Imbolc Meditation: A Journey to Brigid’s Forge

Brigid

Imbolc has several themes worth contemplating…the first stirrings of life under the sleeping earth, the Goddess as she changes from Crone to Maiden, cleansing and purification, the growing power of the Sun, the lengthening days, the germination of seeds both literal and metaphorical…all of these add to the magic of this cross-quarter sabbat. We honor Brigid at Imbolc, the Celtic goddess of healing, smithcraft, poetry, and midwifery. This year, I was drawn to the flames of Her forge as a catalyst for change and transformation, so I wrote a meditation to share with you. Enjoy and Blessed Be.  

 

Begin by taking a deep breath…inhaling slowly for a count of five and exhaling…making the in breath match the out breath…and one more time…inhaling slowly and exhaling…breathing in perfect rhythm. With each breath that comes in and goes out, you feel your body begin to let go and relax. You feel the tension washing away from your forehead, your eyes and your jaws, as though someone were pouring a warm, cleansing libation over you. The tightness in your shoulders falls away, and this wonderful healing waterfall works its way down through your arms, your chest, your belly, your sacral chakra and on down into your hips and your lower back, your sit bones, feeling all tightness and tension drain away…down through your legs and feet…down through your toes…into the rich, black soil of Mother Earth.

Feeling calm and free, you find yourself walking on a path through a lush pine forest. You breathe in the invigorating scent of the evergreens on this late winter’s day. The sky is clear and blue as a robin’s egg, and the sunlight filters down through the trees, warming your shoulders and lifting your spirits. The birds are chirping happily overhead, and you hear the faint rustlings of squirrels and other little forest creatures as you pass by. Being in this natural place puts you at ease, and you feel perfectly safe as you walk along the trail. You know that you are part of this woodland, and it is also part of you. The path widens up ahead and you can see that it opens up into a grassy, rolling meadow. A thin trail of smoke is rising from just over the next hill, and you begin to walk in that direction. As you crest the hilltop, you see that the smoke is coming from a blacksmith’s forge.

Something about the place calls to you, as if you had been there before in some other time, so you make your way down the grassy hill. As you get closer to the forge, you can feel the heat from the glowing embers of the hearth. You look around and see all of the blacksmith’s tools—the anvil, the bellows, and various sets of tongs and hammers. You sense that someone is near, and then you see her: she seems to glow and shine from within, a soft white light illuminates her face, and her long red hair cascades down in waves over her emerald green dress. You know her at once. She is Brigid, the ancient Celtic goddess of the forge, and she welcomes you.

She hands you a scrap piece of metal and asks you to think about what it could become as you place it in the red-hot coals of the hearth. What will you create with your own unique gifts and talents? Can you take something rough and plain and make something of beauty? Can you make something useful and practical? How will the fire from Brigid’s forge shape and mold your dreams? How will the fire transform you?

Brigid takes the metal from the hearth and begins to shape it. Sparks fly as she wields her hammer, and when she is finished, you see that she has created a symbol just for you to remind you of your divine purpose. When the metal has cooled, she places the symbol in your hands and tells you that it will give you strength and courage to pursue your destiny. You give thanks to the goddess as you leave the forge and make your way back up the grassy hill and into the forest. The sun is lower in the sky now, and his healing rays are glowing in brilliant shades of orange, just like the fire in Brigid’s forge. You walk out of the forest and back into your own sacred space, feeling grounded in your body again as the energy returns to your arms, your legs, your hands, and your feet. Take a few deep breaths…and then open your eyes, feeling grateful for the symbol you have received and the lighter days ahead as winter begins to recede. So Mote It Be.

© 2015 Jennifer R. Miller

Quarterly Themes for 2015

It’s that glorious time when everyone starts making predictions for the upcoming year, and I am no exception. I used to do a 12-card Tarot spread for the New Year to gain insight into each month’s blessings and challenges. Frankly, that seemed a little too overwhelming this time around. The Year of the Horse just galloped right over me, leaving some hoof prints in my back side that still hurt. So, rather than looking at each month, I decided to look at each quarter for the overarching themes we’ll see in 2015. I worked with the lovely and enchanting Gaia Oracle by Toni Carmine Salerno.

