Friday, December 30, 2011

The Orchard of my youth

The drive was long as always. Eleven and a half hours alone in the car. As I turned off the paved road onto the dirt road upon which I grew up, the change was obvious like coming upon a bombed out city block after turning a corner.

I was lucky to grow up where I did. Lucky to live at the liminal place between farmland and the wilds. Lucky to grow up on a dirt road with only one visible neighbor, farmers fields and the ancient prune orchard on the other side of the dirt road. In the early spring those trees burst with little white flowers and it was magical to walk among them playing peekaboo with the fox and the deer. In the summer my parents and I would walk through the prune orchard on lazy warm evenings, headed over to the peach orchard. We'd follow the meandering deer paths without much care knowing that they too ended at the peach orchard. I have spent countless hours of the fall time in the prune orchard, grease paint on my face, bow in hand, tucked away behind a tree or in a blind made out of the blackberry bush that borders the orchard, in the hopes a deer would offer itself to the hunt. I remember the flight of an arrow, the red trail it made. I remember the falcon who took his dinner from a flock of Starlings in a tree not twenty yards from me. I remember cold misty winter walks among the bare trees who seemed to stand like silent soldiers in nice clean rows. Not so long ago I remember taking my kids on their first explorations of the old orchard. The mixed looks of excitement, awe, and nervousness.

I stopped the car. I couldn't help it as I looked out over the orchard. The trees no longer standing like soldiers on parade, but instead laying down, blasted by some bulldozer, their bodies broken and scattered. Some thrown into carnal piles awaiting the torch. The lonely mists still hung about, but the orchard is gone and all that is left to me are my wandering memories.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Ah..a winter solstice ritual. Nothing major, just my three other protogrove mates and myself, all working together in practiced harmony doing a basic ADF ritual of blessing. No scripted lines, just the four of us speaking from the heart as inspiration fills us. My grove mates were fantastic, everything went great till about the time I am going to drink in the blessing and I have the sudden realization that...I FORGOT TO BLINKING OPEN THE BLINKING GATES!!! and sadly the only small bit of consolation I had was in thinking that none of the others noticed either! doh! does one forget that?! It's only a key part of the ritual. Apparently the fairies made off with my brain. I have been doing this ritual format for a year now, I'd think I'd freekin' have it down by now. Well the nice thing about living in CA is I can make like the kid in the picture. ;) now...where is the nearest Palm tree...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lighting the dark places: An essay about the meaning of Winter Solstice

Holly hangs in the door way, the wreath hangs on the door; the tree is lit and decked out in our finest tree ornaments. Candles are lit and the smell of sugar cookies hangs in the air. Yes all the signs of Yule are here, but what does it all mean?

The winter solstice has been marked in some way by every Indo-European culture. To the Romans it was Saturnalia and later Sol Invictus, to the Teutonic folk it was Yule. To the Irish it was…ah, but that is the question. It would seem we have just enough evidence to know that the winter solstice was an important day to the pre-Christian people of Ireland, but we have no idea what they did to celebrate it or what exactly it meant to them. This poses a few problems when, like myself, one’s hearth culture is Irish. So I find myself falling back on the traditions I know, most of which come from Yule traditions. Things like the Yule tree, evergreens, and holly to kiss under; to name just a few of the trappings of this high day. What these things all tie back to in some way is honoring the rebirth of the sun, and hope for our future. The winter solstice is important for on the day of greatest darkness, when there seems that the light is about to fade, we find our hope renewed knowing that the sun will again return, that the winter will end and the spring will again come and the wheel of the seasons ever turns on. Yule is a time of giving to others. It’s about sharing good will and good food. It’s about rejoicing in hope, about honoring the sun; it’s about light, even more so it’s about BEING the light. It’s about being the weak little candle flame pushing back the seemingly overwhelming darkness in another’s life. It is about the smell of evergreens, in the home, it is about baking cookies for your friends, it is about the kiss of peace, hope and love under the sprig of mistletoe.

