The First Harvest

Lammas

Now is the time of the first harvest, Lammas (English), Lughnasadh (Irish) or Gwl Awst (Welsh). An important first crop of this harvest would be wheat. Lammas (Loaf Mass) celebrating the first loaf of bread made with the newly harvested wheat. Lughnasadh in honor of the Sun God, Lugh, meaning light. The Sun which gives life to the light eaters, plants (through photosynthesis). In my lineage, there would be a ritual or ceremony, celebrating and giving thanks for these gifts from the land. An offering would be made such a burying or burning the first loaf.

Today I honor these traditions by making my own offering to the land that holds me, nourishes me and gives me life. I take a moment to consider everything in my life I have to be grateful for and everything I have harvested so far this year.  It can be easy to focus on the journey of where we are going, but today I try looking back at how far I’ve come. The year is now more than half over so it is a good time to check in with ourselves.  Where have you grown, what have you learned and achieved?

Blessed Lammas

 

 

My Swan Story: I Harm None

Recently I had the honor of working with one of my teachers, Julia Ingles of Sacred Familiar, in a Swan Blessing Ceremony.  The ceremony is to awaken and heal the ancestral folklore of the witch, healer, herbalist and wise women, opening a clear pathway for your personal gifts of your lineage. Women’s medicine has been demonized and suppressed for centuries. Many women have felt the need to keep their gifts hidden, blocked or shut down out of fear and shame. Through your own story of remembering and connecting to your Grandmothers you can step into your gifts.

Here is my Swan Story….

Black Swan

The Black Swan, 1792, Port Jackson Painter

I HARM NONE – Jillian Cook

As I cross through the portal of the waterfall, I am transported to a vision of a young girl playing in the dirt. She has no concern about getting dirty as she is fascinated by the soil and roots.  Her mother is just a short distance away hanging laundry to dry and smiles watching her daughter, knowing she is truly a child of the earth.  She smiles because she knows there is so much more wonder yet for her to discover.

As the girl grows older, her Mother begins to teach her about the trees, plants and flowers growing on the land that holds them, their names, their medicine and how they grow.  The girl loves spending time with her Mother this way and has a deep hunger for these teachings.  She sees the love and joy in which her Mother shares this wisdom with her but she also notices something else. There is concern in her Mother’s eyes, a sense of fear and worry.  The girl can’t help but notice, although it also makes her afraid to ask her Mother the question, “Why is there fear and concern?”

Sometimes the girl would wander into the forest to spend time with the trees, plants and flowers.  She would find a wise elder tree and lean back to sit and observe. This is where she loved to spend time alone, where she felt she could just be herself.  She also loved watching the animals of the forest, the rabbits, birds, squirrels and deer.  One day as she sat quietly, she noticed a skunk had come upon her. The skunk was so close she could reach out and touch it but she held very still.  She felt herself silently communicating with the little skunk by sending love and calmness.  As the skunk looked directly at her, she knew it understood her message and she meant the skunk no harm.  From this experience she continued sharing love and care to animals.

She took the teachings of her Mother and shared them with the people of the village.  She loved helping them and teaching them about things that brought so much joy to her life.  She told them about her experiences with the animals and how she could communicate with them. How she was able to allow them safety around her and honored them for all the gifts they offer.  She loved her work and she was proud to talk about it and give others wisdom and knowledge to care for themselves and the plants and animals of the land.

She began to notice that when she ventured into the village she would see people look at her and begin to whisper, sometimes laughing.  Even those that came to her to learn and get help, now barely acknowledged her or pretended not to see her.  This was hurtful and she realized this was why her Mother had the look of concern in her eyes as she taught her this work.  She knew others would not be accepting or consider her strange.  She began to feel shame about her work and slowly offered it to others less and less. Finally, she needed to find work in a kitchen to support herself. The work in the kitchen didn’t bring her the joy she once felt about her work but she didn’t go back to it, she accepted that this was her life now.

Years and years went by until finally the girl was near 70 years old. She often thought about the work she missed so much and decided that she would go back to it now that she was older. She started sharing her wisdom again and going back into the forest to spend time with the animals. Immediately she felt her heart open and she was happy, truly happy again.

