Ritual, Waves, and Wedding Magic

Ash Wednesday Altar, image by Rev Jon Chapman

Ash Wednesday Altar, image by Rev Jon Chapman

RITUAL:  a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to set sequence.” www.merriam-webster.com

I have friends who go into conniption fits at the mere mention of the word. At its best, they say, ritual is boring and mind deadening. At its worst it is a vehicle of control and oppression.

Heil_Hitler_001

And they definitely have a point. Adolf Hitler was a master of ritual. His highly ritualistic Third Reich whipped Germany into a nationalistic frenzy that led to genocide and world war.

 

But I try to explain that ritual in itself is neither good nor bad. It is a tool. In fact, it is a very powerful tool. And if it gets used for a good purpose and with skill it can accomplish wonders.

 

Ritual:

  • Effectively communicates with and stimulates the often under-used right brain, which is intuitive, integrative, and controls feelings and emotions. This is the part of the brain that is in constant contact with the divine (or universal life force). See previous post
  • Strengthens communion between the left (logical, linear) and right (emotional, intuitive) brains, which heals and rejuvenates the body, mind, and spirit and is essential for any magical work. See link
  • Creates community and binds it together.
  • Is a medium for creative expression.
  • Is lots of fun.

I am very fortunate to have other friends that love to create and perform rituals. A few months ago I attended a particularly memorable ritual weekend with six close friends. It was a rite of passage that Marlen created for Wendy, who is getting married in August.

 

According to Arnold van Gennep, French ethnographer and folklorist, rites of passage are divided into three parts:

  • Separation—in which the initiate is separated her old identity and way if life through physical and symbolic means.
  • Transition—which is a time of ambiguity and disorientation. The initiate has been stripped of her old identities, but has not yet acquired her new one. This stage is marked by ritual ordeals, preparation and/or training.
  • Incorporation—in which the initiate is ritually confirmed in her new identity and community.

 

The ritual that Marlen designed for Wendy was primarily concerned with separation, the first phase.

Wendy_Ritual

We physically separated her from her everyday life by taking her to a condo on the beach for the weekend. The first order of business on Friday evening was a ritual bath for the bride-to-be and the rest of us in the hot tub overlooking the beach, symbolically and literally washing away the cares and worries of our every day lives and cleansing our spirits in preparation for the ritual to come. Next came dinner, wine, and conversation—physical and spiritual fortification.

Wendy_ritual_2

The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we decorated the living room (which had two glass walls overlooking the beach and the Pacific Ocean), cast the circle and began the ritual. We placed a wreath of flowers on her head and Diane assumed the role of Atropos, the Greek Moire who cuts the thread of life. As each of us and then Wendy named a thing, idea, way of being, or self image that she would have to let go of before assuming her place as a married woman, Atropos cut a ribbon from a spool and we tied it on Wendy’s wreath.

 

When we were finished, we moved the ritual out to the beach and Wendy threw her wreath full of things to let go of into the vast, blue Pacific Ocean. Sheila drew a labyrinth in the sand and we all walked to its center, placed an offering, and walked back out.

Wendy_ritual_3

Back in the condo, we refreshed ourselves with more food, wine, and conversation and began the last part of the ritual. We braided the ribbons that Wendy and Dan had chosen for their hand fasting cord, charging them with love and good wishes. Then, using bright colored paints, pens, and stickers we drew happy marriage symbols all over Wendy’s body. Power serpents wriggled up her legs, red hearts dotted her cheeks and breasts, and energy spirals coiled around her bellybutton.

 

After we had her suitably decorated and blessed, we closed the circle, fixed dinner, and partied the rest of the evening.

 

The ritual was a total success. The next day Wendy, and to a lesser extent all the rest of us, returned home as changed women. The gods and energies we invoked worked their subtle magic on our spirits, cleansing them, reworking them, and fine tuning them; making us more capable of living our lives gracefully and fully.

