold me down and shove horrible thoughts through my head because she had no other way of telling me that she was suppressed. I’ve discovered that she’s Kevlar, titanium-plate on the outside and squishy marshmallow on the inside. That doesn’t make her weak; she just has texture. These days she’s my enforcer and she’s the scary thing that peeks out of my eyes when someone has crossed the line.

Al was a rebellious teenager when I met her. She has a smart mouth and can think circles around most people.  She was even good with the mind-fuck, which we’ve thankfully abandoned. She likes puzzles and can figure out what makes just about anybody tick. She’s good with words and has a quick, quirky wit that she camouflages beneath a studious exterior. She keeps the knowledge of the collective and shows us how to use it.

Gina is the mysterious one. Not a one of us can figure out what makes her tick. She’s demanding, exacting, and an elitist. In fact, she reminds me of my mother. She likes the finer things (whereas Al likes function) and wants to find a man to give them to her while worshipping at her feet in abject adoration. She’s winsome, alluring and utterly frustrating.

Clair was the first Shadow I met and she had gotten stuck in childhood.  Things weren’t so great for us then. When I realized I couldn’t blame my parents for my problems anymore, I found Clair-a greasy, malnourished ten-year-old at the time-in the basement closet of a condemned house. Abandoned, terrified, and distrustful, I had to lure her from that closet with promises that I would be the best “mommy” ever.  I’ve been raising her, with the help of the other three, and it seems that she’s grown up right under my nose. This is a good thing <fingers-crossed>.

My four entities are part of my psyche and correspond to a number of symbolic systems: the Qabala, the Witches’ Pyramid, and the four elements. I use the associations and my vivid imagination to assign shadow fragments to these constructs for processing and transformation of the energies. They speak to me through the characters of my stories, through the work of other artists, and through the simple interactions I have with others.

The introductory meditation is only a first step. With continued dialogue through journaling, play-acting, drawing, music, or any other art medium, you can get to know the many faces of You and establish good working relationships between them that are a hallmark of integration.

Questions are welcome and I hope you share your experiences with me. Email: iokirkwood@annekirkwood.biz or leave a comment. Thanks!

%d bloggers like this: