Friday, May 26, 2017

Books, Books... And More Books

I have an inclusive yet concise library. Most of us do. Whether or not we like to admit it, the majority of us are not students of some mysterious individual with arcane knowledge that stretches back millions of years to the dawn of time. We are a people of the written word ( books, social media,blogs). Many of us are voracious readers, hungrily devouring as much of anything occult-related as we can possibly hold. This is both a good idea and a bad one.

The Good: We are open to new ideas and methods, which in turn fuel our creative spark.

The Bad: There are a lot of just plain awful books out there, badly written, containing questionable content from unreliable or historically inaccurate sources.

Our magickal education then becomes a matter of discernment: balancing reliable sources, and actual practice. Any serious student of the occult would benefit from exploring not only astrology,but also astronomy ( and mathematics!); alchemy and quantum physics; ancient history and ancient cultures. Have a basic understanding of how politics and religion meshed with the culture of those ancient  societies to be better able to understand their relationship to the Divine.(Check out fine art through the ages,to  help you frame your thoughts!)  The field of comparative religion is endless, so don't be afraid to sample outside the box- a lot can be gained by reading psychology (especially Carl Jung's archetypes). Geometry and geology; study herbs, but gain a basic knowledge of botany.  Invest in a c good encyclopedia of world mythology, like Bullfinch's.

But most of all...read, read, read. Distinguishing the good from the bad will become second nature.
   


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Magick And Public Policy

Last week, there was a (kinda) world-wide call for witches to bind US President Donald Trump and his gang of Deplorables. It sounded good on the surface because so many of us in the US are feeling helpless and afraid. There was even a Facebook page. I looked things over, as I often do, with passing notice and a lot of discernment.

Many well known Big Name Pagans (BPN) disagreed with the mass ritual for some very good reasons. A vlog from Rev. Don Lewis, Chancellor of Witch School and  Paramount High Priest of the Correllian Nativist Tradition of Wicca. Made some striking remarks as to why he would not be participating. https://youtu.be/0r9YYSYxZco

I happen to agree also. To begin with, no one individual or group claimed ownership of the event's organization. While I can appreciate anonymity, if you are going to going to call for a working of this breath and scale, then own it. I also had a concern about the organizers-who were anonymous, remember- asking participants to post photos of themselves in the act of ritual. Organizers calling for participants to in effect 'out' themselves to the public, while not willingly identifying themselves is highly suspicious to me. Perfect Love and Perfect Trust, if I recall how things are supposed to be. I don't think I'm being a bit paranoid, but among other things, it makes me wonder if someone other than a group of witches were behind the event. After reading the ritual onlinehttps://extranewsfeed.com/a-spell-to-bind-donald-trump-and-all-those-who-abet-him-february-24th-mass-ritual-51f3d94f62f4#.6y401v18e ( which, frankly seemed to be rather basic 101 stuff), I found some flaws.

The first problem I have is with the text, which sounds rather like what Hollywood thinks a binding should sound like. when you read through it, it's a pretty bland general wording. There is no justification for the action mentioned in the spell itself; specifics are not present. I found nothing disagreeable with the sentiment, but it, too, seemed a bit...vague. There were Judeo-Christian overtones that I suppose someone thought that made it sound somewhat like ceremonial magic (another Hollywood moment;all incantations sound like ceremonial magick, right?) with a little hoodoo thrown in for good measure.Just my opinion, but came off sounding a little chaotic to me. I admit that I got a giggle out of the suggestion of using a carrot in lieu of an orange candle. ( Not saying it wouldn't work, but it just struck me as amusing.) I was taught that a binding was serious business, and that it was done with specific goals in mind; the intention behind it was targeted and personal. I just don't this to be the case it this social media ritual.

