Summer Solstice arrives on June 21st in the Northern Hemisphere, and along with it comes the undeniable truth that half the year has passed. The last six months were full of lessons, both professional and personal. I completed an enriching and transformative experience in life coaching with JRNI. I also moved into a new house, which has demanded more of my time and attention than I expected. It didn’t surprise me all that much when I drew The Hermit card and the Four of Swords on the New Moon in Gemini. Even the cards are telling me to rest!
It seems a little counterintuitive, though. Pagans are supposed to be reveling and basking in the glory of the sun at the height of his power right now. Maybe I’ll just head to the beach and revel in a chaise lounge instead.
Historically, I’ve used this time as a mid-year review, a little assessment of where I’ve been, where I’m heading, and what might need adjusting. I created the Tarot spreads below with that in mind.
The Mid-Year Review Spread follows the sun’s waxing and waning energy with the still point, the solstice, in between. Since Winter Solstice, it’s likely that we’ve been working on or processing something. Where we are now is the result of the work we’ve put in earlier. As the sun’s light wanes and the days grow shorter, it’s important to recognize where we may need a bit of extra support or nurturing to finish out the year.
When the Sun King is strongest at Summer Solstice, he also moves into the sign of Cancer, which is ruled by the Moon and the most feminine of all the signs in the Zodiac. There’s a great lesson in this. It teaches us to lead with the heart and balance strength with love and compassion. The Solar King Spread below is for the king within us all, who honors the feminine within himself and others.* It also pays homage to that most ancient Celtic ceremony of the king’s marriage to the land.
For this spread, you will need to place the The Sun and The Moon cards from your Tarot deck at the top. If you’re working with an oracle deck, choose something that represents those two qualities for you.
If you use either of these spreads, drop me a line below, or tag me on Instagram @quillofthegoddess. I’d love to see how they work out for you.
How can we not be moved by the changing seasons? I’m sharing a lovely, inspiring poem from a friend and guest poet, who is enjoying the fall foliage of upstate New York.
The Engagement of Gaia and the North Wind by a Maple Tree
by Stacy Mojica
Dawn awakens the world with a now muted glow,
announcing an alliance made in nocturnal repose
between Mother Earth and the North Wind who doth blow.
Half frozen dew coats her fingers and toes.
She knows how this is going to go.
So she blushes.
Scarlet red, orange, and gold.
Frost will be her petticoat.
Her gown will be snow.
Her marriage will be a magnificent affair
with gold ribbons dancing
through crisp, chilly air,
and a pulse keeping up the tempo of Fall
with the drop-drop of acorns
and a goose’s farewell call.
It’s a time to prepare
a time to wind down
a time for hickory nuts to be found
brought as wedding gifts, offerings to her knees
hid in the ground with the burrows of bees.
Some will be forgotten
and grow into trees.
her autumnal cloak
upon the glittering hills.
Shedding every vestige
of the year her mem’ry fills
with color and with life that’s always there
hidden ‘neath a green campaign of Summer’s gentle care.
Like Persephone she chose
to descend into the heart
but this isn’t the end-
it’s the start.
Like a curtain the white blanket falls upon her now.
Bare and dormant in the nuptial bed,
does she fear what lies ahead?
The energy of autumn surrenders to the cold.
Today a beauty to behold;
Tomorrow gone, its story told.
I have written quite a bit on the Wild Woman, as many of us are reclaiming our wildness in the truest definition of the word: living in a state of nature; not tamed or domesticated. Now that we are on the astrological date of Beltane, my thoughts turned more toward Wild Woman’s counterpart, the Wild Man. I felt that if she were extending an invitation for revelry and ecstasy on this ancient festival of flames and fertility, it might go something like this…
I want all of your wildness,
your gritty, earthy rawness,
your unleashed primal howl.
I want the sharp, muskiness of your sweat,
the sweetness of honey wine on your lips,
the smell of forest and loam in your unkempt hair.
I want the roughness of your sundrenched skin,
the sound of your heart like a ritual drum,
the heat of your body like a blazing torch.
I want the dark, unexplored depths of your eyes,
the hard sinuous muscle encasing your bones,
the blood rushing through every vein and artery.
I want all of your wildness,
your gritty, earthy rawness,
your unleashed primal howl.
Little did I know that moving to Savannah five years ago would be like Persephone’s descent into the Underworld. It’s a path I believe she chose, rather than being snatched unwilling into that cavernous void. She wanted to learn about herself, and there was only one way to accomplish that task. She had to face her fears and integrate her shadow self in a place that was far from everything and everyone she knew. Although she left Demeter’s side as an innocent girl, she returned as a powerful queen in her own right. I relate to her journey, and I’m beginning to understand why that is so.
