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Shapeshifting into the Land: The Sacredness of Place

My partner and I have always had a close connection to Mother Earth.  So when we had the opportunity, the two of us plus our rescue felines moved to 18 acres on top of what is left of the Uwharrie Mountains in North Carolina, USA. The mountains are millions of years old, so old in fact they have been worn down due to erosion and other environmental factors. These mountains were the ancestral lands of the indigenous Uwharrie Nation and also saw much death and destruction during the American Civil War.  Over time the land was not just neglected environmentally, but also spiritually. It needed clearing on many levels and also needed to be reminded it was a good and beautiful place where life could still thrive… botanical, animal and human.

While the drive was beautiful, when you got back to the house – set 1/3 of a mile up this hill and off the main road – our new land was a different story.  Most was still forested, but the 2-3 cleared acres were a different story.  The two images on the right below show behind the house (top) and the front “yard” between the house and the woods.  It’s a good thing we knew we could bring the land back to life and beauty!

First we set about adding some very needed permaculture infrastructure called a dry creek bed to deal with erosion and add some interest and beauty.  Then we wanted to make an offering to the ancestors and to the land  – respect and beauty – in the way of some initial altars here and there, including a Fairy for elemental energy who would eventually become the Guardian of the Garden.

Then we began to lay the first ground for a garden – both for food for us and medicinal plants to become a teaching garden.  It was very slow going initially as the soil was very depleted and not friendly to growing things.  With lots of work, truckloads of good compost and even more love, we finally succeeded in having food for us, nesting places and catnip for kitties and LOTS of medicinal plants, plus some cutting flowers.  All the plants were also bee and butterfly friendly!  The garden would also become my classroom when I opened my botanical medicine/wise woman herbalism classes and apprenticeship.

The first few years I spent my time trying to learn the land and connect to those spots of strong energy – both positive and negative.   One day, after we put our first garden in and I began teaching plant medicine on the land,  I met an old indigenous couple who’d lived in the time of the Uwharrie Nation and whose space was in the woods close to the garden.  They told me they were really pleased with what we were doing for the land and they were happy for the first time in years… happy that we were bringing their ancestral land back to its beauty and purpose. The area where we placed the teaching garden was magical and very sacred and plants and students both thrived.

They also told me I needed to go to the most western border of our land to meet the Civil War soldier who was the guardian of that Western quandrant of our land. West… where the sun sets and the place of death. Initially it felt like a sad place, but over the years and through conversations with him and other land guardians, all of this land became a sanctuary and a place of peace.

Finally we set about creating beauty in the front of our house which was nothing but dry, cracked, red dirt from the front door to the neglected woods.  The front was just as neglected as the back, though thankfully smaller.  Each day we did a little and each shift was both a teaching and a spiritual experience.  We decided to call this area the Sacred Grove and it’s only about 20-30 steps from my front door into this sanctuary.

The first summer we were here I put a swing next to this huge old Grandmother Oak that dominates the Grove.  I tried to put the swing in front of her so I could see the opening I call her portal, but the energy was so strong it made me dizzy.  So I opted to sit next to her side.  For almost 15 years now I’ve sat in this space, by the side of the Great Grandmother and under her huge arms, overlooking beautiful altars that elicit so many incredible memories.  What I learned from her and this land and its inhabitants – both of this realm and that of Spirit –  is how much Nature loves beauty, compassion and connection… how much She loves it when humans take the time to connect to her and get to know her and the energy and stories of the land.

Every morning, weather permitting, I begin my day on my swing next to the Grandmother Oak and the Elementals around me. In this area of the Grove, we now have a Buddha statue, Fairy statues, an Ancestor Altar, our Kitty Memorial garden and a N,S.E,W Directional statute (oriented to North), along with Tibetan Prayer Flags. The energy is very sacred, peaceful and often filled with the frivolity of our felines. Over these 15 years, there have been as many as 13 at one point and now 8 – all rescues – plus the 10 that now reside in the memorial garden.  Many have come to us over these years and all were welcome.  Bastet is alive and well in this realm and sent our magical Merlin on bottom right.  Merlin was only with us for 7 years, but he quickly became a huge  force in our lives. He was then and continues to be, our primary Guardian both in this plane and that of Spirit.  I frequently still see him around and call on him whenever I need assistance of any kind.  He’s not just a kitty guardian, but mine as well.