And now-surprise!-a bunch of Dominionists are countering with a prayer event
...because...well...witchcraft. The whole thing has made me wonder if it wasn't a singularly big mock PR event carefully designed to give credence to Dominionist hysterics. Witches are cursing the President! It's up to US to stop them! It kind of harkens back to the days when Sarah Palin stood in the middle of a prayer circle receiving the warding and protection of a notorious modern day witchfinder https://youtu.be/iwkb9_zB2Pg  .

My personal belief is that you don't hex someone for their actions without careful examination of personal motive- and without the intention of an outcome that benefits the common good.If you're doing it because you simply despise Trump and his politics,that's the wrong reason. That sort of thing is better solved at the polling place by exercising your right to vote. However, if you're doing it in good faith as a pre-emptive measure, then accept any consequences and do what you will. Earlier this year, I published a spell written by a well-respected Witch Elder (who I did not name at the request of family members who feared reprisal.)It was not a binding, but a work with the intention of pre-emptively neutralizing a force gaining strength, intended not to bind, but to alter the course of events. I'm not saying what I personally chose was better, but I do believe that the intention was more focused and less maleficent. Was it intended to affect free-will? Absolutely. But the intention was not for personal gain, but rather to alter the course of events for the common good.

I am always open for new ideas, and I am always searching. Ashleen O'Gaea, from the Adventure Wicca Tradition, has this idea.The text is taken directly from her FB page, and she explains the intention much more clearly than I could. I believe that these points are focused, even if the method is open to personal preference.

From the Adventure Wicca Tradition: Any time on Wednesday, March 15th, the Ides of March, we're going to do whatever magic we can to protect the planet from any danger that threatens it. Focusing on protection, we will not be looking to do any harm, not even to those whom we believe might be doing harm to Mother Earth. Pagans and Heathens of all denominations are invited to use their magic, wherever they are, on their own or in groups, to raise protection from our planet. May our Gods help us!
People who don't identify as Pagan/Heathen are more than welcome to join this effort. Prayers, dancing, drumming - raising energy for the protection of the Earth from any/all threats is what we're doing, each in our own way.

Just a suggestion. If you find this speaks to your feelings, then I encourage you to do what you can, in whatever way you feel is proper and beneficial. If you decide to not participate, then I respect your choice. My personal belief is that magick without practical action to back it up is ineffective. Do what you will, but I urge you to get involved with the issues (Pick one! You cannot do everything) at the local level, write and call your elected officials regularly. Work for justice, peace and mercy; I think it's a part of the calling of the Craft. And not because I believe, but because YOU do.

May you Blessed Be!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Full Circle: Death Practices And Comtemporary Burial Alternatives


"Bite the dust",  "Buy the farm" and the ever popular "passed away". We will say almost anything other than to name the actual event when someone dies. In the modern lexicon we don't die, we "expire" or enter into "eternal rest". If the person speaking is of a religious bent, then we are "called Home" or "Go to be with the Lord". Not all euphemisms are evasive; as "Going the way of all flesh"is a rather accurate description, as is "Breathed his/her last". Those of us practicing Pagan or other Occult traditions are rather fond of saying someone has "crossed the Veil" or something else that denotes reincarnation, regeneration, rebirth, because many of us believe in some form of continual existence on another plane of reality that transcends the physical universe.

Because our Pagan faith traditions view death as a part of the cycle of life, it is less taboo to speak of death and the dead. We welcome death as merely the end of our earthly existence because that fits our belief in a general esoteric cosmology. We believe there is more. Individual traditions have specific versions of what takes place after death. The most popular idea is the Summerland, a concept shared by Spiritualists,Theosophists, Pagans and New Age spiritual practices. Each individual has his/her own idea of exactly what the Summerland is like, but most agree that it's a beautiful place of peace and serenity where the soul is at peace. Those who believe in reincarnation believe it's the place where the deceased dwell until the soul is ready to incarnate again. Some believe it is a permanent place, a next level of existence that is a part of an ongoing enlightenment. Yet others believe we simply become a part of the Cosmic Cake Mix when we die, the elements of the body and mind melding with the Universe, providing elemental and spiritual material used by the Great Source to renew the species.