Ted Andrews, author of Animal Speak, says that landscapes have their own symbology and that marshlands in particular represent emotional stages of life, decomposition and new growth. Take a look around the Lowcountry, and you will see miles of tidal salt marshes. Almost a third of the Atlantic’s marshes are right here in Georgia’s lower coastal plain.
So there is a lot of breaking down and rebuilding that happens here, both in the environment and in people’s lives. I have spoken with many transplants, and they all confirmed that something about this place filters out whatever isn’t needed, just like a saltwater marsh. The process can be painful, since we humans are masters at resisting change. It’s also illuminating, humbling, and mysterious. Savannah works on you like no place else. I’ve had my deepest heartbreaks here, right along with my most profound breakthroughs and creative inspirations. I don’t know if the swamp is quite through with me yet, but I’ve reached a point where I can appreciate what she teaches.
This is my poetic tribute to a place that has mystified me, changed me, shaped me, and in a strange way…loved me more than any other.
I place my coin firmly in Charon’s icy hand
and pull my cloak about me,
as he ferries me deep into the heart of the Lowcountry.
The sucking black mud on the riverbank threatens to swallow me whole.
An alligator smiles and disappears into coffee-colored water.
Marsh grasses whisper and sigh,
as the boat drifts silently through a cypress maze.
A host of restless spirits wanders about
with their tragic stories and plots left unresolved. You don’t belong here, child. This is a land of secrets.
Ah, but it’s too late, I tellthem. I have eaten the pomegranate seed.
I fall hard and fast for live oaks and Spanish moss,
changing tides and driftwood beaches,
decaying cemeteries and a history steeped in blood.
It is deliciously dark and seductive,
this Scorpionic underworld
that lies so very still beneath the antebellum façade. When the swamp is through with you, my pretty, you won’t ever be the same.
I laugh as we glide past the relics of my youth,
faded images of a girl I used to be,
rusting trophies and shredded ribbons. I don’t want to be the same.
My spiritual journey did not begin in a sacred grove amidst ancient trees under the light of a silvery moon. I didn’t wear a cloak or carry a staff adorned with a glowing crystal sphere. I didn’t have a wand or an athame or a silver pentacle dangling from a chain around my neck. I had nothing other than the hardness of a church pew matched by the rigidity of the sermons I listened to each Sunday, because I had no choice in the matter.
Like many other natural witches, I did my time in mainstream religion while under my parents’ roof, and then I followed a quest for something deeper and more meaningful on my own. I tried out other ideas, other modes of thinking, other ways of being. I wandered down a meandering path that took me into solitary witchcraft, New Thought communities, Buddhist meditation, women’s spirituality, traditional Wicca, shamanism, and back again.
No matter how wide my path became or how many side trails I explored, the roots and bones of the craft stayed with me. I found myself returning again and again to the Wheel of the Year, the eternal dance of the Goddess and God in the earth and the heavens, the lunar cycles, the power of the elements, and the transformative energy inside a sacred circle. All of those things became the cornerstones on which everything else in my life rested. I could not feel winter’s icy embrace without appreciating the Goddess in the mantle of the Crone. What was Midsummer without basking in the glory of the Sun God at the height of his power? What was a full moon if I could not dance beneath it with the pounding of the surf in my ears and a billion stars twinkling above me?
The patterns of my life became inextricably tied with those found in nature, and so the ways of my agrarian ancestors began to feel more normal to me than much of what I witnessed and experienced in the modern world. How could it be natural to sit in front of a screen all day to earn a living? My eyes longed for sunsets. My feet ached for soft grass and warm sand, and my heart sang with the rhythm of the tide.
Nature was not something outside of myself to be feared or controlled. She was part of me. I was part of her. I wanted to be more in alignment with what she had to teach. Following the path of the natural witch and the wise woman gives me that connection, season after season, year after year.
I believe there are distinct stages on any spiritual journey, and the ways of the witch are no exception. There is an initial stage of curiosity and discovery, followed by a deeper stage of self-exploration and learning from various teachers and texts. At some point, the seeker begins to apply all of that knowledge to develop a personal practice. After years of devotion and practical application, the seeker often becomes the teacher, and the cycle continues.
There are also the inevitable dark nights of the soul when one’s beliefs and methods are put to the test. I have fallen into the abyss, faced my own darkness, and risen from smoldering ashes many times in my life. I could only see the growth and transformation long after the pain was over, which is usually the case with life lessons. Those who are drawn to the external trappings of the craft are often quite disappointed when they discover what is truly required of one who walks the witch’s path. We cannot always make our troubles vanish with an herbal brew and an incantation. We may be metaphysically gifted, but we are not spared from illness, death, adversity, losses, and rejection. Sometimes the greatest magic we can summon is our own strength and integrity to endure the storm until it passes.
