Divination, Tarot

Divine Timing in the Four of Cups

If you’re familiar with the Rider-Waite-Smith image of the Four of Cups, then you recall a young man sitting beneath a tree, arms crossed, lost in thought, oblivious to the cup being offered, as three cups already sit before him. A traditional interpretation of this card is that he is bored and apathetic. He cannot see opportunity, because he is too self-absorbed or perhaps a bit too content with what he has already manifested for himself.

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Most of us have been there before. We don’t always know how to deal with stretches of time where nothing big seems to be happening. Maybe we worked some serious mojo to bring about some type of change in our lives, and nothing has shifted yet. Maybe we put gallons of sweat equity into a project that didn’t exactly have the impact we had hoped, and we don’t know what to do next. Or maybe we did have a huge win or a peak spiritual experience, and now everything looks a bit pale in comparison.

Life can take us for a roller coaster ride, and it can also put us in neutral. Can we be grateful for the ordinary days? Can we sit with ourselves through these periods of stillness and trust that they, too, have purpose?

Another way to look at the Four of Cups is to think about the number four and how it provides perfect balance, stability, and containment. Water that is contained is very still. When we think about water representing emotion, then we get stillness and depth in the Four of Cups, or contained emotion. We are at rest, contemplating, looking within ourselves, and waiting.

The truth is that we’re always in some kind of in-between state, always in process. We never fully arrive. –Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change

The Four of Cups involves some trust and faith in timing—not our own, but the kind we leave up to the Universe. We can’t always see what’s waiting for us, especially after we know in our hearts that we’ve already done all that we can do. There are things even our best divination efforts won’t reveal. Rather than seeing the fourth cup as a missed or ignored opportunity, we can see it as one that is available after we’ve had time and space to do our internal work. I’m a firm believer that what is truly mine will not go past me, and what is yours will not go past you.

One other alternate interpretation is that the cup being offered is not in alignment with our values and core truths. Perhaps we’ve sat under the tree long enough to gain some wisdom about who we are and where we want to be, and the contents of that cup just aren’t going to taste good anymore. We’ve had quite enough of the same old swill.

The key with the Four of Cups is not to allow our water/emotions to become stagnant from being held too long, which is the inherent risk being portrayed in this card. Remember that water’s natural state is to flow. We have to recognize when that period of contemplation is actually over, so we can either take the cup being presented or refuse it and move on.

Copyright © 2018 Jennifer R. Miller. All rights reserved.

Nature, Sabbats, Seasons, Witchcraft

Summer Solstice Tarot Spreads

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.

Summer Solstice (1)

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.

Solar King (1)

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.

Have a joyful and abundant Summer Solstice!

Copyright © 2018 Jennifer R. Miller. All rights reserved.


*Just to be clear, I’m not referring to gender identification or sexual orientation here. I’m talking about energy or qualities (yin vs. yang), which we all have.

Empowerment, Healing

Healing the Father Wound: My Journey from Rage to Reconciliation

I remember the seething, white-hot rage I felt inside. I wanted to burn shit down or blow it up and leave a trail of ashes behind me. I had finally connected the dots between a father who was emotionally absent and impossible to please and the men I had attracted into my life. Guess what? They were emotionally absent and impossible to please, too.  

When you don’t receive that unconditional love and support from the man who is supposed to teach you how men should treat you, then you’re likely to make poor choices in the relationship department. You keep trying to be good enough. You twist and mold yourself into whatever shape you think he desires. You make too many compromises about where and how you’ll live. You sell yourself out. You get swept away. You bury your dreams. You dismiss your gut feelings. You keep hoping that the next one will really see you, appreciate you, and actually be there for you in body and soul.  

So you try—again—to love someone else, to be open, to get past the scars on your heart. You light up inside when he approves of you and die a little when he doesn’t, because the wound is still there. You’re still hoping to earn his love. You have expectations he can’t possibly fulfill. It’s not even his job to fulfill them, but you don’t know that yet. Every relationship you have with a man is just another opportunity to heal the bleeding, gaping Father Wound, but the problem is that you’re not going to the source. 

Then you get fed up after all the painful goodbyes and starting over for the umpteenth time with your life in cardboard boxes. You want things to change. A light comes on. You start doing the work on yourself, because why not? Nothing else has helped, has it?   