I believe that dying, death, tending to the body afterward and ultimate disposal of the remains are all sacred acts. When we lived in a predominantly agrarian and tribal societies, death was an intimate occurrence that eventually affected everyone. Those in our social group died from injuries or disease or simply grew old. The community came together and everyone pitched in to help get things back to normal function. That included preparing the body for burial, usually in a local church yard on one's own property in a family grave plot. The community's actions were instinctive because they were a cohesive group and death was a natural occurrence.

Death became a business and funerals a commodity during the Civil War, mostly out of necessity. The number of lives lost was phenomenally unlike anything the United States had experienced previously in its history. Disposal of the corpses became a public health issue that far surpassed one of aesthetics. Unsanitary conditions, lack of hygiene, tainted water, poor diet and lack of shelter. Diseases such as dysentery, malaria, smallpox, typhoid fever and pneumonia swept through camps belonging to both the Union and the Confederacy and contributed to as many deaths as injuries incurred in battle. This led to war dead being quickly buried near the site of battle, which outraged the sensibilities of many surviving families, particularly in the North. Union families wanted their dead returned for what they considered a "proper" burial, that is, on Northern soil accompanied by Christian rites- which entailed shipping bodies long distances out of the war zone, notably by train, in oppressively hot weather. Army and civilian surgeons contracted by the Union performed embalming services on the battlefield, in field hospitals or another suitable place using a cocktail of formaldehyde, arsenic and alcohol to prevent corpses from putrefying in order to return them to their loved ones. Some civilian "undertakers" were also trained in this procedure. Embalming had monetary advantages for all of these individuals as they were commissioned by the Army Medical Corps, somewhat lessening the nobility factor of preparing bodies out of emotional concern for the survivors.

Embalming, as a temporary method of preservation, worked well and served the need for which it was designed-but when the body began to ultimately break down, the chemicals inside it seeped out into the soil and eventually into the water table, poisoning both. Cemeteries began using grave liners made of wood or brick, and eventually cement to control sinking of the grave and erosion, and to contain leakage. Public cemeteries expanded beyond the humble churchyard to 'memorial parks' designed to express eternal rest and peacefulness. In the late 19the and early 20th centuries these memorial parks became gathering places for family, friends and the public, weekly destinations in which to walk and ruminate, and even share a picnic meal.

Today the funeral industry is a big business. Secular/corporation run cemeteries are too, because after all, what else are you going to do with a body (short of cremation)? On average it costs thousands of dollars for a modern funeral, a financial burden that as a minister I believe borders on taking obscene advantage of those grieving the loss of a loved one. Add that to the environmental impact of cremation (carbon emissions) and burial (including that some areas are running out of space for traditional graves). The projection of needed burial space for urban areas in the future is staggering.

Which is why I have become interested in alternatives. If you are a minister,HP/s, elder or have another type of leadership roll in a spiritual tradition, you will eventually be faced with the mortality of one of the members of your group and family, friends and colleagues will seek your counsel. We owe it to those we serve to have at least a basic knowledge of the funeral industry and viable alternatives. Most of the alternatives are still on the drawing board or in the test stage and not yet available to the public, with the exception of two- Resomation and Green Burial.

Resomation (or Biocremation as it is sometimes called) is the process of alkaline hydrolysis where the body tissue is dissolved using a mixture of hot water and potassium hydroxide (lye) in a special chamber. What is left is a liquid containing amino acids, sugars, salts, peptides and calcium phosphate.The resulting liquid is sterile and can be released to the common sewer (embalming does the same with cadaver blood and body liquids), while the bones have become fragile, chalky fragments which are processed (reduced to ash) and returned to the next of kin. Resomation uses less fuel than  contemporary cremation and releases no mercury into the atmosphere. Resomation is available in limited areas through specific funeral providers, but is gaining in popularity.