 

Rituals and rites of passage like this one align our bodies and souls with the rhythms and turnings of our lives, allowing us to savor them, understand them, and accept them. They make our lives more meaningful and joyous. When large numbers of people do ritual together (i.e. attend church, go to festivals, watch the opening of the Olympic games, watch the ball fall on Times Square, etc.) it puts them all on the same page, makes them feel like part of a greater whole, and creates community.  All types of ritual are really important, and our society generally tends to ignore or short-change them. The result is a population scattered with lost, unhappy souls.

 

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A Blessed Summer Solstice to All!

Sun_002

“Even
After
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,

“You owe me.”

Hafiz

 

 

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All You Really Need to Know About the Tarot Major Arcana

In her definitive book, Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom, a Book of Tarot, Rachel Pollack begins the first chapter with this spread:

 2 Tarot_spread,_basic

These are the four most basic tarot archetypes arranged in a perfect pattern of spiritual evolution. I call this the “everything you really need to know about the major arcana” layout.

 The vertical axis is The Fool and The World. The beginning and the end. The Aleph and the Tav. The Alpha and the Omega. Most authors describe these figures as androgynous and both figures are dancing. In fact, they are the only dancers in the major arcana. Death dances in some of the decks, but Death will always dance, and who are we to say it can’t. All of the other figures are pictured in static positions, like they’re posing for a photographer—they each represent a distinct, fixed state of existence.

 The Fool is dancing along a precipice high above the rest of the world and looks to be about to leap down into it. But there is no fear or holding back. S/he radiates innocence and total confidence.

 The World, however, dances suspended in a magical wreath of victory and radiates not only a feeling of completion and wholeness, but also a feeling of endless possibility, which in turn suggests new beginnings.  Together they represent the eternal dance of the universe from beginning to end to new beginning—the cosmic spiral. Like an electromagnetic current spiraling between the anode and cathode ends of a battery, the vertical axis spins around the static horizontal axis formed by The Magician and High Priestess.

The Magician’s planet is Mercury, which represents the psychological functions of logic and communication. He holds aloft a wand in his right hand and points down toward the earth with his left. And so the Magician clearly represents manifestation through logical, linear thought and action—functions of the conscious mind, the left brain. Occultists and many psychotherapists assign these traits to the positive, masculine principal.

The High Priestess sits calmly between a black pillar and a white pillar. A veil hangs between them, the thin veil of conscious awareness, which is all that separates us from our inner selves. The Moon, the planet of imagination, illusions and the unseen, is assigned to her. And so the HPS is the keeper of the infinite and powerful, yet static wisdom of the not-conscious, the right brain. These traits are assigned to the negative, feminine principal. Water is a symbol of the not-conscious and tarot readers are fond of saying that the piece of the High Priestess’s blue robe that trails off the card becomes all the rivers and pools and oceans that appear in the rest of the tarot.

The numbers of these cards are also significant.

  • The Fool’s number is 0, which isn’t a real number, in fact, it’s a not-number. It’s egg shaped, and like an egg, it represents infinite yet unmanifested possibility.
  • The Magician’s number is 1. The first real number. One means wholeness, ego.
  • The HPS’s number is 2. With the number 2 we have a duality: odd/even, positive/negative, black/white, yin/yang, masculine/feminine.
  • The World’s number is 21. It contains both 1 and 2, The Magician and the HPS. In other words, The World represents the reunion of The Magician and The High Priestess, the yin and the yang. 2+1=3, the magic number, the number of creativity, the child of the union of 1 and 2. In fact, the digits of both the horizontal and vertical axes add up to 3. The High Priestess key even foretells the resulting three. She is the third figure between the two pillars of Boaz and Joachim, mercy and severity, the pillars of the Temple of Solomon. Waite has even labeled one B and one J to be sure you don’t miss the symbolism.

 tree_of_life

This is the guide to inner wisdom that Cabalists call The Tree of Life. It’s made up of the ten Sephiroth or Sephirot connected by twenty two paths. Each path is assigned a major arcana card. The sephroth on the right form the pillar of mercy and the ones on the left form the pillar of severity. The High Priestess forms the third or middle pillar of the Tree. In fact, the path on the middle pillar from Kether to Tifareth is the path of the High Priestess, whose Hebrew letter is Gimel. The other two paths that make up this pillar are Temperance (Samech) and The World (Tav). So if we read downward from Kether, the first Sephirah, we get the following advice. “To reach Malkuth, The World, we must first establish communication with the not conscious (HPS, Gimel) then we must establish communication between the conscious and not conscious (Temperance, Samech).  Once this communication has been established, direct communication with the divine becomes a state of being (The World) and we reach our goal, Malkuth. Of course one can get there by taking either the right or left pillar, but most cabalists consider the middle pillar to be the preferred path to Malkuth. 

