Blessings for Samhain & Two Rituals for Your Consideration

Blessings for Samhain & Two Rituals for Your Consideration

Blessings for Samhain, and Two Rituals for Your Consideration

As many of the plants and trees in the Northern hemisphere begin preparing for their winter rest I am noticing my own energy being pulled inward. This doesn’t mean being indoors, by the way, but rather it is about spending the dark half of the year in a more introspective, contemplative, and self + spirit focused state of mind.

Samhain, the cross-quarter holy day that falls exactly between Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice, is traditionally the start of the new year in the old Celtic calendar and it is sometimes referred to as the “witches’ new year”. It is a time when the veil between this realm and others becomes very thin.

This makes Samhain a wonderful time for honoring and connecting with ancestors. It is also an important time to remember your energetic sovereignty and to embrace practices that help keep you present in your body. It’s no coincidence that Samhain and Dia de los Muertos coincide closely; as well as All Soul’s Day, Halloween, etc. There’s a reason this time of year is filled with cold gusts of wind that seem to come out of nowhere, crispy leaves that roll along eerily behind you as you walk, and just a general intensification of things that creak, moan, and thump.

 

Image: Deer Skull and Amethyst. Physis Wellness

 

I am sometimes asked… should I be afraid? My answer has two parts. First of all, absolutely not. There is no reason to be afraid… ever, of anything really. And secondly, yes this is most certainly a time when it is wise to respect unseen forces, give thanks and remembrance to departed loved ones and our wise & well ancestors, and to consciously claim our own power and sovereignty in our bodies. In that spirit, here are a couple rituals for your consideration.

1. Honoring the Ancestors

If you have some photographs or paintings of the people who came before you, or talismans associated with the traditional lands where your people originated, you might choose to create an altar to honor your ancestors. Start by clearing space on a bookshelf, credenza, or by the hearth. Then you might lay out a cloth (I have a small blanket knitted by my grandmother) and arrange the photographs and items in any way that feels right to you. You can add some flowers, cedar boughs, sprigs of lavender, or rose hips. If you have a garden you will likely find some beautiful things still out there, fading into fall, to add to your altar. You can then choose a few ‘offerings’ which might include honey, coffee or tea, ancestral foods, or simply a little helping of today’s dinner. Place them on the altar and spend some time quietly reflecting and speculating about the lives of these people who came before you in linear time.

Another lovely way to honor the ancestors, especially if you know a few others who are similarly interested, is to host a potluck gathering where everyone brings a dish or treat associated with their ancestors. Spend some time in a circle-type conversation (intentional and with only one person speaking at a time) sharing what you do (or do not!) know about your ancestors or homeland.

2. Cord-Cutting

Cutting energetic ties that no longer serve you is a ritual that can be appropriate at any time of the year. I include it here and now for two reasons. One of my clients has recently been struggling with a lingering energetic tie to an old relationship and we have been speaking about cord-cutting. As well, I’ve been asked (and I remember having asked the same) “but what about the terrible things my ancestors did; do I have to connect to or offer respect to my abusive great-grandfather?”

My answer (and the advice I received from my teachers) is NO. Ideally you are connecting to and honoring your whole and healed ancestors, and in particular these are the only ones you would ever ask for support from. Many of us in the so-called “new world” who are descendants of settlers will need to look way back in linear time to find our wise ones. For example, the Celtic tribal lands were colonized by Romans a very long time ago. We have a good deal of evidence that when the process of colonization began there were incredibly wise and powerful healers, leaders, and landowners… and a very many of these were women. Since that time, between the witch hunting and executions, book burnings, and patriarchal monotheistic indoctrination, our ancestors accumulated a tremendous load of trauma, forgot most of the old ways, and began to embody the values of the colonizers. This has resulted in centuries of violence and oppression which you most certainly do not need to memorialize.

Image: Deer Skull and Amethyst. Physis Wellness

 

For these reasons a cord-cutting ritual can be complimentary to the ancestral altar at Samhain. Even those of us with no knowledge of our ancestors, or those of us who are aware that our ancestors participated in the colonization of Turtle Island and were not particularly admirable or psychically healthy individuals, can put up an altar to honor our wise and whole ancestors, and cut energetic ties to those who acted from a place of intergenerational trauma, racism, and the desire for wealth and power at the expense of others.

The ties that bind us to toxic energy, unhealthy habits and people, or even jobs and careers that do not align with our life path can be energetically draining and can linger long after they have physically left our daily lives. The anxiety and stress that can come from not letting go can accumulate and sometimes performing a ritual such as cord-cutting can do the trick to free us of that lingering burden.