First Quarter (January – March)

HealingWe begin the year with some much needed HEALING after all the turmoil we endured last year. This card is all about working on physical and emotional pain through the art of surrender. We will be retreating to the inner sanctuary of the heart and reconnecting with who we truly are and what we’re here to do. It’s an ideal time to seek help from energy workers to get ourselves in balance and back on the path of our soul’s highest calling. Daily mediation, exercise, and clean eating are typical New Year’s resolutions, so this card is a gentle reminder to keep honoring mind, body and spirit all year long.

Second Quarter (April – June) 

102_1926We move into the second quarter with a continuation and completion of the healing process through PURIFICATION. The card shows a woman wading into the water, so we can look forward to a deep emotional cleansing. Unresolved feelings may surface, but they are bubbling up so that we can clear these issues for good. Whatever has not been addressed in the first quarter will certainly come up in the second. This card is all about shedding old baggage and truly moving forward with new strength and clarity.

Third Quarter (July – September)

After the profound healing in the first half of the year, we become the JEWEL102_1927 WITHIN A TEARDROP. We feel even more connected to our spiritual families, to our higher power, and to the universe because of our experiences and lessons learned. This card reveals a strengthening of common bonds and true friendships after all we’ve been through together. The hard work we’ve done has paid off, and we now enter a sacred time of deep reverence and gratitude.

Fourth Quarter (October – December)

102_1929The last quarter of the year brings us a much higher perspective. We are RISING ABOVE the past and all of those worn out tapes we’ve been playing for so long. Our spiritual transformation has elevated us to a new level of understanding. All the patterns are crystal clear–we know why we had to go through this or that, we have learned, and now we see it all from the viewpoint of a bird soaring high into the heavens.

Peace & Blessings

Bless This Home

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I’ve been something of a gypsy for most of my life, although not entirely by choice. It seems Fate enjoys bouncing me around, and I just go along for the ride, always believing that the next place will be better somehow. I’m not sure if it’s optimism or a restless spirit that drives me, but I know one thing for sure—I’m damn good at packing and unpacking. I counted up all the times I’ve loaded up my belongings and hit the highway—this latest move makes 13.

The first move happened right before my 16th birthday. My parents had finally decided to call it quits, so my mom and I found ourselves on the hill overlooking our humble abode and saying goodbye to the little white house with brown shutters. As my childhood home, the creek, and my favorite maple tree faded slowly into the distance, somehow I knew that I was headed for a life with many transitions. I would have to get used to shifting sands and shaky foundations.

Sometimes I moved for me—because I wanted to attend college or be closer to my job. Sometimes I moved for others, believing in their promises, wanting the relationship to work, sacrificing too much in the long run, and ultimately moving on to save what was left of me. The last two moves were for love. They took me further away from everything and everyone I knew…and much closer to myself. It is the only time I’ve ever moved toward something real and tangible instead of running like hell to escape the bombs exploding behind me. There is a distinct difference between seeking shelter and seeking sanctuary.

All those years I spent running around like a refugee made the concept of “home” reach mythic proportions. I imagined that someday, somewhere, I was going to really settle down and never move again. I would put books on the shelf, and they would stay there. The rooms would always be familiar. The pots and pans in the kitchen would always be in the same place. I would know every tree, flower, and herb in my garden. I would have bird feeders and a rocking chair on the back porch. I would grow old and die there, and they would bury my ashes beneath a mighty oak.

Well…that magical place hasn’t quite materialized yet. Although I haven’t lost hope that it’s still within reach, I’ve had to accept the fact that I’ll get there in stages, like climbing up a mountain.

At times, I’ve wondered if home is just a fantasy we create to give ourselves the illusion of safety in an uncertain world. Almost everything inside a home can be replaced. The material structure can be rebuilt. People cannot be replaced, though, and memories cannot be rebuilt. We need touchstones to remind us of who we are, where we came from, and what we’re doing here.

As a kid, I was force fed the Christian idea that home is not even in this world at all. The lines from an old hymn came back to me as I was writing this piece:

This world is not my home; I’m just a-passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.

On one level, I get what the songwriter was trying to convey. Getting too attached to the material world is a recipe for heartbreak and misery. I think the Buddhists would wholeheartedly agree. Always longing for the other side is just escapism, though. We have to be here and now while we are on this journey. There is pain, yes, but there is so much joy, too.   