 The_FoolWith this information, the meaning of the spread becomes obvious. In order to learn the lessons necessary to become a more complete, enlightened being The Fool must separate into masculine and feminine. The one must become two.

 

We see this in so many creation myths. God formed Eve from Adam’s rib so he would have a partner, someoneThe_World,_artist_unknown different from himself to exchange ideas with. In many pagan mythologies, the goddess was the first and only being. She gave birth to a son who became her consort/partner—again someone opposite, someone with a different point of view. The journey of the major arcana cards is about how these two, which are really the conscious and unconscious minds of the seeker, become aware of each other and establish an intimate and fluent dialogue. When this is accomplished, the seeker has attained Nirvana, or Heaven on Earth, or the fulfillment of all desires. In other words, he has attained The World.

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Magic in a Mining Town

Continued from “A Ghost Story…..

 

SkullLouis O’Neill Mellinger, my grandfather, was a magician. Not the type of magician that does sleight of hand tricks, but the sort of magician who, from beyond the grave, could materialize a human skull on the upper left corner of his oak roll top desk in such detail that I was convinced it was actually there. For decades I lived with two equally unsavory thoughts—either my whole family was lying to me when they said that skull didn’t exist, or I was delusional.

 Several months ago, and for some cosmic reason that only spirits can fathom, Grandpa decided it was time to clue me in. Through Heather, a friend of mine that sees dead people, he explained that the skull was a construct, a tool that he used in his work. It existed on another plane, and so not everyone could see it. He was glad that I had seen it and that I practiced magic.

 Egads! There wasn’t just a skull, there was a whole skeleton in the closet of Daddy’s side of the family. Everything I knew about those ancestors needed to be rethought. My niece sent me Grandpa’s obituary from the Princeton Alumni Weekly, and that gave me several places to start digging. I spent hours on the web looking for information and called my older brother Louis a couple times to ask him what he remembered about Grandpa. But I still needed some answers that only Grandpa could supply. I asked Heather to ask him questions for me. She called back a few hours later and said “He’s just messin’ with me. I’m not getting straight answers. He wants to talk to you.”

“I can’t do that.”

“You can. Just do a journey to the spirit world and ask for him. You’ve done that before with power animals you can do it with spirits.”

Heather was correct, damn it. In theory I could do it. I’d done similar things before and I did have a connection to my grandfather. Since his visit I could feel him around the house and occasionally “feel” answers to questions. So if I wanted Grandpa’s story, I’d have to travel again. He had very neatly forced me to stretch my magic muscles.

 Spirit_Journey

And so one night I crawled into bed, put up a circle, and cleared my mind of all the ten thousand things of the day. When I was relaxed and floating, I imagined myself in a tiny, circular, stone house with tapestries on the walls and thick, brightly patterned rugs on the floor. There was a fire in the hearth at the center of the room and its smoke drifted lazily up through the smoke hole in the center of the roof. I was lying on a rug staring into the flames. When I was ready, I drifted up through the smoke hole and into the velvet night.

 Grandpa was right there. I couldn’t see him or hear him, but his presence was palpable and his words slid soundlessly into my open mind. “Too bad I died before you were born. We could’ve had wonderful times.” He radiated love. I burst into tears. After I’d calmed down and said “Hi”, I asked him to tell me about Slickville and his life with Grandma. There was an emptiness, and he was gone. I was completely alone. Just when I’d decided that I’d imagined the whole thing and hadn’t really been talking to my Grandpa, he came back with my grandmother. I burst into tears again and told Grandma how much I loved her and thanked her again for my piano. Daddy never would have bought it for me if she hadn’t told him to.