Cord-cutting rituals can be quite elaborate, but in the interest of brevity here are the most basic elements. I encourage you to embellish in whatever ways feel right, because the information you need to practice ritual is in your DNA.

Start by cleansing (energetically) the space where you will perform the ritual. This can include using smoke, scents, sounds such as bells or a rattle… anything the helps you feel like you have “cleared a space”. Next, use a cord tied between two candles, or a set of two candles connected by their wick, or a cord tied between any two symbolic items. You might wish to sit them in a bed of salt or earth. More important than any of the other details is the intention of the ritual. Spend some time getting your intention very clear in your mind, and create a sentence or two that you can say out loud to proclaim this intention. For example: “With gratitude I invite you to join me in this ritual, and I command that the unhelpful, unhealthy ties between us be now severed. With love I release myself from you, and with love I let you go”.

You can then cut the cord with scissors or a sharp knife. If candles are involved you can light the wick to separate them, and you might also use the flame to (safely please!) burn a little paper representing the unhelpful or unhealthy ties. Be sure to recite your intention in a confident and assertive manner, and while holding as much love in your heart as you can muster. If working with fire you might also choose to burn an item that is connected to the person, and you might choose to burn sage or a bay leaf to help carry the energy safely away.

Finally, do another energetic cleansing at the end of the ritual, and be sure to have time set aside after for self-care and rest. This is not the time to rush off to work! An Epsom salt and lavender bath or hand & face rinse, a cup of lemon balm tea, deep breaths, soft music, low lights… you get the idea.

With that I want to wish you a beautiful and holy Samhain, and send you an invocation for the long nights to come: that you may feel warm and nourished, be held and supported by Nature, and spend time in reflective meditation this winter.

Bright Blessings,
Lynn

 

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The Earth Needs us Calm and Unafraid

The Earth Needs us Calm and Unafraid

The Earth Needs us Calm and Unafraid

I recently read an article about “climate despair” and how it’s becoming our newest mental health crisis. The title was “Climate despair is causing people to give up on life” [Mike Pearl, in Vice]. It covered a number of related issues, but one of the most important topics in the article, for me, was the acknowledgement that when we feel hopeless and overwhelmed, we are LESS likely to act in ways that might improve the situation. This quote sums it up: “In other words, if you tell people something must be done or we’re all gonna die, they tend to take door number two, however irrational that impulse may seem.”

This, to me, is clearly linked to our polyvagal system and the built-in protective mechanism that causes us to “freeze” when fighting and fleeing hasn’t worked. We go numb, we check out, we dissociate; some cultures believe our soul leaves our body at the point of freezing. It’s Nature’s kindest grace in a world where some beings are hunted and eaten by others.

But as with most aspects of anxiety, this bio-intelligent emergency system is misfiring because of digital cues we haven’t evolved quickly enough to process.

We see the dire news, devastating images, alarming headlines, and various takes on “we’re doomed by 20–” and our fight/flight/freeze system is automatically activated. It’s an exquisitely perfect system in a new, unfamiliar digital world. And most of this shit is so enormously overwhelming it makes sense for us to switch right into freeze mode. What’s the use in fighting or fleeing when we don’t feel like we have any control or options?

So here’s my point. I think all of this actually points to a really important part of the solution. You and I, the wee individual humans at the micro-level of this problem, we can do a lot to prevent this phenomenon where humans all just go limp in the face of what we see as our impending extinction.  We can acknowledge that we all have this very intelligent defense system and we can acknowledge that it is out-of-element in the digital world in which we find ourselves; and then we can use that knowledge for good.

 

Because here’s the other side of the sword…

When we feel calmer and more hopeful, when we feel like there is still something we can do, we are much MORE LIKELY TO DO IT. We become much more likely to do what it will take to turn things around. We know that Nature will heal quickly just given the chance. It’s not all up to us. We just have to get out of the way, trust, and watch as the world comes back to life all around us. Certainly there is much to do and huge changes to be made, but my point is the more hope and less fear we have running through our systems, the better able we will be to participate.

So what can YOU do? It would help for us all to contribute to a collective calming of the human nervous system. We all need to act as loving mamas of our fellow humans… soothing the panic and instilling hope, knowing this will empower people to take action. In simple, practical terms, we can raise awareness about the urgent needs of the environment by sharing the articles that tell of someone who made a difference. The beach that was cleaned up; the ocean ecosystem that completely recovered when boat traffic and fishing was eliminated around the reef; the former miners being retrained as beekeepers; etcetera. We can share the images of greenery re-growing where a concrete building has been abandoned. This kind of sharing is much more likely to motivate us all to DO SOMETHING because our nervous system feels calm and capable.