Looking back, I could stitch together all the pieces of my journey like a quilt—and it would look like a “crazy quilt”—the kind your grandmother might have made with fabric scraps of varying sizes and colors. It only makes sense when you’re standing back far enough to see how those irregular parts become a unified work of art.
The question I keep asking myself at this stage of life is not so much what I can learn (although I am always learning something), but what can I teach? What can I leave behind that will help someone else? Is there anything I can pass on that would make a difference?
This is an “8” year for me in numerology, and it has already been filled with opportunities for leadership, teaching, and some promising results from seeds planted long ago. I’m a rather shy Virgo who tends to avoid the spotlight, but I’m finding that the desire to share knowledge is finally outgrowing my insecurities. I don’t have to be perfect—I just have to do my best with what I have been given.
The highest expression of the 8 in the Tarot is The Star. She is a woman at ease with her natural, unadorned self and her surroundings, knowing that she is deeply connected to the source of all life. Rather than pouring water between two vessels, as we see in the Temperance card, she now pours the healing waters of the Goddess from both vessels freely upon the earth. She knows there is an inexhaustible supply, and her only task is to be, to allow, and to trust that all is in perfect harmony.
As I contemplate the purity of The Star, those words become my mantra…be still, allow, trust…and keep walking the soulful path of the witch.
There are two witches living inside of me…one wild, one tame.
I won’t deny that I love the wild one most—
she who resists order and structure,
she who prefers the loamy smell of woodlands and the sand of untrodden shores,
she who calls the lightning bolt down to shatter the tower,
she who gives not a single flying fuck about your opinions.
The wild witch knew magic long before it was sifted down and spread categorically into the pages of dusty books and grimoires. She knew it well before the Golden Dawn, before Gardner, before Cunningham, before replicated lists and correspondence tables. She knew the Goddess before they gave her names and the Horned Hunter before they demonized him.
The wild witch walked in the forest, lifted her hands to the sky and felt the radiance of the noonday sun pulsing through her veins. She pulled the power of rocks and soil and gnarly roots up through her bare feet into the core of her being, renewing her connection to the Earth Mother. She waded into the stream, and the water swirling about her calves and thighs was her very first lover.
The trees spoke to her in every season, bearing the changes of growth and dormancy in equal measure; so she learned to do the same, dropping her leaves like the oak in autumn…blooming like the hawthorn in spring. The flowers and herbs beckoned to her, revealing all of their secrets one by one, and they became her strongest allies. Rosemary grew tall and strong at her door. Artemisia graced the entry to her garden. Primrose danced between the stones of her walkway.
The wild witch attended the university of the winged ones, the four-leggeds, and the creepy crawlies. Lessons arrived daily. She listened to the hawk’s piercing cry and reveled in the raucous laughter of crows…caught a glimpse of the elusive fox and the owl’s golden eyes at dusk…watched the shy, gentle deer and the steely serpent shedding its skin.
The moon waxes and wanes, and so does the wild witch.
The cycle of
replays over and over again with the ebb and flow of Luna.
Her world is fearless inspiration…blood and fire of creation…bitter ashes of death and destruction.
She recoils from domestication.
Don’t try to “save” her, please. You will find her in the deepest of caves, drawing portraits of her yoni on the walls with red ochre.
The wild witch loves as only feral beings can love…completely but without attachment, deeply but without anchors.
There are two witches living inside of me…one wild, one tame…and how fiercely I love the wild one.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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:
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.
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.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul – And sings the tune without the words – And never stops – at all – -Emily Dickinson
I use my journal to work through things. Sometimes I use a prompt to grease the wheels, but I had no idea how far this particular question would take me: What is the symbol of your magic? Now that was a tough one…and chewy, too. It was like a rawhide treat for the brain. How could I choose just one symbol to define my spiritual practice? I went through a mental Rolodex of Wiccan symbols: the pentagram, the triple moon, the chalice, the athame, and so forth, but none of those really hit the mark for me. They were charged with too many layers of meaning, and I am just one modern witch trying to make a difference. I wanted something more personal and representative of my life’s purpose.
Okay, so what do I do? What am I? I write. I’m a writer. I’m either writing prose or I’m plucking out songs on my guitar. Okay, so what symbolizes a writer? A pen? Well, not just any pen…a quill! Of course! It’s even in the title of my blog. How could I have missed that? Hmmm.