Again, the people of the village started avoiding her and only came to her in secret. One day while she was in town, the town’s doctor, a man that was held in high regard approached her.  Loudly and publicly, he started blaming her for hurting people with her work. Telling her she needed to stop immediately.  She felt humiliated and confused.  She didn’t know of anyone hurt by her work but that fear crept into her thoughts. More than anything, she didn’t want to harm anyone, so this fear had power over her.

She decided then that she would stop, this time for good. She went to her cabinet where she kept her medicines and herbs. She took one final look, closed the door of the cabinet and locked it. She held the key and her hands and cried. She let it go.

Now I sit in a pool of water, surrounded by my Grandmothers. They tell me today is a different time and place. It is safe to do this work. I am a woman of integrity and I’ve held unto this vow for a very long time but it’s time to let it go. I can be proud of this work.

I AM A TEACHER

I AM A HEALER

I AM LOVE & LIGHT

I AM A WITCH

AND I HARM NONE

I NEVER DID

 

 

Pulled by the Stars

Sometimes you see the signs and hear the call but the doubts and fears are so strong you try and ignore them, hanging on longer than you should. So they wait for you, growing louder and more clear until finally it is time.

On May 31st, that time came for me.  I was forced into a decision and I had to face my fears, fears of the unknown, fear of losing my security and fear of believing in myself. My fears kept me chained in a place where I wasn’t happy and my worth was compromised.  Yet, I felt if I left that situation I would feel lost and failure would be waiting at every turn.  I decided to release those chains, to fall and to know that wherever I land is where I’m meant to be.  Now there are endless possibilities and my light will shine brighter.  I am empowered, trusting and free. Right here in the midst of transformation, being present and ready to share my gifts.

So what was this decision I made? It was a decision to to take care of myself, to choose my well-being and leave my corporate career after 7 1/2 years. I had been working for corporations since I graduated college, 25 years ago.  So leaving was terrifying, it was all I knew.  Even when I had lost a job in the past, I had a new one 5 days later.  However, I was at a breaking point where I knew that my current job was doing damage to me.  I had so much anger, resentment and frustration built up inside me and yet I stayed, which of course, I knew that was my choice. I could leave at any time but I didn’t. So what did that say about me? That I had so little belief, trust and self-worth that I would choose to stay and be fearful.

To me this is a perfect example of the Devil card in the Tarot.  The Devil is the archetype that represents keeping you oppressed, feeling small and trapt in fear.  However, when you look at the people in the card chained to the Devil, you see their chains are loose. They can leave at anytime, it is their choice.  They are the ones giving power to these beliefs. This card is a reminder, that you hold the power.

Devil Card image

The last 6 years I have spent deeply exploring my spiritual path. Deep down, my intuition, my inner-knowing was screaming to be heard.  I am worthy, I do have gifts, I have the power to make this change and I will be supported. To explain what I was feeling “I’m restless. Things are calling me away. My hair is being pulled by the stars again.” – Anais Nin

Finally I couldn’t ignore the “pull” any longer. Taking care of me had to come first and that meant moving to be closer to family. My Mom flew out and her, my 2 dogs and I drove across the country to Asheville, North Carolina. I offered to stay and continue to work my job remotely. This offer, of course, was the fear showing up again, as it will and continues to do. They however, made the decision for me that working remotely would not be an option. I now realize looking back, this is another example of the Divine showing up to support me, although it didn’t seem like it at the time.  However, a wise friend pointed out, “Why would you want to bring something that causes you so much pain and misery with you on your new journey?”  The answer is, I don’t.

So where does this story end? Well I’m not sure yet. I’m still sitting in the very uncomfortable place for me of not knowing.  I have moments when the fear is so strong I just want to give up on the idea of creating my own business of healing and teaching.  Then there are moments when I feel like the strong, creative and powerful witch that I am. That is the feeling I want to hang unto longer, that is the belief I have to believe. Sometimes, something comes along and sparks that fire in you and when it does you feel called to share it.  Yesterday, I found this book. I believe that when something like a book calls to you from a shelf, it is a message from Divine. It had me at the word witch but then reading it I felt the fire within me burn much stronger.  As the book reminded me…

I am some kind of magic.