As a Wiccan, I see the Earth as a nourishing Mother, and I feel a strong responsibility to take care of Her. All that lives has a purpose, and even the smallest plants and animals can be powerful teachers and allies. The heart of my faith is finding balance in all things, even when the scene around me keeps changing.

So, when you can’t count on the same four walls, you simply take your magic with you—and then anywhere and everywhere is home. Here are a few rituals and practices I’ve picked up along the way to make whatever space I’m occupying a little more sacred.

  • Smudge every room with white sage, especially around doors and windows. This clears the house of negative energy.
  • After smudging with sage, light up some Palo Santo to bless each room. As you waft the smoke around, chant blessings for health, peace, and prosperity.
  • Use a feng shui magic square to locate the power centers in your house. This can help you decide whether a room would function better as a bedroom or an office, for example. It can also help you decide how to decorate so that energy flows freely and harmoniously.
  • Set up a space that is solely dedicated for meditation, and use it often.
  • Use essential oils. It’s ridiculously easy to create your own aromatherapy mists, and just spritzing them around can change the atmosphere in a room instantly.
  • Placing gemstones and crystals in key areas can also bring in positive energy.
  • De-clutter as much as possible. (I’m in the process of doing this now, since my beloved and I have finally merged all our belongings!)

I highly recommend the following books for a more in-depth exploration of creating a happier home (even if it’s temporary!)

Yule blessings to one and all as we welcome the return of the sun!

A Rose by Another Name

I was skimming through Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2014 and landed on this entry for the 28th of September: “Desert Rose, a stone formed by lightning strikes on sand, holds tremendous power.”

Well, that makes sense, I mused. It would carry the power of all four elements: sand (earth), lightning (fire), and it would be shaped by wind and water.

After doing some digging (could not resist the pun!), I discovered that there are two types of stones that go by the name of Desert Rose. One is comprised of Selenite and Barite. The crystals form in arid conditions from the evaporation of shallow salt basins, and they result in lovely rosettes. This seems to be the more commonly known Desert Rose crystal used for healing work.

Desert Rose Crystals

Desert Rose Crystals

But the stone I was actually looking for is Fulgurite. According to the Gemstones Advisor website:

Fulgurite (or fulgarite) is named after the Latin word ‘fulgur’, which means thunderbolt. The temperature of lightning, air-temperatures over 30,000°C have been measured, is far higher than the sand melting point of 1800°C. The silica, which makes up the sand, fuses together at this extreme heat, creating the so-called lightning glass or lightning sand.

Fulgurite

Fulgurite

Most examples of Fulgurite aren’t very attractive, but they are collectable simply because of how they are made. The metaphysical properties associated with this naturally created glass are quite impressive, though. In The Book of Stones, internationally acclaimed author and teacher Naisha Ahsian says, “Fulgurite is especially helpful for those ready to experience major breakthroughs and to release habit patterns that no longer serve. This stone carries a pure expression of Storm element energy, so it can create deep cleansing and purification on all levels” (162).

In short, this is not a rock you want to play around with unless you are ready for major transformation on all levels at a lightning-quick pace. Although this whole year has been about changes and letting go of old forms, it has happened gradually. It’s still happening, in fact. I’m not so sure I’d want the intensity of Fulgurite, but it caught my attention nonetheless. When something keeps nudging at me like that, I go into detective mode to see what I’m supposed to learn.

I looked for a goddess that I could associate with this stone, and the most relatable one is Fulgora, the Roman goddess of lightning.

Fulgora

Fulgora

Not much was written about her at all, unfortunately. Maybe the Romans just wanted to assign a deity to lightning, and then they respectfully backed away to give her some space?  She’s not one I’d ever think of calling upon, but if you have experience with this, I’d love to hear about it!

The Obscure Goddess Online Dictionary fills in a few gaps by providing some background on how the Romans classified those thunderbolts from the sky as omens for good or ill. The same friend/foe concept is also present in the all-too-familiar lightning strike of The Tower card in the Tarot.