Green Burial is being touted by some as a return to more natural way of disposal. The body is buried in a designated 'green cemetery' sans embalming, in a biodegradable container or simply placed in the ground in a shroud. Family and friends are given the option of preparing the body of their loved one themselves, mostly under the guidance of a specially trained undertaker (which is not necessary but may be desirable).
More information in the link; be sure to read the entire website, especially the 'education' section. Also for reference, Circle Sanctuary in Wisconsin has maintained a green burial ground for years especially for Pagans and others who's practice is earth and nature oriented.



Educational/Resource information:

https://www.circlesanctuary.org/index.php/cemetery/circle-cemetery

https://greenburialcouncil.org/home/plan-for-your-green-burial/certified-products/

http://www.livescience.com/15980-death-8-burial-alternatives.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/14/science/a-project-to-turn-corpses-into-compost.html?_r=0

http://www.undertakingla.com/

[Undertaking LA is a progressive funeral home/service owned and operated by Amber Carvaly and Caitlin Doughty, founding member of The Order of the Good Death, whose videos "Ask A Mortician" has broken ground in informing the public about often taboo subjects relating to death,postmortem history and the funeral industry. Available on YouTube and Facebook]

http://www.ecauldron.net/funeral2.phphttp://thefuneralsource.org/traditions.html


More Resources:


The Pagan Book of Living and Dying
Starhawk, M.Macha Nightmare and the Reclaiming Collective

Death and the Pagan: Modern Pagan Funerary Practices
Carrie West and Philip Wright
(Kindle edition)

The Journey Into Spirit: A Pagan's Perspective on Death, Dying and Bereavement
Kristoffer Hughes

Natural Burial: Traditional-Secular Spiritualities and Funeral Innovation
Douglas Davies and Hannah Rumble

A Humanist Funeral Service and Celebration
Corliss Lamont

Funeral Celebrant's Diary: Interfaith Funeral Service Details
John Merrill

Weddings, Funerals and Rites of Passage

                            and
More Weddings, Funerals and Rites of PassageRev.Amy E. Long, Universal Life Church Seminary,
with contributors from other interfaith sources




Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Saint Michael

First things first: he isn't actually a saint by canonical proclamation, even though Christians, Jews and Muslims refer to him as such. Michael is actually an archangel, one of four (or seven,depending on the source you're using). He is the defender and protector of the Roman Catholic Church. Depictions of Michael usually show him engaged in battle with his foot upon the neck of a serpent, dragon or Satan. In the Biblical Book of Revelations he leads God's armies where he defeats the forces of Evil. He is also mentioned in the Book of Daniel as "the prince of the first rank". His attributes also include healing the sick and guiding the dead to heaven; he is often cited in Roman Catholic prayers in his role as Angel of Death. The myth of Archangel Michael varies among traditions,but his favor as Protector is sought by all.

St. Michael is also revered in esoteric/occult traditions such as ceremonial magic and Haitian Vodou (where he has developed into a popular loa). Famed HooDoo practitioner and author Ray.T Malbrough credits St. Michael with intercession relating to peace, harmony,finances and success.Some magickal practitioners assign the Archangels Gabriel, Raphael,Uriel and Michael to the four quarters, and when this variation is used, Michael represents the South due to his fiery nature.

A couple of years ago when I was newly moved into my present apartment, I experienced a series of incidents of being touched by unseen hands (usually on the foot if it were sticking out from beneath the bed covers). None of these encounters seemed to malevolent in nature, and I believe the individuals or spirits involved were merely curious or were perhaps testing me to see how I would react. Not wishing to be bothered by them, I began to ask St. Michael to surround me with protective light. I have not been touched since. Invoking St. Michael results in peaceful sleep and restful conditions for me.

St. Michael Protection Oil, from my personal BOS:

In a small bottle of olive oil (about 6 ozs.), add two pinches of frankincense, 2 pinches of myrrh,  one pinch of dragon's blood, a pinch of cinnamon, a few slivers of ginger and a few grains of sea salt.