As for the other altars around this property, there are the original natural altars we first created plus seasonal ones that I tend and change as the energy directs. Nature loves beauty and the sacred and we have lots of conversations about everything.

We’ve  spent these years planting things that are both beautiful and useful to the animals… birds, insects, deer, opossums, raccoons, and various resident turtles who especially like living under our fig tree in the summer.  We even have wilder animals that walk and fly through this space including a variety of snakes, coyotes, foxes, hawks and owls and even the occasional wandering pig, chicken and horse. We’ve also invested our time and energy into healing the land and learning her stories.  Perhaps most importantly, we’ve spent time in conversation with Her, listening to what she needs.

My mornings on the swing always brought conversations with whomever was around, but a few years back, over the course of a few months, an actual prayer developed from these conversations.  I now begin each day with this prayer, inside or out, though I much prefer outside. This is my intentional verbal connection, though in truth the connection developed and continues through actually working with the plant devas, elementals, land guardians and spirits of the land as well as all the animals who allow us to share this space with them.  Besides our conversations, Mother Earth especially likes direct connection so I put my hands in the dirt and walk barefoot on her body.  I also periodically create a temporary altar somewhere in the Grove out of found objects such as this milky quartz and pairs of double acorns.

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This ritual of connection takes anywhere from a quick 5 minutes to an hour depending on the energies of the day.

~Morning Prayer

Good morning Grandmothers and Grandfathers (the Ancestors)
Good morning Tree Beings
Good morning Wind Spirit
Good morning to all the winged ones (I usually say a special hello to those currently around me)
Good morning to all the animals (I usually name those I see on my land or I consider my allies)
Good morning to the Fairies, the Plant Devas and Elementals
Good morning to the Spirits of Light that walk this land and to the Land Guardians
Deep Gratitude for allowing me and my family to share this space with you
Good morning Great Mother Goddess. You who births all, sustains all and at the end of our time hold us in your arms
Good morning Mother Sun, thank you for the light of this day
Good morning Mother Moon, thank you for your cycles that guide me
Good morning to my Angels, my Spirit Guides and Guardians and my Animal Guides and Guardians (If I need something special from these entities, I name it here)
Good morning to my painting muse and my writing muse, thank you for the inspiration and guidance you always provide
Thank you again Great Mother for always being with me
May I use the energies of this day toward the manifestation of my soul’s highest expression
Blessings on this day
And so it is.

For almost 15 years I’ve called this land home.  It is sheltered and fed me, but more importantly it has taught me about connection with our Mother and all her children – both those who walk the land today and those who walk in spirit.  I am forever changed.

May you find yourself shapeshifting into the land herself and creating your own sacredness of place and remembering…

oh woman

remember who you are

woman

it is the whole earth*

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~Shapeshifting into the Land:  The Sacredness of Place – All Words and Images by
Arlene Bailey ©2020
*Excerpt from “The Blanket Around Her” by Joy Harjo in If Women Rose Rooted
by Sharon Blackie ©2016

 

 

 

 

Winter Solstice: Celebrating the Returning Light

Before going to bed last night, I blew out the candle on my Solstice Altar and let the darkness of the Winter Solstice Eve envelope my being.  I reflected on all the different things darkness means to us today and how our ancestors must have felt on this longest night of the year.  For our bone ancestors, there was no knowing that the light would always return.  For our more recent ancestors, there was the knowing the light would return, but also the knowledge that this time of the year was a very tenuous time.  Food stores were getting lower and there was still much winter to come.  Still, in darkness, they awaited the rising sun of the Winter Solstice morn knowing that once again the Great Wheel was turning and with it the returning of the light.

I awoke in darkness this morning and made my way to the kitchen for coffee.  I then sat and waited for that first sliver of light before braving the cold of the deck.  I live deep in the forest so normally I don’t get to see the sun until it’s fairly high in the sky.  This time of year, however, as the trees stand in their naked beauty, my view of the actual sunrise is spectacular.  As the sky shifted into its gloaming and then into a spectacular display of reds and purples and gold, She began to rise.  Oh my, is there anything more beautiful than the rising sun after the longest night?!

For those of us who follow the Wheel of the Year, each turning brings its own symbolism, language and internal psychology.  There is a rhythm to this way of being and knowing that entrains our bodies to that of Gaia and the Cosmos.  A knowing deep in our Soul that says YES, THIS!