We can all raise awareness of the plight of the natural world by focusing on what has worked. We can do this knowing it will help others to relax out of that freeze response and respond in a productive way.

As a shadow worker I’m the last person to tell anyone to “think positively”. But calming all the nervous systems around me is a significant and important part of my work, and it’s work that you can do, too. It’s what mama Gaia wants, and needs.

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Consistency… Are We Doing it Wrong?

Consistency… Are We Doing it Wrong?

Spring has sprung in the Northern Hemisphere. Where I live the rain has been soaking the streets and parks occasionally, and the sun has been blazing increasingly longer into the the evening. We’re at that point in the year where anyone who is paying attention has that moment of realization: “wow, it’s still light out”. And, significantly for Beltane and May Day, the dew is accumulating heavily in the mornings. Have you noticed?

This is a time when it becomes easier to be productive, easier to feel inspired, and many of us start to feel a resolve to make some good healthy changes. We probably last felt that way around January 1 when everyone was talking about New Year’s resolutions! And for anyone feeling unproductive and uninspired, this time of year seems to make that just a little more painful and laden with judgments. I usually get a dose of both of these at this time of year! Whether you’re inspired or uninspired right now, you’re no stranger to seeking balance. A consistent workout, a consistent routine, a consistent practice. Why is it that we seem to always be striving for this instead of relaxing into it? Why is it so hard to be consistent?

One of the big reasons it is so difficult for us to stay consistent is that our expectations are misaligned. We are all taught “consistency” in terms of linear, day-to-day “identical” habits instead of seeing our practice, and our world, as the naturally spiraling phenomena that they are. We live in an undulating, spiraling reality, and this is often responsible for the failure of any rigidly linear practice. Because it just isn’t natural. So what do I mean by this, exactly?

Nature, Spirit, and our existence here on mama Gaia is all about cycles. But not just an identical loop like a circle… it is better described as a spiral. Let’s unpack this a bit. The days cycle from dark to light to dark, each the same but yet so different. The moon cycles from dark to full to dark again in that same spiral pattern. Same moon phase, different month. And the seasons move in exactly the same pattern, coming back around again and again, same but different. Even your breath, and your next breath, follows this spiral law of Nature. Here you are at your fullest inhale again, yet it’s a new moment.

So we can look to Nature’s calendar, often referred to as the Wheel of the Year, for guidance about how to be consistent in a sustainable way. For example, rest has somehow become a ‘four-letter-word’ in this linear, industrialized culture, but it is natural to rest more in the fall and winter, just as we do (or should do) in the evening and night. We are biological beings that resonate with the natural world around us in this way, and trying to deny or ‘overcome’ it is making us sick. When we start to understand Nature’s calendar and the spiral nature of existence, it becomes easier to understand our own rhythms, fluctuations, and needs. This broadens our perspective, allowing us to see our own consistent practice as a maple tree instead of a concrete pillar. The maple tree is always growing and adapting, yet it is cycling repeatedly through stages of glory, and glorious rest.

I help my clients build what they are building (whether it’s self-care practices, relationships, creating a business, or overcoming anxiety) in this sustainably consistent way. We work with the Wheel of the Year paradigm to build a practice that has the resilience to ebb and flow with their own energetic seasons. You can do this too by learning your own high and low energy cycles and listening to the wisdom of Nature… there is so much guidance available to anyone willing to re-learn how to listen, the way our ancestors did.

A good place to start is with the moon and the maple tree.

If you are ready to get sustainably consistent, consider working with me in the Live Your Practice program. Nine new spots are now open and the super low introductory rate is still available. Learn more here: Live Your Practice

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Image: The Handbook of Practical Magic. Physis Wellness

Celebrating the Balance of Light and Dark at Ostara

Celebrating the Balance of Light and Dark at Ostara

The not-so-old parable reads like this:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

What is Shadow Work, and How Does it Work?

 I’ve given up the over-priced conferences sponsored by some corrupt corporation and I’m no longer willing to sit through a lecture to learn the latest individualistic theory of change from Western psychology. For me, all of that is more often replaced by meditation, ritual, forests, and medicine circles full of drums and smoke and rattles.

And deep explorations into things like the nature of consciousness, our connection to the invisible field of energy all around us, the influence of our ancestors, and my own shadow work. My shadow work has become increasingly important as I start to witness the difference this work makes in my life, and I want to share a little about this with you at Ostara… this time of balance between the day and the night.