Oil may be used to anoint candles, altars and tools.It is very potent and will go a long way.


>>Keep this oil away from your eyes, nose and mouth, and do not inhale the contents during mixing and use. Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands after handling!Do not take this concoction internally or rub it on your body. The ingredients of this oil are irritating and poisonous.<<



Ray

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Slowly Gathering Power

There is a figurative saying that the New Year is a blank slate; Tabula Rosa-an absence of preconceived ideas or predetermined goals. The first few days of the New Year always feel a bit luminous to me-reflecting light but of no real substance. They sort of just sit there and glow until they settle into a normal routine. This year has felt anything like routine, owing in large part, to our new unpredictable Presidential Administration. I think we're all feeling more than a little off balance. At least I do. Try as I might, meditation and mindfulness keep being interrupted by an insidious anxiety that seeps into my consciousness whenever I seek calm.

This is not who I am, and to be rather truthful, I resent this outside influence intruding upon my peace of mind. Days like this I double down on my esoteric and spiritual pursuits to remind me of my power. According to Native American wisdom keepers,we all have this power as a birthright. But there are times-like these- when we forget who we are.

And sometimes, that calls for a little (or a lot) of magick.

Many years ago I dedicated myself to this spiritual path at Imbolc; Brid is my patron. Brid the Poet, Brid the Smith, Brid the Healer: writer,creative force, seeker of mending that which needs repair and renewal-  I am all of these and more. I have to remind myself of this as I fight to steer my spiritual boat away from the rocks we seem to be heading for in the last few weeks. To do this, I have had to return to the Place of Deep Indwelling. Digging deep into the Earth to be planted and gathering the energy to push back up to the goal of rebirth takes time and patience and energy. Spring is coming!
I am just blooming a little late this year-but I know the result will be worth the delay.

Here the Mountain Ash (Rowan) have begun to set bud; the greening of all things a sure sign of what is to be pushing back against the cold and hibernation of Winter. There is a season to lie quiet and regenerate, and a season to put forth and blossom, and that season is coming, both in Nature and in our current political situation. If we are minding our own garden,tending our seeds of change, then we are gathering energy day by day. This energy is quietly building until it is needed, but until then...
sometimes patience is its own reward.

Meanwhile, self-shielding and warding are a good place to start. Rosemary makes a potent protector either burned as an incense or used to smudge. Focus on inner peace and mindfulness for the days to come. Pay attention to what is taking place in the World and the impact of decisions our politicians are making. Listen beyond the words being said for the Truth of what is coming. And remember-our personal power, our magick, our Craft- will sustain us through this time.






Saturday, December 17, 2016

Child of Wonder

This time of year the early setting of the sun brings darkness at a time when we're just getting comfortable for the day. It's a time for candles, a hot cup of something, and maybe a good book. I use this time of year to study, to re-evaluate and discern my spiritual path in the hope of forwarding my journey authentically, with sincere gratitude.

Since I am a 'night person', the darkness is comforting. It is also the time that I'm my most productive and can take advantage of being uninterrupted by the busyness of others during daylight. I connect well with Midwinter.

By my own admission, I am a festival junkie. I love all the holidays throughout the year (although I have my favorites). I enjoy decorating because I love the special feeling in the air. Most of all, I love the celebrations that express our humanness and interconnection with each other and the world around us. For me, there is an archetypal energy that comes to the forefront, particularly in the festivals of the latter half of the calendar year. They feel like a doorway to other dimensions that we only feel at a distance at other times. There is a deep soul-level alignment from Samhain to Yule that awakens within us which I believe correlates with the myth of the Divine Child.