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Sun illuminating the Triple Spiral in the Passage Tomb at Newgrange

Many cultural traditions flood both our psyche and our rituals with one singular thread weaving its way through them all.  As nature moves deeper and deeper into her darkest hours right before the dawn, our ancestors desired reminders of the light and of life.  Standing strong amidst all the apparent death of nature were the evergreen trees and the red holly berries, candles and community.  Both trees and branches were brought inside as reminders of life and the coming greening of nature.  The red berries were reminders of the red blood of life.  Families and individuals shared with each other things that might be needed in the coming months and were reminders for each other of the strength in community.  Candles and celebrations brought the much needed light into homes and hearts.  To this day we desire those same symbols, our material culture and practices reflecting the very same need of the reminders of light and life.

I love the different ways that cultures celebrated and the myths and stories that developed around this time of year… Love that those stories were born from the ordinary rhythms of life and nature and the basic necessities required to maintain both individual and communal life.

Maybe it’s the time of year.  That time when we are literally in our darkest hours right before the dawn.  That time of year when there is more darkness than light.  That time of year when we reach deep within to find the comfort the ancients knew.  Darkness has its cycle and Light will always return.

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Sunrise at Stonehenge 2019

While we celebrate the returning light at the Winter Solstice, that’s just it… She is the returning light, not the returned.    In fact,  for the next three days we are in Solstice and the time the Sun stands still.  After that She will start returning, growing and strengthening every day as she moves from her southern most point on her axis toward the northern most point that will be the Summer Solstice.  With this movement we will begin to gain a bit more light each day and  Nature will begin her journey of greening.  For now though I/we rest in the dark womb of the Mother, visioning and waiting for the strengthening light that will bring the potential that now gestates to its fullness and its birth.

Blessed Winter Solstice.

 

~Arlene Bailey, ©2019

Cover Image – Sunrise at Newgrange, Photographer Tourism Ireland

All other images found on Pinterest with no photographer credit.

 

The Ritual of Samhain… A Remembering

Today is Samhain (Sow-win), the Celtic HolyDay that celebrates the Ancestors, our Beloved Dead. I wrote the following in 2017, though nothing much has or will change in how I approach this day.  While I didn’t get to walk out to our Sacred Grove yesterday (it was raining), I didn’t need to in order to feel the presence of the Ancestors.  In truth, they have been here for weeks, their presence very palpable this year.

I hope you will take a moment to speak the names of your Ancestors, for that which is spoken is remembered. Blessed Samhain!

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Late yesterday afternoon, close to dusk, after a very busy day of pouring candles and making winter herbal remedies, I made a cup of tea and walked out to my swing to try and regain some sense of the sacred. The minute I entered the Grove I knew something was different. It was an overwhelming feeling of different, as though the woods had completely changed from earlier in the morning. It felt SO otherworldly – so thin and light. I remember turning around looking at everything, trying to figure it out and, for a minute or two, I felt completely disoriented, confused, as though I’d stepped into a different place, a different time. Then I knew. I remembered.

They were here. It was Samhain Eve, the Veil had thinned, and the Ancestors had come. I sat down on my swing – I was a bit light-headed by this point – closed my eyes and just sat with this energy. Breathing in. Breathing out. Then tears came, but not tears of fear, tears of gratitude and understanding. I was completely overwhelmed at the vast implication of it all and even more humbled by my place in this dance.

Today is Samhain. In a bit I will go out to the Grove and place a vase of red carnations and blooming rosemary on our Ancestor altar. Then I will build a fire in my cauldron and create the larger sacred container that will hold us on this day. As I prepare favorite foods of my ancestors and those of my partner, the Samhain fire will burn. Then tonight, a few friends will join us for a ritual honoring and blessing of this sacred portal.

At the liminal point of dusk, we will gather around the Cauldron, building up the fire, and invite all the ancestors in – both human and those from our respective animal tribes – and we will tell stories, say prayers, laugh, cry, and we will feed them and thank them. We will also honor the Dark Goddess of this season – the Crone – and remember those who died during the times of the European and American inquisitions. We will then divine and later dream, leaving offerings for the fairies, devas, elementals and all the others that will walk this night.  We will give thanks for the past year and welcome the new one.