Being with my grandparents was beautiful. I felt so safe and so loved. We talked and talked.

 When I returned back the way I’d come and stretched and opened my eyes, the first thing I did was check the clock. I’d been gone almost an hour and a half, but it felt like maybe a half hour at most.

 The tale that follows is pieced together from what my grandparents told me and what I was able to discover through my web research and conversations with my brother and my parents. The source of each piece of information should be obvious from the context of the story.

Grandpa, holding my father

Grandpa, holding my father

 According to his obituary in the Princeton Alumni Weekly, Grandpa was born in Pretolia, Pennsylvania on September 10, 1877. This makes him a Virgo with a Libra Moon, Libra Mercury, and  Libra Venus; and Mars conjunct Saturn in Pisces opposing his Virgo Sun. He grew up in coal mining towns because his father was a mining superintendent. Grandpa says he was sick a lot as a child and spent much of his time out of his body exploring the “planes”. Back in those days, before antibiotics and IV’s, when people got really sick, they stayed sick a long time. Unfortunately, he probably did become quite familiar with altered states of consciousness and separate realities. But he must have recovered completely because he attended The Kiski School, an exclusively male academy that requires all of its students to participate in sports. (My father went there too). A June 12, 1901 New York Times item on the Princeton graduation social events lists him as graduating with honors from the college of Civil Engineering. (My father also graduated from Princeton in 1933 in Civil Engineering)* Grandpa continued his magical education at Princeton as well. He says one of the librarians was metaphysically inclined and introduced him to the university’s excellent collection of occult books. He would have had a head start on most of us modern students of magic because all college educated people at the turn of the century had a classical education, no matter what their major was, and most could read Latin. Grandpa was already well versed in Greek Mythology and all the pagan philosophers.

 

Grandma, holding my father

Grandma, holding my father

My grandmother, Florence Glenare Millin, was born in Pennsylvania in 1884, although I have no information about where. Her family was probably at least fairly well off because she went to college and read Latin and Greek and became a school teacher. Remember, this was the turn of the century when very few women were college educated and even fewer actually supported themselves at jobs that didn’t involve housekeeping, sweat shops, or prostitution. She and grandpa met at the boarding house in Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania where they were both living. I got this information from my brother, since neither of my grandparents were very forthcoming about their romantic life. I like to imagine intimate conversations on the porch swing amping up into clandestine midnight visits across the hall. I can feel them both huffing indignantly. Perhaps it didn’t happen this way, but if it did they were careful, because my father was born October 27, 1910, over a year after they were married on June 10, 1909. Grandpa would have been 32 and Grandma would have been 25—the confirmed bachelor married the spinster school marm.

 In 1916 the Cambria Steel Company, a subsidiary of Bethlehem Steel, hired Grandpa to open new coal mines in the town of Slickville, Pennsylvania (named after Donald Slick, a company bigwig). He remained there as superintendant of mines until well into the 1930’s. Daddy was six years old  and Uncle Bob and Aunt Doris, his twin brother and sister, were three when they moved there. He remembers living in a tiny shack while their house overlooking the town was being built and Grandpa supervised the town construction and the opening of the mines—there were eventually five of them. Grandma does not have fond memories of Slickville. Her spirit told me it was rough and dirty and ugly and she can think of hundreds of other places she would rather have lived. But she loved her family and dealt with the squalor and danger as best she could. Grandpa says she was a “brick”,

Grandma did tons of needlepoint. She says there wasn't much else to do.

Grandma did tons of needlepoint. She says there wasn’t much else to do.

and managed the house, children, and help with a strong hand.  They had two maids and a cook that came up from the town. Grandma says she could have done just fine with only one maid, but the miners’ wives and especially the widows needed the work. (The company didn’t give the widows any restitution when their husbands were killed in the mine, but they allowed them to stay in the house—if they could pay the rent.) Whenever Grandma heard about sickness in a miner’s family or some other trouble she always sent Grandpa and my father out with a basket of food and clothing and possibly a piece of needlepoint. The basket was usually returned with a bottle of homemade wine or pickles or preserves. 