RW-Tower

It can mean that your whole world has to come crashing down in order to wipe the slate clean, or it can mean that you receive a sudden jolt of inspiration or a paradigm shift that sets you on a better path. It can be catastrophic…or it can be just enough. Lightning is tricky that way.

Colette Baron-Reid conveys the same general idea through the “Lady of Lightning” card in her Wisdom of the Hidden Realms deck:

the-lady-of-lightning

As an Ally, [she] brings powerful forces of changes in your life…Perhaps a situation you weren’t anticipating arises and offers you the opportunity of a lifetime (97).

If she arrives as a Challenger, however:

Unpleasant news, an unexpected shock, or an overall sense of powerlessness are the aspects you may experience…This is a time when you may be forced to make a change you don’t want to make (98).

Again, there’s that dual nature of lightning. Even in the physical world, it barely touches some and leaves others forever altered. According to the National Weather Service, 90 percent of lightning strike victims survive, but it’s common to see lingering health issues afterward.

Looking at it from a metaphysical perspective, I’ve never met an individual who has undergone sudden and severe trauma of any kind without suffering mentally, physically, and spiritually. We are human, after all, and we can only stand so much before we break.

When I was just beginning to learn about energy balancing, I remember being warned against having a Kundalini awakening, which is the spiritual equivalent of being struck by lightning. I was told that it would lead to insanity and instability if that much energy suddenly blasted up through the seven chakras, especially if the person wasn’t properly prepared for such an experience. Preparation could take decades…perhaps a lifetime of yogic practices. Then I came across personal accounts from various individuals whose Kundalini awakening happened spontaneously, sometimes following a near death experience. In most cases, this fast track to enlightenment wasn’t something they desired, at least not consciously. Emily Dickinson captured this idea quite well in her poetry:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

Personally, I’m okay with being dazzled gradually, so I’m not planning to look for a big chunk of Fulgurite anytime soon. Researching it has already taught me plenty…mainly that I’m grateful for the aha moments, for flashes of insight, for synchronicities, and gentle awakenings.

Blessed Be

 

References:

Simmons, Robert and Naisha Ahsian. The Book of Stones: Who They Are & What They Teach. Vermont: Heaven & Earth, 2005. Print.

Baron-Reid, Colette. Wisdom of the Hidden Realms Oracle Cards Guidebook. New York: Hay House, 2009. Print.

Season of the Dark Goddess: Balance and Integration at Mabon

Autumn arrives slowly here on the Georgia coast. It is a couple of days before Mabon, and everything is still quite lush and green. Temperatures remain in the 80s, and it would be easy to pretend that summer is eternal…but I have always been infatuated with fall. I long for crisp mornings, thick fog, turning leaves, and all things pumpkin. I get ecstatic over corn mazes and bonfires and county fairs. I delight in a hearty soup on the stove and crusty bread in the oven. Most of all, though, I want the internal shift from action to contemplation, from outward to inward, from sowing seeds to taking stock.  

This is the work of the Dark Goddess, as she stands ready in the field with her sharpened scythe. She cuts away what is no longer needed, what we’ve outgrown, and what doesn’t fit into our soul’s purpose in this lifetime. It can be difficult to view this process as love; yet, it is both loving and necessary. It allows us to focus on the good that we’ve manifested without getting tangled up in the weeds. It gives us clarity and vision, even if we don’t always like what is revealed.

The core teaching of Mabon is the balance of dark and light, not only in the natural world, but also within. As day and night become equal in length, we have the opportunity to look at our shadow side without judgment. There is a place for wrath, rebellion, grief, and destruction. Goddesses like Kali Ma, Lilith, Morgana, and Hecate remind us that cycles of creation and destruction are a natural part of living. If there were no darkness, how would we recognize the light? Do the moon and stars not shine even brighter when the sky is deepest black?

Because of her cyclic nature, Persephone is one of my favorite dark goddesses to work with at this time of year. Hades initiates her transformation from vulnerable maiden to empowered woman by taking her far away from her mother into his underworld realm. As D.J. Conway notes in Maiden, Mother, Crone, “Kore-Persephone made the terrifying journey downward by Herself; Demeter could not accompany Her daughter. Each of us must make the journey through the labyrinth of our minds alone” (31). So this, too, is a principal aspect of the autumnal equinox—the weighing and balancing of our positives and negatives is very much a personal and solitary undertaking.