Our shadow is that part of us that we believe to be bad or wrong. In large part it is the aspect that we can hardly even see, or can’t stand to look at. It unintentionally hurts someone’s feelings; it judges and tells us we’re better or different than the other guy; it slips in a little comment to make us look good and the other look bad. Sometimes it bursts out of us in an unforeseen rage when we are already a little too tired, a little too stressed, and stretched a little too thin.

It’s the wolf we’re told not to feed in the parable. (Which, by the way, is inaccurately attributed to ‘the Cherokee’ but was actually written by evangelical minister Billy Graham from within his dualistic worldview.)

One of the most important shifts for me has been finally realizing that shadow work is not about getting rid of the shadow stuff! I mean, it can be if you insist on making it about that, but then you’ll get exactly nowhere with it because the simple truth is that shadow is here to stay. None of us are exempt. Not even the ‘love and light at all costs’ coaches and “gurus”. It isn’t a fight, and there is no “winner”. We need the night to balance the day, and many of us need a nasty cold or flu before we appreciate our day-to-day health. This balance of light and dark is embedded in every aspect of life.

And here’s the other thing. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather give that wolf some scraps and keep tabs on her, than try to go about my business with her lurking unseen and ravenous just outside my circle of firelight.

The difference is that when we accept our Shadow as a part of us, we feel more whole and we become more “shame-proof”.

By dropping the belief that I’m working on ridding myself of it, I no longer set myself up for deep disappointment when it shows up again. Instead, I think “yep, there it is, as expected” and I can respond without the weight of failure.

For me, getting to know my shadow has helped alert me to the areas where I need to proceed with more caution and practice being more humble. It has also helped to normalize experiences such as anger, so that I now express it rather than trying to stuff it back down and deny that it’s there (hello resentment and chronic illness). Finally, doing my own shadow work and accepting that the bad wolf is there means I am now so much less ashamed when I screw up. This has been huge for me. When I make an awful, hurtful, ignorant mistake (and I do) I can now beg forgiveness and earnestly learn from it without shriveling up inside at my terribleness or distracting and numbing to avoid the pain. And funny enough, this in turn means that I’m making fewer blunders in the first place. Whew.

Ostara, our Spring Equinox, is a wonderful time to acknowledge and honor this balance of light and dark, as the days are perfectly balanced with the nights. Ostara is the gateway from winter to summer: another harmonious and necessary balance of opposites. Take a moment this week to note where on your horizon the sun rises and sets… it will greet you in this same place at the autumn Equinox: Mabon. And the next time you rub up against a part of yourself that you can hardly stand to look at, take a moment to sit still in the discomfort of that. Breathe into it. Not to make it go away, but to give it a scrap and simply acknowledge that it’s there. Allow for pain. Then ask how you can best right the wrong; be curious about what you need to learn.

This is your shadow work. And it is so worth it.

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Snake Medicine

Snake Medicine

I had a very special encounter today… a blue-eyed serpent friend and I stopped each other in the garden!

Snake medicine is about healing and evolution. These unique beings remind us that we must outgrow ourselves repeatedly, shedding our old skin and emerging as a fresh and raw new version of us.

The blue eyes on my visitor indicate that he or she is actually beginning the shedding process right now. At this stage she is mostly blind and so quite a bit more vulnerable than usual.

Sightless eyes in folklore are often associated with a different kind of seeing… with heightened awareness of other senses, awareness of spirit, or of seeing with the third eye. And yes, snakes have a pineal gland.

I was creating quite a rumble dragging an orchard ladder along the ground when I spotted her. We were both very still for a few minutes. Once the snake felt safe enough to continue toward cover I curled my finger under her belly and her muscles contracted their way over me. She paused for a moment… the heat must have been a stark contrast, and then carried on.

So how do you work with animal messengers? How do you know what the message is? How do you know when they have a message for you versus all those times they are just minding their own business? Having an existing relationship with the land is a good start. Dropping out of your thinking, judging, clinging mind is also helpful. Once we listen to the heart and gut we can usually get a sense of it… it might FEEL like a visit. Is it a surprise? Is it announced by birds or others in some way? Is the visitor taking an extra moment to hold your attention or making eye contact?I have worked with this particular land for more than 4 years now and have never once seen a snake. (Nevermind a blind snake!) So I wish her (or him) courage and protection while she sheds, and for myself, the same!

(Photo by Liz Mackney)

Self-Care and Honoring Winter Solstice

Self-Care and Honoring Winter Solstice

On this, the longest night of the year, I want to thank you for your support over the past year. My purpose here is to invite more serenity, vitality, depth, intuition, and ancient wisdom into my life, your life, and the lives of everyone else who is realizing there’s something more to this existence than simply existing.