Slickville was a model “coal patch town” with good housing for the miners and their families. A few sources were of the opinion that

Slickville company housing

Slickville company housing

the coal companies began building these towns to keep workers from joining the United Mine Workers of America.  During Grandpa’s time the miners were constantly striking for better wages and pitched battles and violence were not uncommon. The miners themselves were immigrants from all over Europe, from Wales to the Ukraine, with a few black workers from the South thrown in for good measure. This, of course, meant that there were a variety of churches in Slickville, including St. Sylvester’s Catholic Church (Roman Catholic), Holy Ghost Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Catholic, but not Roman Catholic), and a Baptist Church.

Ku_Klux_Klansmen

 And then there was the Ku Klux Klan. In January, 1922 the Johnstown Tribune (Johnstown, Pennsylvania was the home of Cambria Steel, Grandpa’s employer) reported that “a large class of prominent men had been initiated into a local organization of the Klu Klux Klan”. It went on to comment that the Klan’s work was progressing “most satisfactorily” throughout this section. It later reported several cross burnings and public appearances of the Klan.** As I was reading about this I asked Grandpa if he’d been a member of the Klan. An irritated “NO” slammed solidly into my brain. Nearby Slickville would have been a tinderbox looking for a match, and Grandpa informed me that he “angeled up” whenever he left the house. (He likes to keep his vocabulary up to date.)

“So does that mean you performed the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram?” I asked hopefully.

 “Yes, every morning and on touchy days sometimes 2 or 3 more times. There was also a tight circle around our house and another one around the town.”

 “What about the mines?” I had visions of Grandpa happily communing with the knockers and gnomes and other earth elementals. He soon disabused me of this romantic notion.

 

Coal Miners, Westmoreland, County, Pennsylvania

Coal Miners, Westmoreland, County, Pennsylvania

“The mines were hell-holes,” he replied. “You have no idea how terrible the working conditions were. I hated going into them, but I went down every day to make sure they were as safe as possible and to figure out where to make the new cuts. The miners were well aware of the earth elementals and did a much better job of appeasing them than I could have.” Grandpa says he didn’t use magic in the mines; he used his engineering experience and common sense. I suspect, however, that a fair amount of intuition seasoned that common sense, and I class intuition with magic—especially when it’s a magician who’s doing the intuiting. And I bet those earth elementals helped him out a lot more than he thought they did. Yes, Grandpa, I hear you huffing.

 He also was also constantly sending out his spirit guides to check for possible problems. He says it was best if you could get to a situation and defuse it before it became a problem. His Moon, Mercury, and Venus in Libra, the sign of the diplomat and peacemaker, would have made him a master negotiator.

 So why did Grandpa decide to become a mining engineer if he hated the mines? He was raised in mining towns, he must have known what they were like. Actually he says he didn’t, not really. His father never took him near the mines and they seldom went into the town when he was a child. When he got older he went to boarding school at Kiski. It was close, but he only came home for weekend visits and holidays and so he still didn’t spend any time in the mines or with the miners. Grandpa was good at math, enjoyed engineering, he had all the connections, and his parents expected him to become a mining superintendent; and so it was kind of a done deal—Grandpa would follow in his father’s footsteps. It was what Mellingers did.

 Grandpa, however, did not make the mistake his father had. He occasionally took my father to work with him (but never down in the mines, he says). And he always took him when he visited in the town and attended the gathers. They must have been amazing parties. Grandpa sent me a lovely vision of homemade wine, ethnic food, screaming fiddles, and people dancing till they dropped. Daddy remembers the miners driving wagons full of grapes through town in the fall and everyone making wine. So my father would have been able to talk to the miners, listen to their problems, and observe first hand how they  lived. I suspect that this is why my father did not become a mining superintendent, even though the mines were still going strong when he graduated in 1933 and he had all the right connections. 