I am an unstoppable force.

My self-worth shouldn’t feel like an act of bravery.

– Amanda Lovelace

Doesn't Burn

I used to spend a lot of time and energy trying to get rid of fear. Not the necessary fears that keep me safe but the fears I created that held me back.  I’ve now come to realize that was a battle I would likely never win. So instead of trying to fight the fear, I acknowledge it and then I face it with courage.  I no longer believe in releasing fear because even when I think I have released it, it finds a way to creep back in, maybe in a different form or expression but it comes back. When I face it with courage then I can find a way a through it. I can come out the other side of it with more wisdom and fortitude.

It all sounds so simple and easy written out here but we all know it is much more complicated.  However, if we stay in the present, in our awareness then we can show up everyday and do the work.  The work to release the chains, choose ourselves and well-being and share our gifts that are so needed.

Blessed Be

 

 

 

 

Beltane Portal

Witch's Night

I enter this Beltane Portal in the midst of great change and transition.  I recently made the decision to move across the country from Los Angeles to Asheville, North Carolina.  There were many reasons for making this move but the main reason was a calling I heard, to go to where I can share my work and gifts.  I’ve put my faith and trust into that calling, without having any idea or set plan on what will happen.  Sure I have an idea of what I would like to see happen but I am also trying to surrender expectations and to accept what will be.  It is terrifying and exciting all at the same time.  The opportunities and possibilities ahead are fitting at this time of the year. Although I may have planted my seeds at Imbolc and Ostara, now I actually start to see those seeds blossom.  Beltane represents the season of awakening, flowering, fertility, love and sweetness in all it’s forms.  As a witch, connected to the Earth and her cycles, I honor this season with gratitude for the abundance and blessings.  Beltane origins are from the Celtic Sun God, Belenus, “bright one or shining one” and the Gaelic word Tane/Tine which means fire.  Traditionally Bel’s Fire, was burned to honor the Sun’s ascent and encourage light and warmth.  Warmth and light that meant growth and life.

Beltane is also a time of year when the fairies are most active.  Fairies are the boundary crossers, playful and sources of immense magic and wonder.  The Fairy Queen Elphame, holds a long association with witches dating back to the witch trials.  Always a teacher of sacred truths, a protector, a reminder to cross boundaries, our own sense of play and to not remain complacent but like the flowers through just being, to share our gifts and offerings.

queen

“Prince Arthur and the Fairy Queen” 1788, Henry Fuseli

Into the forest, it is where I go to ground myself in my new surroundings.  At this time of year it’s hard not to notice the Dogwood trees here in the Appalachians.  Their beauty and power lies in their uniqueness, their flowers of white and pink in a world of green.

dogwood

In the Dogwood petals I see the four directions; East, South, West & North, the four worlds; Assiah, Yetzirah, Briah & Atziluth, the four elements; earth, air, fire & water. Their white petals representing purity and divine spirit and the red tips serving as a reminder of love and passion.  I chose this tree as the symbol for my Beltane ritual, to connect to the new land I will now call home, at this time of Beltane, may our blossoming be as unique and powerful as the Dogwood.

Climbing the Dogwood Tree

Close your eyes

Sit for a moment at the roots of the tree, below the Earth

In a place of quiet and darkness, contemplate this space as what feeds you, where you can go to reconnect with the internal

It is here that you can decide what you carry with you and what you leave behind

It is now time to cross the boundary, to rise up

See yourself as you emerge from the roots to the surface of the Earth, reawakened as you feel the light of the sun, warm and bright

Since you are now exposed above the Earth, reach up and with reverence and gratitude pick a single Dogwood flower from the tree, place it at your heart center as an amulet of protection

Now lean against the tree, feel supported, listen

Take a deep inhale of the Dogwood blossom and open up to receive and tune into the language of the trees.

Do you hear a message? Does it’s spirit speak to you? Acknowledge any messages you receive and if you don’t hear a message now that perfectly fine, just surrender and allow for this moment of connection

Maintaining balance in reciprocity with all things leads to a stronger relationship to the great web that connects us all. Take a moment to send love, healing and protection to the tree.