You see the pattern you’ve been repeating. It feels like wading through miles of swamp water and muck. You grieve. You rage some more. You feel disgusted. You kick yourself for not waking up sooner, for not knowing what you think you should have known. Then you kick yourself for kicking yourself. You sit in circles, alone and with others. You tell your story. You listen to their stories. You feel heard and witnessed as you are, raw and unvarnished. You shed holy tears. You forgive. You breathe. You do this work for months or years, however long it takes.         

Gradually, with wobbly legs and new skin, you begin to give yourself the love you never received. It is strange, at first, to walk in worthiness, to know your own power, to have clear boundaries, to not seek validation. Then self-worth becomes your default setting, and those around you either adjust or fall away. You know your triggers quite well; they are old friends by now. You catch yourself long before you are at risk of falling into the same old tar pit. 

Sometimes, your healing ripples outward through your words, your prayers, your offerings.     

I have watched my father go through his own metamorphosis, prompted mostly by terminal illness and the realization of his own mortality. We’ve had many conversations that usually start out with how the weather has been, who is ill, and who died recently. There have been times, though, when we transcended the whole father-daughter relationship to simply be with each other as two souls trying to figure out life. 

I once told him that I never learned how to do marriage very well.   

He paused for a minute and said, “I never did either, honey.” 

Then we laughed! It was one of the most real moments we’ve ever had, both acknowledging that we’ve fucked up and even finding humor in our mutual fucked-up-ness. 

I understand now that I had to go through this whole cycle of healing the Father Wound, because you can’t teach something that you haven’t lived. I didn’t ask for the wound, but the responsibility to heal it was, and always will be, mine. Much of what informs and enlivens my coaching practice is my own journey toward wholeness. It took years for my rage to become compassion, years before I would see my father as the catalyst who set me on my spiritual path, and years before I could have a 360 degree view of it all and feel gratitude.  

Healing the Father Wound changed how I viewed all men, and maybe that has been the greatest gift in this journey. When I stopped categorizing them as either oppressors or saviors, I began to see into their individual and collective pain. It was just as valid and deep as my own, and that awareness cracked me open. It still does, every single time that a man drops his armor and bares his soul to me. 

My dad has an incredibly sensitive heart—he just had it beaten out of him by a tyrannical, abusive father and an indifferent mother. In another life, he might have been a poet and a dreamer like his only daughter turned out to be. I carry what he wasn’t allowed to carry because of a patriarchal culture that equates sensitivity with weakness. I carry it like a medicine staff, because it is one.  

May we rise above the outdated paradigms. May we heal our parental wounds, for ourselves and the generations to come. May we strive to understand each other, and in that understanding, may we find peace.    

Copyright © 2018 Jennifer R. Miller. All rights reserved.    

Uncategorized

Spirituality Without Labels

“How do you know when you’ve passed through a threshold on your spiritual path?” I asked him, thinking that he might have a huge, profound, soul-stirring kind of response.

He never has answers, of course. He just asks questions until I come up with the answers on my own. I know this, because it’s what coaches do, and I’m becoming a life coach myself. We’re trained not to problem solve, but to hold space for the client to reach their own personal truths and revelations.

Deep down, I knew. I always know, but I think I needed to say it out loud, admit it to myself, and make it real somehow. He’s good for that—sort of like a priest in a confessional, but without all the associated guilt and absolution. He’d probably hate being compared to a priest, though. I think witch doctor would be a little more accurate, since I’m the witch and he’s my shrink. (See what I did there?)

I told him that I felt like I didn’t really belong under the pagan label anymore, and I said this with a wistful kind of sadness inside. This was the community that had helped me heal from my church wounds. This was the community that introduced me to the concept of balance between Goddess and God, Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine. This was the community where I had experienced sisterhood, women’s mysteries, transformative rituals, and years of study in the esoteric arts.

Then I launched into why I hate labels, because they’re limiting. The second you label yourself, you’ve created a container that will only let you grow so much. It’s like a plant that gets root bound. If you don’t transplant it into a larger pot, its roots will keep circling around and around until they finally run out of space and the plant’s wellbeing suffers.