Grandpa also made frequent visits to the town witch. She was a mining widow—Grandpa thinks she was Czechoslovakian. She made her living selling healing herbs from her garden and charms for every occasion. She was also the town midwife, counselor, and problem solver. He says the Company had a doctor available for the miners—money was taken out of their paychecks to pay for his supplies, housing, and salary—but even if you were lucky enough to catch him during one of his sober moments, he was still a lousy doctor. The miners and their families preferred the witch. My grandfather spent many evenings nursing a glass of wine in her exotic smelling kitchen and pumping her for information about the politics and problems of the community. Although Grandpa says he was careful never to show any real interest, he still managed to occasionally guide the conversation in the direction of the  magical uses of herbs and how she made her charms and spells and he managed to learn quite a bit. But if she was half the witch Grandpa says she was, I have no doubt that she was well aware that the Superintendent of Mines was a magic user.

 Grandma never approved of her husband’s magic. She was intelligent and well educated and I’m sure she understood what he was doing, but she didn’t like it. When I asked her why, she said it was unnatural meddling and best left alone. I suspect that that wasn’t the only reason she was against it. Grandpa was a busy man, often working weekends and into the night, and hours spent studying and practicing magic would have taken him away from his already neglected family. When he joined the Scottish Rite 38 N.J. Masonic Lodge in Princeton on June 29, 1921, even more of his precious time would have been lost to her as he participated in the events there. And then there was the fact that they lived in a town full of blacks and Catholics sitting over basements full of wine. I have no doubt that the Ku Klux Klan would have loved to go to work on Slickville. And if they found out the mining superintendent was a magic user, all those “prominent men” in Johnstown who were Klan members would have taken his job and thrown Slickville to the Klan. My father says his mother had a code word that she used when Grandpa or the kids began talking about things they shouldn’t. It was “Eskimo”. I used to think that Grandma, being the proper, socially conscious person that I knew her to be, used the word when the conversation drifted toward off color topics, but I now understand that she used it to make sure no one found out about her husband’s secret. She must have lived in constant fear of this, and I can only imagine the stress it caused in their marriage.

A Maxwell, probably close to the model Grandpa had. He loved to take the family on drives in the country.

A Maxwell, probably close to the model Grandpa had. He loved to take the family on drives in the country.

 My Grandfather died on April 27, 1944 one year before WWII ended and eight and a half years before I was born. My older brother Louis was only 5. Thomas Fisher, Grandpa’s college roommate and lifelong friend wrote this about him in his obituary in the Princeton Alumni Weekly: “The men employed by Buck*** were the last to join the National Miner’s Union, the reason being that they had faith and confidence in him, knowing that he was fair and just and always able to see the side of the workman as well as the demands of his employers. Often he was cautioned by his superiors, when agitators were afield, not to drive around at night in his old Maxwell, but Buck considered this to be in the line of duty and was unafraid. He was never harmed.”

 I’m very proud of my Grandpa. He was an amazing man, and one of the many unsung heroes of this world— the men and women who used their magical ability to make life easier, safer, and more bearable for humanity. Magic has been taboo throughout most of the thousands of years of our written history, and since the Age of Reason, people have pretty much believed that anyone who claims to use magic or “supernatural abilities” is a deluded fool. For these reasons, magic users have always practiced in silence and secret, and we will never know how much misery and disaster down through the ages these brave, talented people have spared the Earth.

*

  •  Grandpa’s father was a divisional coal mining superintendent named George Mellinger.
  • Grandpa was a coal mining engineer and superintendent for the Cambria Steel Company.
  •  His son, my father, was one of the first geotechnical engineers, a branch of civil engineering that includes mining engineers.
  • My mother was the first woman to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in geology from Ohio State University.
  • My older brother has a bachelor’s degree in geology and bids jobs for a company that reclaims coal strip mines.
  • His daughter and son-in-law both have masters’ degrees in geology.
  • My husband is a geotechnical engineer and so are both my sons.
  • Earth permeates my family’s soul.

** Johnstown, Pennsylvania: 1895-1936, by Randy Whittle.

***Grandpa was unable or possibly unwilling to tell me why his college nickname was Buck.

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy Beltane!

By Arthur Rackham

By Arthur Rackham

image by Cicely Mary Barker

image by Cicely Mary Barker

There are actually two times in the year when the veil thins and the other worlds come within touching distance. Samhain, or Halloween is the one most folks recognize, but Beltane, its partner on the opposite side of the Wheel of the Year is the other. Ancestors and spooks visit on Samhain and Fairies, or, as Lewis Spence speculates, gods who have diminished in power through lack of attention, visit on Beltane.

