Three Gifts of Imbolc

The eve of Imbolc began with an overwhelming need to de-clutter my desk—the surface and every item in every drawer was screaming for attention. I spend quite a lot of time at my desk magical, creative space, so it has a tendency to amass several projects at once. But the message I was getting loud and clear from Brigid (fiery Celtic goddess and patroness of poets) was to FOCUS and clear the energy where I create. I took Brigid’s advice and went through everything with the hairsplitting discernment of a neat-freaky Virgo. At the end of it all, there were unexpected treasures.

The first was a birthday card my mom had given me on my 21st birthday with a handwritten note expressing her sage and loving wisdom:

If I have been blessed to have even a small part in helping you to become the fine lady you are today, then my purpose for being a mother has been realized. Though you are a woman now, I hope I can still be of help to you. I always knew I could count on my mom. Though she wasn’t perfect, she always loved me and seemed to know what to do when life was too big for me. I hope I can be like that for you…May you attain all that you’ve worked for. Learn good lessons from life. Don’t let them make you hard; let them make you sure. Sure of who you are, what you want, and where you’re going. Love with all my heart, Mom

Those words serve me even better at 41 now that mom is on the other side. I’m sure I will read them many times as the years pass.

The second gift of Imbolc was a binder full of college essays and poems that reminded me of why I majored in English Lit and how much it shaped me as a writer and as a person. I questioned why I’ve toted them around for 20 years and seriously considered tossing them in File 13…but I didn’t. It’s a body of work that represents who I was at that time in my life and what mattered most to me. I tucked them safely away for another review, perhaps in my next decade, or whenever I have a massive attack of self-doubt.

The third and final gift was a gorgeous, spring-like day that shattered the winter doldrums and pulled me out into the woods. Along with my husband and faithful canine, I explored a trail that runs alongside the ruins of an antebellum canal. We were the trail’s only visitors. The air was incredibly still for swampland—no humming, buzzing, or squawking. Nothing was blooming just yet, but there was that distinct feeling one gets at Imbolc…of life on the verge of pushing its way through the topsoil.

I pressed my hand against a lovely cypress, one of my favorites as both treehugger and aromatherapist. Cypress has the ability to draw off excess fluid, making it ideal for cases of edema and inflammation caused by acute injury. I believe it works in a similar fashion on the emotional level as well. A cypress doesn’t shy away from pain and heartache. Lean against one, and it whispers, “Lay it on me, sister. I can handle whatever you can dish. My roots are much older and deeper than your sorrows.” So this, too, was part of the last blessing that Brigid had bestowed—a chance to be amongst the kindest of trees and feel the earth on the cusp of awakening.

I’ve had years when I wasn’t quite sure what to do with Imbolc, particularly when I wasn’t partaking in a group ritual. I didn’t plan anything specific this year, either, other than simply being open to Brigid’s presence and whatever I was instinctually drawn toward. By clearing away what was no longer needed, I received clarity and support from the uncovered gems of my past. By exploring a new trail, I reconnected with the gentle tree and water spirits of this land. They led me back into the rhythm of the ever-turning Wheel, readying myself to welcome the energy and quickening of Spring. For these simple gifts and all blessings, I am most grateful.

Blessed Be

© 2016 Jennifer R. Miller

Being a Succulent Woman

succulent_[suhk-yuh-luh nt]

The word succulent always makes me think of a perfectly ripe peach—the kind you can bite into and feel the juice dribble down your chin. Maybe that’s appropriate for a writer who has lived her whole life in the Peach State, even though South Carolina grows a lot more of them than we do here in Georgia.

Despite my roots, I’ll admit that I tend to recoil at the Georgia Peach stereotype—tan, blonde, cut-off jeans, cowboy boots, deep southern drawl, and even deeper cleavage. There’s nothing wrong with that image per se, but it’s one extremely narrow view of Southern women. We don’t all fit into that mold, I assure you, no matter how many country songs say otherwise.

Maybe I could identify as a Peach if it meant something more…perhaps a woman who is vibrantly alive and sensual, radiating her Divine Feminine essence, living her truth, sharing her gifts with the world, and making an impact. That’s what I think of as true succulence, and it’s the only peachiness I’ll claim as my own.