The dawn is cold and grey; I am bundled against the penetrating cold of the morning, my hot coco steaming warm in my hands. I wait in the darkness, eyes scanning the ever lightening horizon, when suddenly; shooting me in the face is the first beams of the sun on the solstice morning. It’s not the cold that shoots through me, but exhilaration. Like that first sliver of light, the winter solstice has come to represent that moment of inspiration that can suddenly shoot through a person’s inner darkness, giving them an inner light. This is a good time of year to stop and think about what slivers of inspiration a person would like to have in the coming months. It’s the time of year to look into our selves and find our inner darkness, the places where we are ignorant, stumbling, or lost. Then upon finding it, we have the opportunity, the imperative, to bring in the light of inspiration, to become “enlightened”.

Winter solstice is a crazy time of year. Full of sparkling and blinking lights, sales, shopping, office and school holiday parties, commitments to family, and decorations. We get pulled in so many directions at once it’s easy to lose sight of what this high day is about. So take a time out each day of the “season” just to remind ourselves to honor the light of the sun, the light within, and to shine it on the dark places of our spirit.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Voice of wisdom--inspiration

Recently Ian Corrigan has been writing about creating a neo-pagan path of mysticism. This got me doing a lot of thinking on this as well. The other day I had an inspiration about a possible path for neo-pagan mysticism. It has only come to me in the last 48 hours or so. I am pretty excited about the idea and I meditated on it, and had a spirit walk about it this morning, and chatted with my ancestral teacher. He gave it a thumbs up. I am going to explore the ideas and concepts a bit more before I got into any details on here just yet. I need to do a little more research about the ideas and to test out the concepts for a few months at least. If I feel like I am really onto something you'll be seeing it on here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cottonwood river protogrove Samhain 2011

The great wheel ever turns and Samhains come and go. This year though, will be one that I shall remember for a long time. This year I took charge of the ritual aspect of the Kern County Pagan Circle’s Samhain festival. The festival included all day activities and overnight camping. The ability to camp out in Oct. is one of the nice advantages of living in a warm place. Some of the activities were pumpkin carving, sugar cookie making, sugar skull decorating, and face painting. I would say we had about 30-40 attendees. Before the ritual I lead a guided journey written by Arch druid Rev. Thamos. The ritual was put on by our local protogrove. I was the lead liturgist and Seer. We got the local community involved with the blessing of the fire, well, and tree. The three other druids did the invocations of the kindred, and the purifying of the grove. I opened the gates with the aid of my fellow druids. We had asked a local witch who was crone to play the role of the spirit of winter the Cailleach. She came to the center of the circle and oversaw the offerings being given to the ancestors. Almost every one stepped up, and shared a short story about the ancestor or ancestors to whom they were giving offerings too. This was the third year in a row our local pagans have done this ritual, and I could really see a difference between those who had done in for the third time and those who were doing it for the first. The difference was in their emotional reaction. Those who were doing it for the first time often had to pause in their speech due to the overwhelming feeling and emotion that was bursting forth. Emotion they had stuffed for years. Those who were doing it for the third year, were emotional, but not near so as they had been three years before and the emotion was often more one of joy at the telling of the stories and joy in the remembering. It really made me realize just how powerful the Samhain ritual is as a healing technique.
When all were done, we sang to the kindred, received the omen of their blessing, which this time was the Ogham. They offered us transformation and inspiration. The drink was blessed and many drank in the blessings. After words the ritual was closed with a short grounding exercise, closing of the gate, and one last song as the recessional. An excellent ceremony in all. I was very pleased with it. You can find a YouTube photo video of the ritual here:

and that's a wrap!

Hail my readers! Thank you so much for being patient while I finished up my first semester of Nursing school. It has been a tough semester. Nursing school is hands down the hardest schooling I have ever done. In the end I passed all my classes and in such a way tha I am pretty sure they teachers will remember my name! ;) I am on winter break now for the next few weeks and I have a lot of catching up to do with my writing, so stay tuned and get ready for a flurry of posting!