By Arthur Rackham

By Arthur Rackham

“At Bealltainn, or May Day, every effort was made to scare away the fairies, who were particularly dreaded at this season. In the West Highlands charms were used to avert their influence. In the Isle of Man the gorse was set alight to keep them at a distance. In some parts of Ireland the house was sprinkled with holy water to ward off fairy influence. These are only a mere handful out of the large number of references available, but they seem to me to reveal an effort to avoid the attentions of discredited deities on occasions of festival once sacred to them. The gods duly return at the appointed season, but instead of being received with adoration, they are rebuffed by the descendants of their former worshippers, who have embraced a faith which regards them as demons.

In like manner the fairies in Ireland were chased away from the midsummer bonfires by casting fire at them. At the first approach of summer, the fairy folk of Scotland were wont to hold a “Rade,” or ceremonial ride on horseback, when they were liable to tread down the growing grain.”
Lewis Spence, British Fairy Origins

A Fairy Rade (or ride)

A Fairy Rade (or ride)

May the fairies bless you this Beltane!

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We’re All Special

 I once told a client a story about something otherworldly that had happened to me and how it had changed my life. Said client promptly replied, “That’s wonderful for you, but you’re Special. Things like that don’t happen to regular people.”

Image by Ernst Fuchs

Image by Ernst Fuchs

That set me back on my heels. I’ve never thought of myself as “special”. I didn’t start out in life as psychic and I’m still not very good at it. I have led a privileged life. My parents were both well educated, sane people who loved me and treated me like a real human being, put me through college, and expected me to be successful, and I usually have been. But my successes happen because I’m fairly well adjusted, intelligent, and hard working—not because I’m brilliant or Special.  I’ve always figured that I was a regular person.

Now, my client is a very practical woman whose career requires her to be a shrewd judge of people. I suspect her logic went something like this:

I have never had an otherworldly/divine experience.
None of my friends have had otherworldly/divine experiences.
My friends and I are regular people.
The only people that I know of who have had otherworldly/divine experiences are Jesus, saints, and nutcases.
Therefore my massage therapist is either a saint or a nutcase.
From what I know of her she could be either one, so I’ll hedge my bets and call her “Special”.

However, this whole line of thought assumes that neither she nor any of her friends have had otherworldly/divine experiences. I believe that everyone has had at least one of these experiences but that they discount them as a coincidence and forget about them. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the big problems with our society. We rationalize everything and suck the magic out of our world.

maple_leafOne of my first divine experiences occurred during fall term of my freshman year in college. My love life had crashed and burned and I was desolate. Mother Nature has always been healing for me, and so I went for a walk in the woods behind my dorm. I came to a clearing and collapsed face up in the duff and wept. There was a touch on my outstretched left hand, like a friend was sitting next to me and offering sympathy. I looked over and caught my breath in amazement. There in my palm was a tiny, perfect, scarlet maple leaf. My tears dried up immediately and the pain in my heart eased. The Multiverse, the Divine, or The Goddess—call it what you will, had shown me oh so sweetly and perfectly that I was loved. Of course it could have been a coincidence, and most people would have chalked it up to that. And those same people would have continued to hurt and continued to wonder why the Gods constantly ignore them.

Another problem with my client’s line of thought is her assumption that if her friends had had otherworldly/divine experiences that they would have told her. I doubt that they would have. Up until the past several years I would never have told anyone about my experiences unless I knew for sure that they would believe me. I didn’t want people to think I was crazy or irrational or unstable. After I hit fifty I didn’t care what they thought and started telling my stories. To my amazement, no one even hinted that I was crazy and more often than not either asked for more or had stories of their own to tell.

We treasure these stories because they are our only real evidence that other worlds exist outside our own tiny patch of the Multiverse and that their inhabitants care about us and are willing to help. They are our only link to all these myriad worlds and all the precious knowledge and insights and energy they have to offer. When we begin to truly believe this on something besides a theoretical, oh-yes-that’s-very-nice level our lives become richer, easier, and more joyful because we have outside help. We don’t have to do it all by ourselves.