Many moons ago, a friend gave me a copy of Succulent Wild Woman by Sark, and that blessed little book cracked open a new door. I had just emerged from a long-term relationship, and I felt the exact opposite of succulent…more like the vast, parched terrain of the Mojave. My friend was a writer as well, and she knew I needed something to pull me out of my pity party if I was ever going to create again. Somewhere between the pages of Sark’s rainbow-hued illustrations and her gentle encouragement, I found the me that had gotten very lost in the we. I also learned that fruit isn’t the only thing on earth that can be described as juicy.

Being a succulent woman (full of juice and rich in desirable qualities) requires some fortitude, though. Saida Désilets describes the challenge perfectly in her book, Emergence of the Sensual Woman:

The world we currently live in greets the feminine essence with bitterness, hostility and violence. It is scary to be juicy. To become our sensual selves and embrace our fullness as women, we must realize that who we are will create reverberations in this dry world. How can we not? When rains fall on a barren dessert, the excitement of freshness and new life stirs the dust from the ground and creates a commotion. (5)

People will react in different ways to succulence, and not all of them will be friendly and supportive. Just remember that whatever they are projecting is a reflection of their internal state, and it has nothing to do with you personally.

Reactions from women may include:

  • You’re one of my tribe. Welcome to the fold!
  • I want to be just like you, so I’m going to imitate everything from your hairdo to your pedicure.
  • I perceive you as a threat, so I’m going to slander you with gossip and attempt to break your indomitable spirit.
  • I like you, but I’m insanely jealous; therefore, I’ll be your frenemy.

Reactions from men may include:

  • You are a queen and shall be treated as such.
  • I’m really attracted to you, but you threaten my fragile ego.
  • I don’t know how to handle your energy, so I’ll try to suppress and control you.
  • Let’s get drunk and screw. Now, preferably.

It might seem like there aren’t many perks to being succulent, since the negative reactions appear to outweigh the positive. One really, really big perk is that the positive reactions are genuine because you’re being authentic. You’re not hiding or people-pleasing or trying to wear shoes that don’t fit. Other succulent women won’t be threatened by you—they’ll understand you in a way that is completely validating and uplifting. They’ll become your soul sisters. Men who love succulent women aren’t easily threatened, either. They are the warrior kings of this world, and they know exactly how to handle all of your wild, queenly juiciness. In fact, they won’t even notice you unless you’re rocking your badass succulent self in the first place.

So, how do you go from dried prune to juicy plum? I think every woman’s journey on that road is unique, but I know it begins with a choice. You can decide to be succulent. You can make that affirmation every single day until something shifts, and your life becomes a reflection of who you really are on the inside. Age means nothing, as I’ve met crones who are incredibly juicy and young women who are utterly desiccated. We are exactly what we choose to be in each moment of our lives, so let’s make them count. Be succulent. Be juicy. Be alive. The world is waiting.

Blessed Be

Works Cited:

Désilets, Saida. Emergence of the Sensual Woman: Awakening Our Erotic Innocence. Kihei, HI: Jade Goddess Publishing, 2006. Print.

Resources for Living a Succulent Life:

© 2015 Jennifer R. Miller

Now You Know

I’ve spent the past several weeks thinking about all the women in my circle who are in the midst of deep healing work, women who are called to be the priestesses of a new age. This poem is for you, all of you, who are feeling this energy right now and answering that call to service. Every step you take on the path to integration and wholeness is a step forward for humanity. Don’t give up. Much love and support to you all, as we move closer to the illumination of Solstice. Blessed Be

No one told you of Her sacredness,
of Her exquisite beauty,
of the primordial power She embodies,
did they?

So much strength
couched within layers of softness—
and yet, that wild, feral, earthiness
was never celebrated,
never honored by anyone—
not by mothers or fathers,
not by lovers or friends,
not by tribe or nation.

How could you have known?
How could you have recognized
the Goddess
in something so reviled,
so mocked,
so abused,
so denigrated?

How could you have felt Her stirring
within the wells and caverns of your soul?

How could you have heard
those subtle whispers,
urging you to WAKE UP,
to know yourself,
to claim that most holy birthright
as Her priestess?

Listen now, Wild Woman,
daughter of the crescent moon,
dancer among the radiant stars,
because the world needs you.

Yes, you.

It needs your light and your wisdom,
your healing hands and your open heart.
It needs your truth and your mercy,
your dignity and your grace.

Heal those torn, bleeding places inside of you;
then help your sisters do the same.
Let the tiniest spark within you
become a blazing torch
that lights the way for peace.

You can do this.
You were born to do this.

And now you know.