The veil has thinned. The Wheel has turned. This is such an incredibly magical time of the Ancestors and a portal to other worlds.  I love that this turning of the Wheel also ushers in the season of the Crone – the teacher and guide into the depths of the Inner Mysteries offering deep calls to the deep as we sink into the coming inner cycle.

I am so very honored to walk this path of the Mystery made manifest… a path of ancient lineages and deepening into the inner time… a path that brings me cycles and empowers me with rich and raw magical authenticity…a path that teaches me death and life are two parts of the whole… a path of liminal numinosity.

Blessings on this day of Remembering.

 

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The Ritual of Samhain…A Remembering by Arlene Bailey ©2017, ©2019

Image found on Pinterest (no credit found)

 

The Call of the Inner Mysteries: Season of the Dark Goddess

Oh my, yes… This Scorpio New Moon is indeed a powerful one that will take us to our depths… willingly or unwillingly… it does not matter, for Scorpio is Hecate – the Dark Goddess of this season – and she has come to take us deeper as she has much to teach us about the inner mysteries.  She is Inanna and Ishtar, Isis and Persephone.  This journey is Never easy, but always profound and deeply transformative.

My midheaven (our life path) is in Scorpio and in Shamanic Astrology, for me, this translates to the idea that I am the sorceress witch who takes you to the deepest, most mystical places in order to effect deep, regenerative transformation. Never, never easy, but I have learned to go for the teachings are food for my soul.  I go because this is my life path and the wisdom gained is profound.  I go for what I learn is my medicine and my work in the world.

Forget Pluto.  Does the Dark Goddess call to you during this season of turning inward and going downward?

Is She Who Stirs the Cauldron beckoning you come and release so that you may become an empty chalice, a vessel to be refilled by the things that truly fill your soul?

There’s no sense in resisting if you are called for you will go one way or the other.

This New Moon in watery Scorpio portends a deeply spiritual and shamanic journey, so best to settle in, buckle up and hang on for life-changing AND life-affirming transitions and transformations.  Best to find that place that allows you to sink in, breathing deeply and opening to all the possibilities held in the Universe just for you.  First, though, you must identify and let go of all the trappings of the material world that hold you back.

You must Release

Release…

Release.

Shed those outworn skins just as the serpent does… transform… becoming Lilith who gives up all she is told she is supposed to be to step fully and completely into her authentic power.

Be as Inanna who, at each of the seven gates, gives up something precious to her as she searches for deeper meaning and a more authentic existence.

Embody Isis who searches the universe for her beloved, re-uniting each part of Osiris until he is whole.  Find those lost parts of yourself, re-uniting them and integrating them  into the amazing and cohesive whole that is your own beloved authentic self.

Become Persephone who – rather than being raped and dragged down to the Underworld by Pluto in the old patriarchal myth – revisions her role to go willingly into the deep and dark to learn the inner mysteries of life… death… re-birth from her Grandmother, the Dark Goddess, Hecate.  She revisions her life to follow her own authentic path.

Are you sensing a theme here?  Authenticity.  It is the elixir of woman’s innate beauty and power.  It is the manna that sustains us when patriarchy would have us be other than our deepest soul knowing.

Go willingly into the depths and there you will find your own personal alchemy.  Go willingly into the arms of this Dark Mother and she will strip away the dross to reveal your shining gold.

I leave you with a writing that came a few years back during an especially difficult Scorpio New Moon.  I have come to love these words and the idea they paint.  May they bring magic as you open to the greatest mystery of all…You.

Dancing with the Dark Goddess
by Arlene Bailey ©2014

Not all are called to dance with the Dark Goddess.  Not all are called to walk the edge between the worlds.  For those who are, who dare to risk, magic awaits.  Not easy wave-your-pretty-wand magic, but magic that is deep and rough, pulling and tugging at your very existence, plunging you into the deep, dark murky waters of all feelings from all times, until finally demanding you be willing to stand in the fires of transformation, insisting you be willing to be the dark matter that is alchemically transmuted into gold.

Not everyone will understand or feel comfortable around you.  They are not meant to.  The Dance of the Dark Goddess is for those who are willing to die and die and die again, knowing that with each death a new dance is being born, a new being is being formed, for it is in darkness that creation begins.

Not all are called to dance with the Dark Goddess but for those who are, those who have been given eyes to see in the dark and wings to fly, those that understand alchemy is born of fire, a day will come when travelling between the worlds of dark and light will be a profoundly juicy journey of depth-diving into the shadowy recesses in order to purify, mature, and perfect that which is the deepest of all mysteries… the soul of a woman.

