Goddess, Sabbats

Corn Woman’s Wisdom on Lughnasadh

 

There are two predominant themes for Lughnasadh: one is sacrifice, and the other is nourishment. There have been years when sacrifice has shown up stronger for me, when I’ve had to give up something or become more aware of when I’m being a martyr. This year, however, Goddess is asking me to look harder at how well I nourish myself on the most basic level: with food.

I am not a foodie, though there are times when I wish I could be one. Eating is something I do to live, but I don’t live to eat. When I’m overly stressed, I’ll skip meals or eat sparingly. Some people are stress eaters, but I’m more of a stress starver. Nothing kills my appetite faster than anxiety or depression. Most of the time, I cruise along on an even keel. If someone is rude or cuts me off in traffic, it’s no big deal. I can let that small stuff go. I don’t surround myself with drama, so my everyday life is generally calm and peaceful. I’ve worked hard to create an environment that supports, rather than siphons.

Throw in a major stressor like a death in the family or moving, however, and I’m turning green at the gills over just the smell of food cooking. Then all my healthy meal planning goes out the window, and I’m just trying to choke down a Saltine cracker to keep body and soul together. It’s frustrating, especially for a Virgo. We’re supposed to be the health nuts of the Zodiac, right?

So when I drew a card from The Goddess Oracle on the New Moon in Leo, and Corn Woman showed up in all of her grain-abundant glory, my first thought was: fuck. My next thought was: how can I possibly eat well and nourish myself when I’m still mourning the loss of my beloved canine and familiar? On top of losing Baxter just one week prior, I was still adjusting to life in a new place. I felt thoroughly wrung out in mind, body, and spirit, as though part of me had simply left this world along with my dog. I didn’t have a manual that said: How to Eat When You’re Grieving and You Don’t Know a Soul in Town. Someone should create one, though.

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The Goddess Oracle by Amy Sophia Marashinsky. Illustrated by Hrana Janto.

What I did have was Corn Woman staring at me from my altar, gently but firmly reminding me that I can’t ignore the basics of life and expect to feel better on any level. Of course it would be corn. I mean, you normally see wheat fields associated with Lughnasadh, but that’s Europe. This is south Alabama, and we have corn, which functions as both grain when it’s dry and vegetable when it’s fresh. It’s also extremely abundant at this time of year. The message was getting louder and clearer: foundation, staple, plain, essential, sustenance. I didn’t need to become a gourmet overnight, but I would have to find a way to love myself better with the simple abundance that Mother Earth provides.

I began with questions, which is the starting point for any type of change and course correction. What am I resisting? What don’t I like about the whole cycle of procuring, preparing, and eating food? We have it much easier than our ancestors, after all. I can cook, thanks to a mom who cared enough to teach me how. Other people practically get off on being in the kitchen, so why doesn’t it excite me? More to the point, why is eating and nourishment the first thing I drop when life gets excruciatingly painful?

Biologically, it’s fight or flight. All my body knows is that it’s facing some sort of crisis. It can’t distinguish between an emotional trauma and a physical attack. It’s programmed not to waste time digesting when survival means getting out of town or fighting to the death. After four decades on this planet, it still doesn’t know that it won’t actually die from a broken heart.

I’ve learned a few techniques for calming the fight or flight response through meditation and energy medicine, but resilience isn’t built overnight. It takes years of consistently applying those practices, and I certainly haven’t mastered them yet.

Spiritually, I prefer to focus on ‘higher’ things. I think it would be fantastic if we could live on air and gain back all the time we spend on food (spoken like one ruled by Mercury!) Eating brings me down to the mundane level, and I don’t always enjoy being there. It feels dense, heavy, and slow. It forces me to be in touch with my body and its needs, instead of floating around in my upper chakras where I’m more comfortable. People often describe me as grounded, but what they don’t know is that I can appear to be Zen on the outside even when I’m dying on the inside. I come from a long line of stoics, and they taught me too well, unfortunately.

Feeling truly grounded takes more work and more willingness on my part to really be in those lower chakras, and that is where I meet my resistance every time a major crisis comes up. I don’t want to be in my body while I’m processing a ton of grief and pain, but abandoning it doesn’t work, either. It just results in feeling weaker and less able to handle the situation that surrounds me.