© 2015 Jennifer R. Miller

The Magic of Bayberry

Myrica cerifera
Myrica cerifera

One of the many joys of canine companionship is getting out of the house together and walking in wild places. Baxter gets rather bored with sidewalks and mailboxes, as do I, so I’m always looking for areas that have been untouched by subdivisions and big box stores. I like to give his nose something worth investigating and my eyes something worth seeing. It’s not an easy task in suburbia. One of the nearby parks doesn’t allow dogs on their walking path. Many of the beaches either prohibit dogs altogether, or they only allow them on-leash during the off-season. We’ve had to get creative, but one area we both like is a pine thicket across the street from our neighborhood.

It is not so much the pines that I love, although they do provide a peculiar kind of stillness, abundant shade, and a dense carpet of brown needles. The tree (or shrub) that borders the area, specifically Myrica cerifera, is much more intriguing for practical, medicinal, and magical uses. Its common names are the Southern Wax Myrtle, Southern Bayberry, Candleberry, and Tallow Shrub. Although they are everywhere along the southern Atlantic coastline, I didn’t grow up with them; so, I’ve enjoyed making their humble acquaintance.

At this time of year in mid-November, their branches are loaded with tiny, bluish-colored bayberries. I can’t resist running my hands over them, plucking a few, and inhaling the scent. They have a fresh, uplifting, evergreen aroma that is good for both the sinuses and the soul.

Colonial settlers found a practical use for them, as their waxy coating makes a smokeless and wonderfully aromatic candle. It’s a rather time-consuming process, unfortunately, since it takes about four pounds of bayberries to produce just one pound of wax. When you consider that a bayberry is only an eighth of an inch in diameter, the desire for candles had to be quite strong indeed.

The process went something like this: 1) Heat your painstakingly-harvested bayberries in water over an open fire to the scalding point. 2) Skim off the wax that rises to the surface. 3) Re-boil the skimmed wax to get rid of impurities. 4) Gather your candlewicks that you made from threads of flax, hemp, or whatever you could recycle. 5) Dip the wicks in the pure melted wax until the candles are the desired size. 6) Do that over and over again until you have enough candles for your household to get through the long winter nights. Are we having fun yet?

From a medicinal standpoint, bayberries have an astringent quality, meaning that they tighten tissues. I found several references that pointed to bayberry tea or powder as being helpful for spongy, bleeding gums. (I’m guessing the scurvy-plagued settlers really appreciated any remedy for that particular problem). Bayberry has also been used for uterine hemorrhaging and as a general tonic for the female reproductive organs. (Please note that these are just historical uses. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV).

From a magical standpoint, bayberry corresponds to the element of earth and the planet Jupiter. That makes it ideal for money-drawing spells, good luck, harmony, and general well-being. The tradition of burning bayberry candles on New Year’s Eve to bring luck the following year reflects both the connection to Jupiter and the fact that the candles were treasured items to the colonists. Burning one all the way down was a kind of sacrifice.

Just being around the Southern Bayberry gives one a feeling of being supported and encouraged, or at least that is the energy I feel from them when Bax and I take our walks. I have rubbed the leaves for luck and written wishes on them. I have also carried the berries in my medicine pouch, placed them on my altar, used them in incense blends, and I’ve simply meditated with them.

Many times, the “medicine” I’ve needed most in my life has been readily available all around me in these rare pockets of undisturbed wilderness. When I stop to look, feel, listen, and really see with my heart, the trees and plants reveal themselves to me as valuable friends and allies on this journey through life.

Blessed Be

Sources:

© 2015 Jennifer R. Miller

 

 

“What Are You Going to Be for Halloween?”

behind_the_mask_iii_by_dinemiz

Once, in a lucid and ironic season,
I looked behind the mask the living wear,
Hardly expecting either fiend or angel
Under the tarnished brightness of that stare.
-John A. Holmes (from “The Mask the Living Wear”)

I’ve often felt that the costumes people wear on Halloween show more about their true character than the “masks” they wear everyday. I once worked for a company that allowed all employees to dress up for Halloween, and they even brought in judges for a costume contest. It was fascinating to see all of the symbols and archetypes everyone portrayed through their choice of attire. Some of the highest corporate ladder climbers often ended up sporting the most original designs. It was like they had one day out of the whole year to let their inner eight year-old come out and play, and they weren’t about to miss the opportunity.

Personally, I have been a belly dancer, Tinkerbell, Wednesday from the Addams Family, a lioness, a witch, a dark fairy, and the incomparable Stevie Nicks, just to name a few of my Halloween get-ups. That probably tells you more than you wanted to know about me, and it tells me plenty about what was going on in my life during those years.