Blessed Scorpio New Moon Alchemy, Sisters.

 

____________________________
Dancing with the Dark Goddess by Arlene Bailey, ©2014,
The Call of the Inner Mysteries:  Season of the Dark Goddess by Arlene Bailey, ©2019

Art, Astarte* by Susan Seddon Boulet

Astarte* was a Semitic goddess and a counterpart of the Akkadian goddess, Ishtar, and the Sumerian goddess, Inanna.

 

 

 

Season of Scorpio

I never enter November or the Season of Scorpio without thinking of Owl.  I remember one Scorpio Season that was simultaneously profound and traumatic and would turn out to be the key to me understanding the necessity of surrendering to this yearly time of deep transformation.  It was a rainy evening and I was driving home.  Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, all I could see were wings and then the sound of something hitting the left front of my car.  I was actually at my exit so I took it, but instead of turning toward home, I turned around so I could go back to see what I’d hit.  I thought it was a hawk (not thinking that it was dark) and it wasn’t until I got home (yes, I put it in my trunk) that I realized it was an owl.  I was devastated.

Over the coming days and weeks, conversations with trusted friends and many hours of silence tuned into this beautiful creature and the why of our meeting, I began to understand more of why Owl had come to me.  I had been deep in the Lower World and deep in transformation and the mystery teachings for months.  While not really comfortable, this world… the Dark… the place of the Inner Mysteries… was somehow – in a weird sort of way – becoming exactly that… comfortable… and while it was time for me to return to the world of my normal existence, I had no way to get there.  Though I’d learned much, I did not yet have the knowing of how to integrate the mystery teachings and bring them to the surface.

Enter Owl…

 

Forest spirit by GaudiBuendia on DeviantArt

 

For it is Owl that stands as the Guardian to the Doors of our Soul.  It is Owl that brings us those challenging experiences that guide us to our deepest wisdom.  It is Owl that holds space as we learn to navigate these Inner Mysteries.

After sitting with this magnificent creature for days, I knew I had to make a decision around her body.  Yes, it was a she.  Again, after more conversations with those more knowledgeable than me and sitting with her and listening, I knew she wanted to be returned to the Mother but not before gifting me with her wings and talons.  I was hesitant at first… Ohhhh, so very hesitant… so again I sat for days and listened, feeling into this idea, asking her what she wanted just to be sure.

Finally, I realized to refuse her gifts was to dishonor her.  She’d given her life to bring me wisdom and the opportunity to stretch my own wings with regard to how I connected to her.  With the help of one trained in sacred ceremony and indigenous ways, I accepted her offering.  Saying goodbye was the hardest part, really, but I finally placed her in the arms of the Great Mother to rest in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains of NC where she would once again fly.

 

Hope's Wing

 

It took me many months to know her name and the full reason for her coming to me… many months to understand the why of the events of that dark, rainy Scorpio night in November.  Finally it hit me!  Owl had come to give me the eyes to see in the dark and the wings to fly up to the light.  While the Mystery Teachings and this Inner Time were necessary, it was not a place to live.  Owl was my way out of the Dark and back into the Light.  The name she told me?  Her name was Hope and she was a Great Horned Owl.

Then… A few weeks after my encounter with Hope, I was driving through the winding and hilly backroads of the Uwharrie National Forest near my home when I came upon something in the road.  It was very early in the morning and there – seemingly unharmed and directly in my path – was an owl.  Another owl!!!  This was a juvenile Barred Owl with no marks at all on it, though sadly its neck was broken and it’s eyes closed.  So I did what any ?sane? person like me would do… I put her in my trunk.

Sitting again with the magnificence of this beautiful creature she eventually told me she too was sent.  Her name?  Athena.

Four years ago, on November 6, 2014 I first met Hope.  A few weeks later, Athena.  There has never been a day since that these two have not traveled with me giving me Eyes to see and Wings to fly and Wisdom for the journey.  Whenever I am called to the Dark… the Underworld and place of deep Mystery and Transformation… Hope and Athena travel with me.
owlmoon

Hope and Athena.

Potential and Wisdom.

Darkness and the Depths of the most mysterious of the Mystery.

Transformation and Integration.