So it is!

hexennacht cauldron

Beltane Blessings

Ostara Spring Vernal Equinox

Ostara Photo

When does the new year begin? For me Spring Equinox/Ostara has always felt more like a beginning than any other time of year. Growing up in Wisconsin, you could SEE signs of life returning, the buds on the trees, the flowers starting to bloom and sunlight along with its warmth, after a long, cold winter. You could also HEAR life returning, through the singing of the birds migrating back from the south. With newness all around me it seemed like a perfect time to recognize a new year beginning.  As any good witch knows, it really is another day in a continuous cycle, with no beginning and no end. However, we do pause to honor this day because it does have significance in the cycle. A day of balance, equal day and night, from this moment the light begins to win the battle over darkness.

This Ostara falls during the waxing moon, a time when we can call in things we want to grow, like the moon growing with light to its fullness. Ostara is named for the Germanic Goddess of fertility and nature, the Spring Maiden. We can call on her work with us at this time, when she is so present in the world around us.

Here are some ideas for celebrating Ostara to connect with your inner witch:

At Ostara we can take a moment to plant seeds both physical and figurative. Seeds that we will nourish and nurture as we watch them grow. If you are planting physical seeds, which I highly recommend, think about what you are hoping to grow in your life as you plant them. Planting the seeds can serve as your ritual and intention. If you want to just plant ideas that is fine too. Sit, close your eyes and see those ideas spring to life. Visualization is an important tool in manifestation. If you can see it, you can believe it and if you believe it, you can make it happen.

Spring Cleaning, if you don’t have time to actually clean your home on this day you can at least take time for an energetic cleansing. Use a smudge of dried plants to cleanse the energy of your space. I recommend looking up your ancestry and using plants that would have been used by them as a way of honoring and connecting to them. For example, in my ancestry I’ve learned that mugwort would have been used as a smudge, incense or just as an important plant to the people of the land. For that reason, I choose to work with mugwort for my cleansing. I know white sage (salvia apiana) is the most common smudge used today but the plant is also be over harvested for that purpose. There are many other plants you can use instead: mugwort, rosemary, lavender, juniper, cedar and many more.  As you smudge, hold the intention of clearing any negative energy , make sure that you have a door or window open so that the energy has a place to go and as it leaves your space ask that the energy be transmuted so that you don’t send negative energy out.

Spring Cleaning can also be done on ourselves, both our physical and energetic bodies. Just like cleaning our space, we wouldn’t wait to do this only once a year but Ostara can serve as a reminder if you haven’t done it in a while. A bath is a great way to purify both the physical and energetic body at the same time. I recommend adding herbs & flowers to the bath to help in cleansing & purifying. Here are some herbs known for their purification properties: Peppermint, Rosemary, Lavender and Chamomile.  You can add all or make a combination of herbs easily available to you, even adding just one will help amplify the cleansing ritual.

We should also consider doing the same for our internal body and as witches, who doesn’t love making a magic potion?! This can be as easy as a cup of tea or crafting your own syrup. For tea you can work with herbs that you enjoy to create your own combination or keep it simple with a single herbal tea. Remember to give gratitude to the plants & water that make up the tea and to consider how these plants work and affect your own body. Some nourishing & abundant plant allies are nettle, oat straw and dandelion. An infusion made with these herbs would be an amazing gift to give your body. To make this infusion, combine 1-2 teaspoons of plant material for every cup of water.  Bring to boil, simmer 10-15 min, strain and enjoy.

To make this infusion into a syrup. Put the infusion in the refrigerator over night. In the morning you can strain, reheat the infusion with equal amount honey to liquid and enjoy. It should keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.

I choose to create an altar for each Sabbath. Creating an altar allows for me to hold sacred space and to have a visual representation of gratitude and honor for the cycles. My altar includes something representing each of the elements of creation: fire, water, earth, air and spirit. I also consider my ancestry and what would have been a symbol for them at this time of year. As I light the candle on the altar I give thanks and gratitude to the Goddess and ask that she work with me for my highest good.

Ostara Blessings! May the seeds you plant allow for your highest good.