Corn Woman symbolizes true nourishment, and that means feeding the soul and the body. It is the time spent in the circle, the trance, or the vision quest… and it is the feast afterward to ground and center oneself in this world. No matter how high and far our spirits may travel, we must return to this earth walk, even when it hurts, until our time here has ended.

The lesson is a hard one, and I will most likely be examining my complicated relationship with food for quite some time. Still, I’m grateful for Lughnasadh, for the turning of the wheel, for life, for the first harvest, for the bountiful earth, and for Corn Woman’s wisdom. May we all be well nourished.

Blessed Be

Copyright © 2017 Jennifer R. Miller. All rights reserved.

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Sabbats

Lughnasadh: Honoring the Space Between

 

A SONG of the good green grass!
A song no more of the city streets;
A song of farms—a song of the soil of fields.
A song with the smell of sun-dried hay, where the nimble pitchers handle the pitch-fork;
A song tasting of new wheat, and of fresh-husk’d maize.
Walt Whitman, “A Carol of Harvest for 1867”

The word I would use to describe Lughnasadh is liminal: occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold. Summer isn’t over yet, and autumn hasn’t begun. There is still work to do—the harvesting of crops, especially grain, if you happen to be a farmer. For most of us, however, the harvest is more akin to deep reflection, taking stock, and looking at how the intentions we have put out into the world have developed.

What has grown? What has withered? What can be gathered in and used for nourishment? Was it worth the sacrifices we made? Are we enjoying the fruits of our labors at all? We pause. We consider. We begin to winnow out anything that isn’t useful. We dance in the sacred space between “no longer” and “not yet.”

My coven celebrates the astrological date of Lughnasadh when the sun reaches 15 degrees in the sign of Leo. In the northern hemisphere, this marks a seasonal shift toward autumn, as it is the exact midpoint between a solstice and an equinox.

Again, there is the overriding theme of being poised without having to move in either direction. For me, nothing captures this better than The Hanged Man of the Tarot, and he has been making a frequent appearance lately.

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The DriudCraft Tarot by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm

This card disturbed me a little when I first encountered it years ago. The whole idea of being hung upside down seemed barbaric. I imagined the blood rushing to my head, the ropes chafing at my ankle and wrists, and the constant exposure to the elements. I thought of insects biting and stinging and feeling helpless to swat them away. Some decks show The Hanged Man underwater, which is even more unsettling if you suffer from aquaphobia.

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The Herbal Tarot by Michael Tierra and Candis Cantin

Yet, he seems to endure his restriction with a contented expression on his face. There is an air of quiet resignation about him. He has accepted what fate has delivered and knows that struggling is futile. Rather than focusing on his outward circumstances, he goes within and finds peace. He appears to have chosen this particular trial and is managing it gracefully, like Odin’s shamanic initiation upon Yggdrasil.

If you flip him right side up, The Hanged Man becomes the cosmic dancer of The World card, the very last trump in the Major Arcana. But he hasn’t achieved that supreme level of integration yet—he cannot avoid spending some quality time in the Underworld first.

We can learn much from this placid figure about honoring the space between. As an American, I was brought up to believe that achievement is paramount. Competition is instilled from elementary school onward, because how else would we survive in a capitalist economy? You either climb the ladder or dwell in various levels of poverty. So we develop this driving force to be the best at whatever we try and to constantly set higher bars for ourselves.

I’m not saying that pursuing goals is a bad thing, but when 40 million of our citizens have anxiety disorders and 17.3 million die from cardiovascular disease every year…you have to wonder if we’re doing it right. Maybe we haven’t been taught the value of BE-ing along with DO-ing. After all, what does it profit us to gain the whole world and lose our souls?

That is what The Hanged Man is finding again as he sways from the branches of the World Tree—his radiantly beautiful soul. He is teaching us that liminal space is healing space and that a divinely ordered time out is often just what we need. There is no place in the past worth revisiting and no place in the future to run toward. There is nothing to be accomplished immediately and no all-important five-year plan to hatch. As we celebrate the first of the harvest Sabbats, casting our magic circles once again to honor the Old Ones, let us drink in the sanctity of being between the worlds. In the midst of an ever-changing and frequently chaotic era, may we listen to the subtle whispers of nature, reminding us to Be Here. Be Now. Just Be.

©2016 Jennifer R. Miller. All rights reserved.