I wrote it down in my journal—the quill symbol—and thought a little more about what my “magic” is in this life…this writing that I do, why I bother doing it, etc. I write mostly for myself, because it’s how I have always coped. If what I have to say helps others on their individual paths, then it’s a lovely bonus.
I attended a songwriting workshop recently, and the presenter started off by saying, “I don’t know how to write a song. I can’t tell you how the rabbit gets inside the hat.” Well, I can’t tell you, either. All I know is that when something is right, when it rings true, the goose bumps happen, and the magic is made.
The day after I wrote about the quill symbol in my journal, my husband came in from a morning walk and presented me with a blue jay feather. He had no idea that I was contemplating the symbolism of quills at the time, so I placed the feather on my altar, sensing that it was part of a larger message. Perhaps it was confirmation that I had chosen wisely. Nature doesn’t walk through your door without a purpose, and even small, delicate things contain volumes. If I have learned anything from my shamanic studies, it’s that the universe is constantly trying to get our attention. The problem is that we want the burning bush in the desert and the words written in stone right before our eyes, so we often miss the subtler, gentler ways in which it communicates.
A few days later, we were on the road to visit my family in North Georgia. It’s a six-hour drive from Savannah, and anyone who has driven I-16 will tell you that it’s a monotonous stretch of highway bordered by cotton fields and not much else. I had been dreading the trip, not just because of the drive, but it meant facing a harsh reality. My mother’s health is declining from an autoimmune disorder called Multiple Symptom Atrophy. It is slowly claiming her ability to walk, her ability to speak, and her desire to live. I have felt her receding further and further into the mists for quite some time, but I didn’t want to actually see this happening. I preferred to recall the vibrant, creative woman who styled my unruly hair in pigtails and painted flowers on my bell-bottom jeans. I loved her fiercely, and I wanted her back.
I was pondering all of this as we stopped somewhere around Metter, GA to walk our dog and take a break. Baxter sniffed and roamed around a grassy area behind a fast food place, oblivious to everything except the previous markings of other canines. I glanced up at a lonely dove on a power line. I felt just like her—perching on a wire and bracing myself against the wind. She shed one of her lovely plumes, and it floated to the ground in a hypnotic little dance, landing just a few feet away from where I stood. My husband said, “Look! She’s giving you a feather!”
She was indeed, but why? Maybe I needed more validation that I’m supposed to be staring at a blank screen and trying to fill it up with words. I put the feather in the glove box, offering my thanks to the dove.
Fast forward to the return trip. I was on the phone with a friend, explaining how the past few days had gone, how my mother had cried on my shoulder, how frightened she was, and how drained I felt. He said, “I have something for you. I know how much you love the white egrets, and I found one of their feathers near the dock. I want you to have it.”
I was stunned. This was the third feather I had been given in a week’s time.
I placed the dove and egret feathers on my altar next to the more colorful one from the blue jay. Maybe the birds themselves were trying to tell me something, since all creatures represent certain characteristics. According to Ted Andrews, author of Animal Speak, “When we pay attention to and acknowledge a nature totem, we are honoring the essence that lies behind it. We are opening up and attuning to that essence. We can then use it to understand our own life circumstances more clearly. We can share in its power or ‘medicine.’ ”
Delving deeper into the world of avian symbols, I learned that the blue jay teaches about the proper use of power. Rather than getting distracted or having too many projects going at once, they remind us to develop our abilities to the fullest. I needed to take a longer look at where and how I was expending my energy and what really deserved my full attention. Could I stay focused on my goals, even if others needed me?
The dove represents the maternal instinct, peace, and prophecy. No wonder she appeared right before I visited with my mom. We were locked in a classic role reversal where the child becomes the parent, and the parent becomes the child. I was beginning to see how she probably felt when I was going through my own dramas, and she wanted to take away the hurt. I wanted to do the same for her this time, but we each have our paths to walk. There is only so much we can do for those we love. Pain is part of the journey—peace only comes with acceptance of what is, not how we think life should be.
My last feathered teacher arrived just in time to remind me that I can’t afford to be stuck in the mud at this point in my life. The egret teaches balance, the ability to progress and evolve, and the confidence to walk into deeper waters. I have observed these graceful birds so many times out on the marsh, and they always inspire me to try a little harder…to wade out a little further. If the ground isn’t solid enough beneath them, they just spread their wings and fly to a better location—a lesson we can all appreciate.
I bow with deep gratitude to the way all things are connected and to the power of a symbol to speak louder and clearer than a thousand printed pages. I bless the blue jay, the dove, and the egret for their roles in my journey. May we all become more open to the many ways we can experience Divine guidance.