The birth of that Divine Child of Many Names holds eternal hope in our hearts: we continue in the mundane physical world as the earth receives returning light and warmth with every new day and nature around us slowly awaken from a cold sleep. Spiritually, we see the sacredness of life renewed in the birth of a child of potential which represents our future. We go innocently into the newness of Life mindfully, with the feeling of being surrounded by something undeniably holy. Perhaps for just a time, our communities are united and optimistic. Whatever we call our holidays and festivals, the energy is joyously the same and we are caught up in the wonder and love of it all.

Each year at this time the story of the birth of a vulnerable infant who survives despite being born in an unwelcoming environment with the odds against him echoes throughout many cultures and religious traditions. The motif of the Divine Child is a global one.

The noted psychologist Carl Jung created a list of archetypes which includes "the Child" and had some rather profound things to say about it. Jung's Child appears in our consciousness when we are at our most vulnerable. At a time when we are too emotionally weak and feel powerless, when there is seemingly no way to survive against personal challenge, the birth of potential and possibility takes place within our psyche. It survives and grows in that moment of deep despair when we are overwhelmed and ready to give up. If we are open and receptive to nurturing this newness, it becomes our reality, and that reality becomes a driving force to survive. Jung, who was well acquainted with the metaphysical, understood how to create thoughtforms.

Within everyone of us lies a spark of the Divine represented by this Child of Wonder. The birth of every child is holy. The knowledge of the ages are reflected back to us in the eyes of children, something we have lost as we become older and jaded by society and culture. We come into this world from Spirit bathed in light but soon forget who we are and where we came from. This is what I love about my Pagan spirituality-we have so many ways to remember we too are filled with the essence of divinity. We are god/dess in our own right, created in the image of the Universal Source.











Saturday, December 3, 2016

Why Mary Matters

We are all familiar with the Biblical story of Mary and her husband Joseph, and the particulars of the birth of Jesus. It is a tale that's been told over and over ( more or less) in the same way for thousands of years by millions of people: how the couple made their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem to pay taxes and found themselves without a place to stay upon arrival; how a benevolent inn keeper allowed them to stay where the animals were kept; how Mary gave birth to a child supposedly conceived by the Holy Spirit-the Son of God-destined to become the Savior of a world fallen to sin. And so on and so forth.

Not meaning any disrespect, but if you found yourself yawning just now...well...let's just say you're not alone. We've heard the story so often for so long that it's become rather pedestrian and routine. Time for a cup of coffee and a cookie to keep the eyes from glazing over.

For all the holy hoopla surrounding Christmas, every account of Jesus' birth is astounding in it's lack of details. It takes several sketchy predictions from the Old Testament and all four of the New Testament Gospel writers to corroborate the linage and meaning of His birth. There is even less factual information about Mary: other than being the daughter of the elderly Joachim and Anne, being betrothed to the carpenter Joseph, the Nativity narrative, a fleeting mention of being a guest at the wedding where Jesus turned water into wine and the Crucifixion, there is scant else said about her in the Bible. This is pretty skimpy, considering the  extensive body of Mariology and Marian devotion in Christian and Eastern Orthodox churches worldwide. While the Christian core of Marian devotion in the West is centered in the Roman Catholic Church and has found its way into dogmatic teaching, the Eastern Church bases its devotion in liturgical rites. Meanwhile the majority of Protestant Christians believe Mary's divine mission was over when she gave birth to the Divine Child. She was,  in effect, historically cast aside and devalued as all women have literally and figuratively been after providing a male heir to continue a linage.

In fact, there is more written about Mary in the Quran, where she is mentioned throughout from beginning to end. She is the only woman specifically mentioned by name in Muslim scripture, where she is considered one of the most righteous persons in the Islamic religion. These texts not only speak to her divinity, but to the sanctity of her humanness. The nineteenth chapter of the Quran (Maryam) is named for her and talks extensively about her life. Her importance in Islamic culture and spiritual tradition is evidenced by the inscription of verses from the Quran relating to her on the walls of prayer rooms in mosques. According to Muslim sacred text, after her birth, Mary was dedicated to service in the Temple under the guidance of the prophet Zechariah, who was her uncle. She had her own special place in the temple for prayer, and was set apart as virtuous prior to the birth of Jesus.  (An interesting aside: the alternate meaning for the word virgin is a woman who devotes herself wholly to divine practice and is unimpeded by the preoccupation of husband, family and home life.  As a single woman she was owned by no man and was not any man's property. She was "of her own" by choice although fully capable of assuming the role of wife and mother if she desired.)