I write this thank-you today because it was the winter solstice that first opened my eyes to a deeper reality than the one I was living.

I have long struggled with these short daylight hours and long, cold nights. I wrote about that here: Seasonal Depression & Autumn Magic. As I talked about in that post, the more meaning and purpose I discover, the easier it is for me to not just tolerate the darkness, but to embrace it and use it in my life the way my ancestors did.

One of the turning points for me happened a number of years ago while I was out spending some quiet time with my equine soulmate, my Norwegian Fjord Horse Charae. It was 5 pm and already dark, and it was a couple days after the Winter Solstice. As I ran my fingers through her thick winter haircoat I realized she was starting to shed. Just days earlier I was doing the same thing and barely a hair was willing to let go; now I was getting fistfuls of it. How was it that in mid-December, with the worst of the winter still to come, her shedding cycle suddenly changed? I pondered what it could be that was the ultimate trigger for such a force of nature (this horse can shed enough hair to clothe three of her hot-blooded kin!) and realized that winter solstice had just passed. That was it, that was the trigger. It was one of those moments where my mind swirled and my perspective zoomed way, way out. How does she know?! The reality is I can almost set my clock to her shedding cycle and, I realized, there were probably many other cues available in Nature to which I wasn’t paying any attention.

Spring Special for the Birds: Home Decor and Bedding – Now in stock!

It was then that it really hit home for me… the calendar I was raised in, with Christmas still a couple days away, was a man-made creation that did not honour the natural rhythms of Nature. I knew that various cultures around the world followed different calendars, but which was “correct”? Who can say which one is true? My horse can.

It’s a rather silly and insignificant story for an important turning point… me standing in the dark and cold with a fistful of horse hair, but this began my journey in earnest to educate myself about the natural rhythms of the world that I had been blind to, and to figure out when and why my people lost touch.

Here are a few things you may not know about the calendar that most of the world now follows:

  1. It was introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, replacing the Julian calendar (which had been introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC). The Gregorian calendar was originally introduced to change the date of Easter. Because the Julian calendar miscalculated the solar year, it had fallen out of sync with the seasons and Easter was moving further and further away from the spring Equinox (Nature’s calendar).
  2. Although September, October, November and December are the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th months of the year, the name September comes from the word “septem” which means 7, October comes from “octo” meaning 8, November from “novem” meaning 9, and December from “decem” meaning 10. This is a carryover from the Roman calendar which had 10 months total, so the names of the months reflected when they occurred in the year.
  3. The Gregorian calendar differs from the solar year by 26 seconds per year. So this means that our current system is still off by 26 seconds. As a result, in the years since Gregory introduced his calendar in 1582, a discrepancy of several hours has arisen. By the year 4909, the Gregorian calendar will be a full day ahead of the solar year.

As I learn about the history of our most widely accepted calendar I can’t help but envision a mess of duct tape and glue. It’s no wonder the horses, despite having been domesticated for thousands of years, will have nothing to do with it. Before all of these slightly inaccurate mathematical calculations we followed Nature’s calendar. We checked the position of the sun and the stars and we took a look at the plants and animals.

And we’ve lost something else along the way.

We’ve lost the wisdom of the ancients that taught us how to live in the winter, and in the summer. We’ve lost knowledge of the sacred masculine and sacred feminine and the way the balance of these served as a guiding light for how to be in the world. It’s no wonder that so many of us struggle with seasonal depression and feeling a little lost in the world.

With that I want to share one of my favorite blog posts: The story of the spirit of Mother Christmas. I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I do.

And I want to leave you with a practice or two that you might try this evening or this week, as we rest in the womb of the Winter Solstice:

Self-Care and Practices for Honoring Winter Solstice:

  1. Spend a little time outdoors, even though it’s cold or the weather may be poor. Get out there anyway and take a slow, reflective walk. Notice the plants and trees of the season, notice the birds and other wildlife of the season. Breathe deeply the winter air and notice the way it smells.
  2. Allow for quiet time and darkness. Turn off some of the artificial lights, light some candles, and allow your body to settle in to the quiet and dark of the season. Allow your melatonin production to synchronize with the shorter days. Spend some time reflecting on your year past. I like to light a small candle that will burn away all that I want to release, making room for all that I am inviting into my life for the coming year. I let it burn until finished, rather than putting it out.
  3. Set some intentions for the coming year. These aren’t goals exactly, they are simply intentions for who and how you would like to be this year. Maybe you’d like to spend more time connecting with people, to drop your agenda and listen, to speak your truth more often, or to express your love more openly. Whatever it is for you, hold it in your mind, heart, and body. And then allow yourself some extra rest!

Solstice Blessings