Ancient Ways and Watery Births.

Guardians and Guides for these teachings of the Inner Mysteries.

This is the Season of Scorpio.

 

 

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Words by Arlene Bailey, ©2019, Updated from previous versions.

Images:

Photograph of Wing by Arlene Bailey
Pathways by Susan Seddon Boulet
Doorway by GaudiBuendia on DeviantArt
Owl with Orb, Artist Unknown

 

 

Once Again the Great Wheel Turns

I wrote the following a couple of years ago, during a beautiful, colorful and cool Autumn season. This year, while much of what I wrote is still true, a more disturbing truth is that with Climate Change our trees are shedding leaves, not naturally and colorfully, but because we are in a severe drought and the trees are in deep distress. Leaves are just dead with no color.  The temperature is still at summer level in the 80’s and 90’s and the ground is parched and cracked. Animals are in desperate search for water in this season of transition and, sadly, there is little left to harvest this late for the same reason.  My attention is less on the norm this year as I find myself already turning inward and contemplating the coming of Samhain.  I am in dire need and desire of Ancestral Wisdom and the comfort and nurturing of my Cave.

Much has changed since I wrote the words below, but what has not (at least not yet) are Gaia’s Cycles and the truth of the Life, Death, Rebirth play that has informed our cultural practices for thousands of years. At least for now, the Great Wheel still turns.  

And Once Again, The Wheel is Turning
© Arlene Bailey 2017

It’s that time of year when my herb garden is not looking so good. I’ve harvested lots of herbs to use for both magickal and medicinal purposes, but now the Grandmother plants and Her children are weary from the intensity of the growing season. Their foliage and flowers are waning and their energies are being directed downward. The outward time of beauty is over and it’s time for them to turn inward and direct all their resources to their roots – that life-sustaining, grounded-ness that is the darkness that will see them through the inner time.

But all is not yet below ground – not yet in darkness. Activity is still going on above ground and yet stirrings begin within. This is the time of balance…the time of transition – not only for the plants, but for me as well. Despite the outward greenness, I can feel the shift in my soul. With the increasingly shorter days, darkness weighs just a little heavier. The need for retreat and time out for spiritual things grows stronger, along with a personal need for community and warmth. A meditative moment grasped from the jaws of manic daily life…a respite from the intensity and abundance of summer and outwardness…a time to celebrate our harvests, but with awareness of moving inward. The Wheel is turning…

Summer is gone. I am gathering the last of the fruits and vegetables and herbs from my garden. In the early morning, the fall air is brisk and the greens give ways to vibrant reds and oranges and yellows. Everything turns with the season. I am reminded that Autumn Equinox is a time of balance and equilibrium, of repose and resting after the labors of planting and harvesting. It is when I give thanks, gather and store. I compost and mulch my gardens, returning to the earth in thankfulness what She has given me. I recycle and review, enjoy the fruits of my labors, appreciating a time of plenty in preparation for a time of scarcity.

It is also the beginning of the season of death. Although I still can feel the warm presence of the sun, it is waning – there is a restlessness in the air – the mood is becoming more solemn. As I see the intensity of the flaming colors, I am reminded that life burns most intensely just before it dies. Now is the time to reap what was sown at Imbolc and Spring Equinox, but it is also the time to begin to prepare for winter. Moving to the soft darkness that beckons and draws us in again…towards that part that lives in shadow…out of focus…moving from logic to intuition…activity is suspended and the inner time begins. With the death of the plants is the birth and mystery of the seed. All growth is held in suspension and silence within until spring when the cycle repeats and, once again, the Wheel turns… Just as the plants energetic focus goes underground (or inward), so our focus shifts inward. The Wheel is turning…

In the past, when I’ve thought about Fall Equinox, I’ve focused on the harvest aspects – Thanksgiving…Abundance…Fruition. It has been a celebration of the Mother Earth as giver of life. This year, I’m taking time to remember my own inner dead. While acknowledging the thanksgiving part of the season, I celebrate the descent. There are dark parts on this journey and somehow they must become part of my ritual in a way that is real and helpful. Just as plants need both light and dark to complete their cycles, so it is with me. I know that in order to be complete, to plant, to grow, to harvest, I too must die. For me that means honoring the balance of light and dark, of honoring the descent, of honoring the abundance of the harvest but with the knowledge that there comes a time when I must shift towards the inner time.  For me that means ritual and giving over to something bigger and more ancient as I begin my descent into a deeper connection with animal and nature spirits.