Through an otherworldly gentleness and spiritual nature, virtue, and personal resolve, Mary is the archetype of the All-Mother and is The Creator Mother personified. She is known by an endless variety of names- "Virgin Mother of God","Queen of Heaven","Holy Rose"," Immaculate","Rose of Sharon"- the list is exhaustive. She shares characteristics with nearly every mother goddess throughout history and transcends specific cultures as creatrix and nurturer. (Compare the births of Mithra, Osiris, Krishna, Horus and even the Buddha.) As such, she is the rightful "Queen of Heaven" in a more modern mythos.

I believe there is an ancient memory of the Great Mother in our collective psyche which accounts for  apparitions of Mary world wide. For every individual sighting approved as legitimate by the Church, there hundreds and perhaps thousands that are rejected or go unreported. Although there are some appearances of her that are seemingly incredulous, who's to really say what is and is not real? Entity manifestations often begin in the subconscious as thought forms. It's been psychologically proven  that someone desiring union with a divine entity can invoke the desired result (even if that manifestation is due to hysterical psychosis). To this reasoning, any appearance is valid. Belief in a religious context does not always require evidence other than individual experience; faith is the trust in that experience. In my humble opinion, it's motivation and intention that matters most. I think the Feminine Divine is alive in this world, and it doesn't matter what name we call her. It's how I, as a Pagan, can stand behind the Christmas narrative and the importance of Mary- by putting it in perspective along side the many other Great Mother/Divine Child myths in history. It isn't a form of appropriation from one culture to another as much as a need for the story to continue for all of us no matter who we are.

I rather like the image of Mary as Rosa Mystica, as found in the writings of Saint Brigid, in which Mary herself tells the saint ( I'm paraphrasing here for clarity): "... The rose gives a fragrant odor; it is beautiful to the sight and tender to the touch, and yet it grows among thorns, unaware of its beauty and tenderness. So may those who are mild-tempered, patient, and beautiful in virtue be put to the test in the world. As the thorn guards the beauty of the rose, so does adversity keep us from wrong- doing by the example of its destructive nature." It fits with my definition of the Feminine Divine which equally shares strength and power.

In Pagan theology, we are all God/dess, co-creators who share in the Divine Mysteries of Birth, Living and Dying and everything that lays between them with the gods. As a woman and priestess, I can connect deeply to this, more deeply than when I was a part of a faith tradition founded by men where I was stripped of my inherent worth and dignity and considered second best as a human being. I say these words without anger, because I also believe that to get to the place of spiritual confidence I have today, I had to have gone through that experience. I believe it's true that everything is a lesson. You have to start and leave somewhere in order to make a journey. It is a journey I make guided by the Mystical Rose along a path of my choosing. Here we are joined, and I, too, am Mary. I carry within me the Divine Child of possibility and wonder which is in constant renewal. And I'll tell you a secret: I'm not always enraptured by knowing this, especially when I realize the responsibility it carries. Being a priestess of the Mystery of the Holy Rose has both its exultant glory and its unfathomable burdens. And while I'm being candid, both scare the hell out of me for a lot of reasons.

So in this period of personal discernment in the weeks of waiting before Winter Solstice and Yule, I'm going to work on being a little less scared and less doubtful of my abilities. I'm going to try to be less pessimistic about my fellow human beings, a little more hopeful about the world, and more grateful about all of it. I'm going to remember I have the Divine spark in me, too, and see magick and wonder at every turn. And maybe, just maybe, the Mystery of the Holy Rose will bloom in me.