Hades and Persephone

Hades and Persephone

There are various interpretations of this myth, but I believe Persephone willingly follows Hades and that the abduction/rape part of the story was a patriarchal revision. When the earth split open before her, Persephone had an opportunity to go deep into her own subconscious with Hades as her guide. She crosses a threshold with him and knows that it’s impossible to go back to her former self. By swallowing his pomegranate seed, she secures her place in the underworld, not as a victim, but as a queen who has integrated both dark and light in equal measure. Demeter also ceases to mourn the loss of her daughter at this stage of the tale. “As soon as she knows the seed has been eaten, there is no more said on the subject—all is joy. Persephone has eaten the food of Hades, has taken the seed of the dark into herself and can now give birth to her own new personality” (Luke, 195-196).

We, too, have the same ability to journey inward, to face our greatest fears, to own our darkness, and to be reborn. As the sun enters Libra on Monday, we can take an honest look at the scales again. Perhaps something needs to be added to make them equal. Maybe something needs to be taken away. Your heart always knows.

May you be abundantly blessed and balanced this Mabon.

References:

Conway, D.J. Maiden, Mother, Crone Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 1994. Print.

Luke, Helen. “Mother and Daughter Mysteries.” The Long Journey Home: Re-visioning the Myth of Demeter and Persephone for Our Time. Ed. Christine Downing. Boston: Shambhala, 1994. 195-196. Print.

Helpful Links:

Essential Secrets of Psychotherapy: What is the “Shadow”?

The Myth of Persephone: Greek Goddess of the Underworld

“Persephone” by Kellianna

Mabon Balance Meditation

Celebrating World Goddess Day

The wisdom of woman, gained through her identification with her body, with the Goddess, and with the earth, was no longer revered, but ridiculed and rejected. Once honoured as prophetess and seer, woman was now scorned. Her instincts and intuition, through which she perceived the elemental energies in the cycles of nature and her knowledge of healing, were rebuked and humiliated. –Judith Duerk “Circle of Stones: Woman’s Journey to Herself”

Those of us in the Goddess community have known for quite some time that the Divine Feminine force is at last reemerging in the world. We know the scales have been out of balance for too long. Although it would seem that war, destruction, illness, and poverty are raging at an all time high, we also know that events sometimes have to reach critical mass before something better can be born. That is where She Who Is really shines. She takes the royal mess we’ve made of things and creates beauty. She reaches down into the muck and plants seeds that will thrive. Where we may see nothing but a wasteland, She sees potential.

So today, in honor of the Lady in her many forms and manifestations, people all over the globe will celebrate World Goddess Day. Perhaps there is an event in your area that you can attend, or maybe you can find the time to have a quiet ritual of your own. I chose to express my devotion through art by crocheting a Harvest Goddess for my altar. It was a labor of love that took several days to complete, and now it will be ready for the upcoming full moon and the Autumn Equinox.  You can find the free pattern for the body here.  How you decorate and adorn Her is entirely up to you!  Get creative!  Blessed Be

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THE BACKLASH HAS BEGUN: GODDESSES, PRIESTESSES, WITCHES – STAND YOUR GROUND WITH GRACE AND POWER!

Jennifer R. Miller:

Brilliant post by Priestess Bairavee Balasubramaniam, Ph.D. for all of us who love and serve the Goddess.

Originally posted on Dr Bairavee Balasubramaniam:

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All around us, we see signs of suppression, of rising hostility towards the Divine Feminine and Spiritual Paths and Persons who honor Her in ways that challenge deeply rooted patriarchal norms. Whether it’s the abuse of ISIS, or the mis-guided morphing of Goddess Kali Ma’s image with the spectre of religious extremism… Whether it’s the ousting of a sacred grove to Goddess Cybele, or a judge willing to consider outlawing witchcraft and tarot readings …. Or even that email you get in your inbox with one claiming that you cannot possibly be living a life of Love aligned with Spirit because you do not share their faith.

The signs are there – and so many of us, women priestesses in particular, have strong memories of the kinds of suppression, persecution and condemnation that can result – in this life, and in others. Those born as male may also share similarly…

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