I felt constriction and repression in church many years ago, which is why I explored other paths. What I was feeling this time is more akin to restlessness or boredom. I was appreciative of all that I had learned and experienced in paganism, but I also had to acknowledge that the enthusiasm I felt years ago was no longer there. I wasn’t meeting teachers and elders who genuinely inspired me with their wisdom, grace, and deep connection with Spirit. It was easy for me to teach and hold space for others, but no one seemed able to do the same for me.

“Take a deep breath, and check in with your womb,” he said.

He knows my womb is my best oracle, despite all the divination tools I own. I felt my breath sinking down into my pelvis, clearing away the cobwebs and debris from my inner vision.

“I see an empty house, clean swept and ready for a new occupant. I’m walking out the door. All of my things are loaded onto a truck, waiting to take me somewhere. I just don’t know where exactly,” I said.

“Then everything you need for the next phase of your journey is going with you,” he said.

I took comfort in knowing that it all had purpose, that it would serve me well later on. Meanwhile, I rest in this in-between place of spirituality without labels, opening up to whatever awaits, calling in my next teacher and tribe, and offering gratitude…so much gratitude…for where this road has led me.

Copyright © 2018 Jennifer R. Miller. All rights reserved.

Uncategorized

When You’re Woo-Woo as F*ck, and Your Partner Isn’t

It may surprise you to know that despite being a witchy, Goddess-powered kind of woman, I cohabitate with a man who is decidedly non-woo. It has come to my attention that there are quite a lot of us out there who maintain some type of spiritual practice that doesn’t involve our partner. It’s like we’re all keeping a holy sanctuary that our most-loved person never enters.

Does it matter? Well, that depends.

For some, it’s no big deal, as long as the partner is respectful and understanding about things like burning candles, wafting incense, reading Tarot cards, and being highly conscious of the moon’s exact phase and astrological transits. As long as love is the foundation of the partnership, it works well enough.

I’ve also known women who relish their spiritual path as their private, inner world, and they have absolutely no wish at all to share any of it with a partner. Doing so would almost feel like a violation, because they have fought so hard to create that sacred space for themselves.

For others, spirituality becomes a sticking point. They want and need their partner to be fully on board and engaged with them and their woo-woo. Questions can begin to arise like, ‘If my partner rejects my spiritual values, does he/she reject me as well?’ and ‘If I can’t share this part of my life with him/her, then do we really even have a relationship?’

In the earlier days of my break from mainstream religion, I was thrilled if the guy I was with didn’t bug me about church or try to convert me. It was even better if he didn’t freak out over words like witchcraft, Goddess, and pagan. (Having been raised in the South, I was recovering from the emotional abuse and patriarchal wounds I received from the church. The slightest mention of evangelicalism would send me running).

So, I only looked for tolerance and open-mindedness from potential lovers, and that’s mostly what I attracted. The word witch almost served as a kind of litmus test to see who would stick around, although I have to say that many didn’t care what I believed or practiced. They were far more interested in my body than my mind and spirit anyway.

I thought that men who were spiritually awake, plugged in, and switched on would be too much to hope for, quite honestly. I figured I’d be doing really well just to find one who was stable, reliable, intelligent, driven, and kind. Enter Domestic Partner #3, who has all of those qualities.

I felt that he was extremely fortunate to have parents who didn’t drag him to church or force him to practice any type of religion. I certainly wasn’t going to do that to him, either. He formed his own beliefs, which are pretty close to agnostic if I had to put a label on them. He has always been supportive of me, but we’ll never share the same views on the inner-workings of the Universe and the things I feel inside but can’t always explain.

Our relationship works, as long as my witching and priestessing takes place on the outskirts of our daily life. It works, as long as my woo-woo conversations are limited to friends and members of my community. It works, as long as I don’t connect the dots between sexuality and spirituality. It works, as long as I don’t care if he ever joins me in my inner temple. It works, as long as I keep this immense part of myself, which informs so much of my writing and all that I do, separate from all that we do as a couple.

Sometimes I do care, though I try hard to release any expectations. I’ve learned that having expectations of anyone is always a recipe for disappointment. Knowing that is one thing; putting it into practice is another. Sometimes it’s lonely. Sometimes I feel we are speaking a completely different language, and there is no translator. Sometimes I follow the flowchart back to the beginning and find that the heart-centered medicine men and sages of this world are still in short supply.