So, why do we get all decked out and made up for Halloween anyway? There’s a hefty volume of folklore on the subject and a lot of conjecture as well. The concept of wearing masks to fool evil spirits dates back to pre-Christian Europe, but we can’t draw a clean, straight line from the Celts and the celebration of Samhain to the way trick-or-treating and costumes evolved in America. Millions of Scots-Irish immigrated to the U.S. from the mid-1700s to the 1880s, which led to the assumption that they brought the medieval traditions of “guising” or “souling” with them. If that’s the case, then it took quite a long time for those customs to morph into trick-or-treating, which didn’t become popular or widespread in America until the late 1920s. Keep in mind that interest in the occult and various theosophical societies virtually exploded at the same time. Clearly, the Roaring Twenties was a kick-ass time to be alive, especially if you happened to be a witch.

Regardless of exactly how it came to be, the tradition of wearing costumes on Halloween is here now and bigger than ever. More importantly, it opens a door into the psyche that generally stays shut for the remaining 364 days of the year. We live in a world of duality. If we suppress the dark, it tends to surface in unhealthy ways. If we bring it out into the open, it loses power over us. Flaunting our Jasons, our Freddy Kruegers, and our Alien Queens allows us to flip the bird at our deep-seated fears about death and the dark side. It’s why these gruesome characters exist on the big screen in the first place. Even if we find them repulsive and frightening, we actually need them. They represent the darkest of the dark, which provides contrast for us to see the lightest of the light.

It’s a dynamic we’ve enjoyed playing with for millennia. The ancient theologians of Greece and Rome wore masks to portray specific characters, and the Latin word for mask is where we get the word persona. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are always wearing a social mask that changes constantly. “In Jungian psychology, …the persona is closely connected to the ego because the role that we play in any social situation tends to structure our conscious identity within that setting.”[1] We are one way with our friends, another with family, and yet another at work. The differences may be subtle, but they are there if we care to look.

Halloween allows us to make a conscious choice about the mask we wear (at least for one night), and I believe the selected costume often embodies the shadow self. It’s not just the zombies and the vampires that carry our darkness for us. Even the glittery princess, the fairy, and the angel can be aspects of the shadow. According to Jung, “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it.”[2]

I offer up the theory that All Hallows’ Eve presents an opportunity for course correction, so to speak. We can invite the shadow out to dance with it and explore its depths by literally wearing it on the outside. We can be whoever or whatever we want, and no one will judge us except perhaps for our artistry and inventiveness in costume design.

I was watching a video by Matt Kahn recently in which he puts forth the most essential spiritual question: “Who do you become when you don’t get your way?” The answer to that question is your shadow, my friends. Maybe that answer can guide your next Halloween costume idea. What comes forth when life doesn’t go as planned? Who is that person behind the social mask? Maybe you become the ghost, the sorceress, the slasher, or the demon. Maybe you become the sexy nurse or the superhero. Whatever your shadow is, own it, get to know it better, and appreciate whatever it teaches you on October 31st while the veil between worlds is thin.

Have a Blessed Samhain

 

[1] http://jungstop.com/jungian-psychology-series-the-persona/

[2]“Psychology and Religion” (1938). In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.131

© 2015 Jennifer R. Miller

Women’s Circles and the Quest for Community

Everywhere I go, I find myself in gatherings of women. Most are spiritual seekers, deeply engaged in the process of healing old wounds and awakening to their divine purpose. Sometimes I’ve been in tribes that formed naturally and easily, as though we already knew each other, and we were just picking up right where we left off. Other times, I’ve had to be more like a lighthouse, beaming out into a misty void, not really knowing who would show up and drop anchor. This past year has been a lighthouse kind of year. Both circumstances—having a closely knit tribe and then searching for one in a new place—has taught me a lot about what women look for in a sacred circle.

There is such a longing for women’s rituals and ceremonies that it’s almost palpable, especially here in the southeast. Can you feel it, too? It’s like the stirrings of a seed underground that has finally been watered enough to burst forth from its protective layer. I have read this quote by Starhawk many times over the years, and each time, I am filled with inspiration for what could be…and a twinge of sorrow for what women have lost:

We are all longing to go home to some place we have never been — a place half-remembered and half-envisioned we can only catch glimpses of from time to time. Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free.