Final 9-13-wm

It is September and today/tomorrow (depending on where you are*) is Autumn Equinox – the time of perfect balance and yet also of transition. It is now that we look into ourselves and assess who we are and where we are going while we also work on completing our preparation for the physical and spiritual survival of winter. Fall and Autumn Equinox is the time of turning leaves and turning inward… a point of balance—balancing out all the internal debris, keeping some and letting some go. We embrace the richness, the abundance, and find our own inner darkness.

I am a Wise Woman in the tradition of the village wise elder woman who was both green witch and kitchen witch, a Priestess intimately connected to the ancient ways of women and the Cosmos. Intimate with the cycles of nature, with Goddess and Her medicines and magick, I live by the Wheel of the Year and honor HER turning through ritual and through my daily activities. For me the Wheel is more than just a metaphor for the seasons or planting or a backdrop for the agricultural myths. It is a spiritual psychology and what directs me – not a separate entity that I view from outside, but an internal mechanism that takes me through the cycles of the year… through the cycles of my life.

Once again, the Wheel has turned and today I light a candle and build an altar to this point in the cycle.

*Autumnal Equinox occurs on September 23rd at 3:50 a.m. East Coast USA, 12:50 a.m. West Coast USA

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Blessings also to my Sisters in the Southern Hemisphere who today celebrate the Spring Equinox.  May the seeds they planted at Imbolc begin to grow and nourish their dreams for this turning of the Wheel in this their outward cycle.

 

 

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Writing by Arlene Bailey, © 2017, 2019
Art – Autumn Goddess by Arlene Bailey,  ©2018
Art – Autumn Equinox Blessings by Wendy Andrews

An Unexpected Messenger

When this beauty first came through, she came fast and furious and when I asked her name she said Erzuli.  I was quite taken aback as I knew this name and it comes from the Vodoun* tradition.  At first I rejected that this was who she was as Vodou is not my spiritual tradition and I didn’t want to go anywhere near the realm of cultural appropriation.  I thought I had to have misunderstood.

She has repeatedly insisted, however, that she is Erzuli and her message is indeed for me.  She also reminded me that Gaia has many daughters and many traditions depending on the land we call home.  However, the essence of her messages are the same even if the visage and spiritual tradition of the messenger changes.  I also had a conversation with a good friend of mine who is a Vodoun Manbo (Priestess).  She told me that learning from a Lwa/Loa (a Spirit or Goddess) and embracing their wisdom is not the same as taking on as our own the spiritual tradition from which they come.

So she is Erzuli, a Vodoun Lwa – a type of Spirit or Goddess – with many different faces each with slightly different characteristics.  Overall, however, she is the Lwa of Women (as a fierce protector), Passion and Beauty (especially luxury and sumptuousness) and reigns over Elemental Forces, specifically water.  She is also the only Lwa who has the ability to both conceptualize and dream along with the ability of artistic expression, especially dance.  Because she appears to be so uniquely human, there is the belief that she bridges the gap between humans and the gods and is seen as an oracle, a seer, a mystic bringer of messages.  She is both dark and light and also aligns with both Kali and Nuit.

With every painting, there are always things we learn.  Artistically, painting this canvas stretched me.  It was a small, 9×12, canvas with crackle paste.  Painting a face in a small space and with the texture was a challenge and, yet, she came through quickly and was a lot of fun to bring forward.

However, as for her messages I am at a loss.  Beyond knowing her name and the attributes above, she has told me nothing specific of the why of why she has come to me.

So, I lean in, I listen, I allow.

I accept her as she has come, honoring the rich lineage from which she births while staying very clear around the ideas of cultural appropriation.  She does not come from my lineage, but she has come with a message for me and I honor that Spirit takes many forms and comes to us in the way(s) we need at any given time.

I must admit I am in LOVE with her and find myself just sitting and staring at her.  I feel that Erzuli has much to say and I look forward to having many conversations with her.

Already she has taught me not to question who comes through the portal.

 

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Erzulie, Art and Words by Arlene Bailey, ©2019

*The religion of Vodoun/Voudon/Vodou/Vaudou is not the same as Voodoo (a Hollywood construction) nor is it Hoodoo (Southern Folk Magic and not a religion).