I’ve never felt that my partner rejected me personally or even my spiritual outlook directly. It’s more that I question how deeply a relationship can go if one of the most important aspects of my life can only be experienced with other people.

Witchcraft

Too Far Out of the Broom Closet

A well-meaning friend suggested that I might want to be a little less witchy here in lower Alabama. I can understand why she would give that advice. I certainly don’t wish to be a target for people who will probably never try to understand other points of view, let alone something as controversial and misunderstood as witchcraft. There is always the pressure to blend in, conform, and adopt the “when in Rome” mentality. That goes double for a tiny military town like this one.

In my current stage of life, though, I’m politely but firmly ignoring that pressure. I’m too far out of the broom closet to get shoved back in, and I refuse to make myself smaller and more digestible for others. Either they can handle all that I am, or they can choke on me. While my spiritual path is not the first thing I lead with upon being introduced to someone new, it’s also not something I’ll hide or tiptoe around if I’m asked about it directly. Anyone who wants to do a diligent search can find me easily enough on this blog and on Instagram—I identify as a witch in both places. I understand there is value in speaking to someone at his/her level, which I try to do as much as I’m able, but not to the extent that I feel compromised or lessened in any way.

I’ve watched people bristle over the word witch for the last 15 years, when I first started rolling it around on my tongue and applying it to myself. It felt like a new black dress that I hadn’t quite grown into yet, but I wore it anyway, trusting that it would fit perfectly someday. Now the sleeves drape gracefully, the hem falls where it should, and the bodice hugs me tenderly in all the right places. Witch I am. Witch I shall always be, even when I don’t feel like witching (see previous post). My path is strange, winding, and quite lonely at times, but at least it is my own.

I know it’s a bit more socially acceptable for most if I just talk about the Goddess or the Divine Feminine and avoid the “w” word. I’ve done that in person and on this blog for years. The waters are always calmer if I talk about energy and holistic healing without mentioning things like spells and rituals. It’s disappointing, and it feels like watered down whiskey every single time. If you have ever stood in a cast circle and felt the currents of energy running around and through you, if you have ever invoked the Goddess under a full moon, if you have ever summoned the elements and felt the wild, infinite power of each one…well, then you understand.

I’ve been around the New Age community enough to know that witch can send ripples through a room and silence it faster than you can blink. I’ve made the mistake too many times of thinking that acceptance would be automatic, only to find myself shunned by people who hoard crystals, play with oracle cards, carry on conversations with dead people…and still show up for church on Sunday. It was all rather confusing, or maybe they were confused about their own path. It all served to teach me that (a) I can never assume anything about the tolerance level of any group, and (b) I don’t ever have to stay in a situation where I’m not welcomed for who and what I am.

When you can’t find community, sometimes you have to create one. I lead a small study group for solitary or eclectic witches, meaning those who are not affiliated with a particular coven or system. We draw from many sources. We do our own thing, but we also enjoy having an online forum where we can read books together, discuss them, and share our questions and observations. We’re currently reading The Inner Temple of Witchcraft by Christopher Penczak, which offers plenty of meaty material for witches old and new. In Chapter 4, he leads with a paragraph that reaffirms what it means to wear the mantle of the wise:

The witch’s path is not an easy road to walk. Through the roots of our history, we have seen the persecution of those who practice the art of magick and the mysteries of the Goddess and God. Though death is not the result in this day and age, witches are still discriminated against. If you can handle the difficulties, the life of the witch is very joyous, filled with never-ending study and exploration. Witches learn many disciplines to ply their craft. One must be a dedicated student, but also have the passion, the fire, necessary to live life as a witch. Witchcraft is constantly adapting and evolving, calling creative, daring people to it. (59)

I heard that call, as I’m sure many of you did as well. We are writing our own history as we go. Future generations will base their opinions and ideas on what “witch” means by how we present ourselves and what we leave behind. It is my hope that we leave them with a definition of kindness, healing, love, strength, and reverence for the world around us.

Blessed Be

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


Penczak, Christopher. The Inner Temple of Witchcraft: Magick, Meditation, and Psychic Development. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2002. Print.

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Goddess, Rituals

Women’s Circles and the Quest for Community

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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.

References:

Copyright © 2015 Jennifer R. Miller. All rights reserved.