Several books have been devoted to the subject of creating exactly the kind of community Starhawk envisioned. I own a few of them myself. They offer sound, practical advice that looks so delightfully inspiring on paper. All of them will make you want to erect a giant Red Tent in your back yard or buy 20 acres just to create your own version of Stonehenge. The reality is that most gatherings happen in living rooms or around a kitchen table or on someone’s patio or maybe in a community center. It doesn’t really matter—any space can be sacred, depending on the energy and presence of mind and heart that you bring to it—and that feeling of sanctuary and trust in each other is what women are seeking and not finding so easily.

But why?

You’d think that developing a strong sisterhood would be easy. Women are naturally communal and cooperative, right? Sure we are, but we’ve also learned how to be competitive with each other, how to hide our authentic selves, how to be controlling, and how to sabotage our own personal growth. All of that comes into the circle, too, more often than not—and the circle sometimes fragments as a result. So, then the question becomes whether we can unlearn those patriarchal influences while still holding space for each other to move past those barriers.

I’ll just say it right now—it’s easier to give up, go your own way, and practice your own solitary rituals. But then you also miss out on the power of women whose energies are united and fueled by the mystical radiance of the moon, the strong pull of the tides, the healing power of the sun, the richness of the earth, and the lineage of our matriarchal ancestors going back thousands of years. It’s strong medicine and much needed in this world. I believe it’s worth getting out of our own way and working together for the common good. Maintaining both a personal and communal practice helps both the individual woman and her tribe, creating a ripple effect that ultimately benefits the whole planet.

As Sandra Ingerman notes in Awakening to the Spirit World, “Ceremonies and rituals are performed to honor the spirits, to celebrate life and changes in Nature, to acknowledge rites of passage, to give thanks, and to create change. Performing a ceremony or ritual creates transformation.”

Indeed it does. When a ritual encompasses an entire group, transformation happens on a much larger scale. How it affects individuals will vary, depending on their openness and receptivity, but the point is that everyone experiences some degree of change on both a personal and transpersonal level. The energy that is raised collectively is always stronger; therefore, the responsibility for working with that energy both during and after a group ritual is even greater.

With that in mind, I believe there are four key elements that can help establish and maintain a women’s circle when the focus is ritual and self-improvement:

  • Purpose: Never lose sight of why the group formed in the first place. What do you hope to accomplish together? If the purpose doesn’t remain at the forefront, then the circle can quickly dissolve into nothing more than a social hour or a venting session.
  • Sacred Space: Creating a space that feels safe is absolutely essential. It requires more than just wafting around some white sage, ringing a bell, or chanting a mantra. All of those things are lovely, but they are useless if those inside the circle don’t feel free to speak openly and straight from the heart without being judged. Many of us carry scars. Many of us are fighting hard battles right now. Sharing our stories makes us both vulnerable and courageous at the same time, and it’s vital that we honor that by refraining from gossip or anything that would compromise the integrity of the circle.
  • Leadership: Good leaders set the direction of the group and keep the support of the whole in mind while doing so. Leadership can remain with one person, or it can rotate so that all experience having that responsibility for a time. Anyone leading a women’s circle should understand that it’s much more about service and much less about power and ego. An article from Forbes on The Most Undervalued Leadership Traits in Women highlights the following: “Looking for respect more than recognition, the most successful women leaders don’t seek to become the star of the show — but they enable others to create a great show.  In other words, being in the spotlight is not what drives them – but rather it’s the ability to influence positive outcomes with maximum impact.” I believe this holds true, whether you are running a business or serving as a High Priestess.
  • Flexibility: Circles tend to change and evolve. People come and go for different reasons. Some move away. Some decide they need to follow a different path. Some attend for a while, disappear to do their own solitary work, and then return later. It’s all perfectly fine. As long as the core purpose of the group stays in tact through the guidance of inspired, heart-centered leaders, the circle can still flourish even as it changes. Strength and flexibility don’t cancel each other out—they support each other, as any athlete knows very well.

The dawn of the Aquarian Age marked the beginning of many positive shifts for women. We are still waking up to our inner Shakti. We are tapping into the Divine Feminine in new ways, as we seek greater equality and balance in the world within and around us. We have spent a lot of time and energy examining how we relate to men in the quest for greater understanding and equality. Maybe it’s time women looked just as deeply into how we relate to each other and how we can best move forward in our sacred circles, our sisterhoods, our communities, and our world.

Blessed Be.

© 2015 Jennifer R. Miller

Works Cited:

A Pagan View of Death and Dying

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I was raised in rural Appalachia where Georgia meets Tennessee, so let’s just say that I’ve endured a goodly number of Southern Baptist funerals. I’ve heard my share of sermons on how the deceased had been redeemed by the blood of Jesus and would therefore be assured of eternal peace in heaven. These are my family’s beliefs, so when one of them passes to the other side, I have no choice but to honor their wishes. After the flowers, hymns, Bible verses, stories, and personal anecdotes, the body is lowered into the ground. According to the officiating minister, the soul ascends to the Baptist version of heaven, leaving behind photographs and keepsakes and a lifetime of memories for those of us who are still topside of the dirt.

I wasn’t with my maternal grandmother when she passed, but I had a dream a few weeks later in which it felt like we were in a busy airport. Lots of people were passing through, but she found me in the crowd and held me tightly. It was her way of giving me the closure I had not received at her funeral. I spoke of the dream to my mother, who dismissed it completely, saying that it wasn’t really my grandmother at all. “You just miss her, so you had a dream about her. That’s all it was. It doesn’t mean anything,” she told me.

It meant everything, though, and I have maintained a connection with my grandmother ever since. She was, after all, the first to introduce me to the concept of astrology and how to plant a garden by the signs and phases of the moon. I would not be the witch I am today without her early influence and her guidance even after she left this plane of existence back in 1996. Sadly, my mother did not share her views and ruled such practices as mere superstition and foolishness.

So that is how it goes sometimes for pagans with family members who don’t share our views on death and the afterlife. We are often advised to accept the notion that the connection between the living and the dead is severed like a limb from a tree. We are supposed to be happy for the soul that has broken free from the chains of this “wretched” body. We are bombarded with casseroles from well-meaning church ladies. We are counseled to simply move on with life. We are expected to get on with our grief and resume our daily routines for everyone who needs us to be “normal” again.

The truth is that grief takes as long as it takes—and it can’t be remedied with pills or booze or anything other than time.

As a pagan, I have come to view death as both the end and the beginning of a cycle. We let go of the life we led, with all of its challenges and triumphs, all the lessons learned and the pain endured, and our consciousness returns to the source from which it came. After a resting period, perhaps we come back to give it another try, to execute another life plan to continue on with our soul’s evolution. Birth and death are one and the same to me. From the minute we exit the womb and sound our first importunate cry to the world, we are dying. Every single minute we are living, we are simultaneously dying.

Seeing it all as an infinite loop has made me much more comfortable with death, like an old friend I would invite over for tea. We can sit across from each other in an easy silence, sipping our Earl Gray, each in full awareness of the other’s function. I know I will have a final date with death someday, and that’s perfectly okay. I know I won’t get to choose when that date happens, and that’s just fine, too. I’d rather not know. I can only strive for a life well lived until then.

I have several friends who are nurses, and all of them have said that death can truly be kind, especially when the body is wracked with pain and there is no hope of recovery. They have all emphasized the importance of dying with dignity, of giving death as much reverence and honor as birth.

I’ve witnessed this firsthand, as my mother is now in the last stages of a rare illness called Multiple Symptom Atrophy. She can no longer walk or move anything other than her head at this point. Her speech is all but gone as well, and it is only a matter of time before the rest of her physical body shuts down completely. I’ve had a long time to prepare for her death, mentally and emotionally. I’ve had to think about how I will honor her life in my own way, knowing that her funeral will certainly be in accordance with her Baptist beliefs. I know that any ritual I do to honor her will have to be carried out privately, after all the formalities are said and done.

Although she may have never honored the Goddess within herself, I do, as I do in all women. So when the time comes, I will carry a remembrance of hers to the sea. I will release it as the tide goes out, celebrating her life with this final blessing:

I bless your womb that carried me,
and the scar on your belly
that marked my entrance
into this wide, magical world.

I bless your arms that held me
the chair that rocked me
the hands that soothed me
the stories you read to me.

I bless all the fond memories
of planting vegetable gardens
and canning strawberry preserves
and baking apple turnovers in the fall.

I bless that beaten up 8-track tape
of John Denver singing “Country Roads”
because we played it on every road trip
and it still reminds me of you.

I bless all that you taught me
and how you released me
so I would learn and grow
even when it broke your heart.

I bless your bright spirit
now free and boundless
as the wide expanse of the sky
and the gentle caress of the wind.

May you rest and be comforted.
May you know that you raised me well.
May all mysteries be revealed to you, and
may you always feel my love.

So Mote It Be