And anyone can get this extra help. However, it doesn’t just come automatically like your wisdom teeth. The Multiverse may give us a few “free” pokes, but if you don’t notice them or call them coincidence and ignore them, the Multiverse will begin ignoring you as well. But all you have to do is suspend your disbelief, pay attention, ask nicely, and be patient, and the Multiverse will respond in spades. We call this process meditation, prayer, ritual, spell casting etc., etc, etc.

My life has been rich with help and visits from and to the other worlds. I’ve decided to write about these experiences and post them here in the hope that they may inspire others to suspend their disbelief and reach for—or in many cases, continue to reach for—the divine.

Because we are all Special.

Ry Cooder does my favorite version of Jesus on the Mainline. Click on the pic to play it.

Ry Cooder does my favorite version of Jesus on the Mainline. Click on the pic to play it.

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Happy Spring: A Boquet for you!

Back in the Midwest where I grew up Spring actually sprang. The earth jumped into green as if some cosmic alarm clock had slammed it awake. March was still winter. Although a bit warmer than February, it was blustery cold. Even April was iffy. Snow wasn’t all that uncommon, but it was usually just chilly and nasty. However, things were definitely waking up and there were teaser days of warm sunshine, but we knew better than to put away our winter woolies. By mid April, if I remember correctly, the crocuses had come and gone and the daffodils were trumpeting out the good news of Spring’s arrival and everything was suddenly green.

 As the weather turned warmer all the tulips, hyacinths, and other spring bulbs leaped out of the ground and bloomed along with the cherry and apple trees in a frenzied froth of color. As April blossomed into May occasional hot days fried the bulb and tree blossoms, and suddenly it was early summer. Spring had sprung in a little over a month.

snowdrops

Witch Hazel at Bishop's Close, Portland, OR. Photo by Alex LaVielle

Witch Hazel at Bishop’s Close, Portland, OR. Photo by Alex LaVielle

Here in the coastal Pacific Northwest Spring has a more

Helebore

Helebore

leisurely awakening. She stirs and sighs in late January and the snowdrops appear. By February the Hellebore and Witchhazel rest the eye with welcome splashes of color, and my tiny cyclamen glows hot pink in the back yard. By mid February crocuses pop purple, lavender, yellow, and white against emerald grass. It’s still cold, but not really cold. We only occasionally wake up to frost on the rooftops and that’s gone by 9 o’clock.

Plum tree

Plum tree

In early March she stretches, yawns, and opens her eyes and ornamental plum and pear trees turn sections of streets into gorgeous pink and white tunnels and dainty star magnolias pose on the occasional lawn.

Dafodils

The first daffodils raise their trumpets. Their bulbs are poison and the squirrels leave them alone, so Portland yards are dotted with joyful yellow dafs well into April.

Cherry_blossomsNot to be outdone, a week or so later the Cherry trees burst into bloom and will continue the show for the next several weeks.

Tulips

By April Spring is truly up and struttin’ her stuff. The flowering trees are still

Wood Hyacinth

Wood Hyacinth

fabulous and the tulips have arrived, dotting flowerbeds with a palette full of color from sweet pink to sexy red to sultry deep, dark purple. Wood and grape

Horse_Chestnut

Horse Chestnut

hyacinths, the most beautiful weeds in Portland, fill in the spaces with blue mist. Then come the apples, azaleas, magnolias, dogwoods and lilacs. The trees leaf out and the hillsides are green once more. Portland’s famous rhododendrons also begin blooming in April. The show lasts well into May when the hawthorns and sweet woodruff provide crowns for May Queens and flavoring for May wine and horse chestnuts bloom in candelabras of pink and white.

rhododendronSpring moves slowly and gracefully here. All of her precious children get their hour upon the stage and we have plenty of time to oooh and aaaah over each and every one of them before another takes its place. As a gardener and ardent flower lover (my husband says I don’t plant enough vegetables) I prefer this to the slam-bam-thank-you-maam Springs we have in the Midwest. Unfortunately all this leisurely beauty comes with a price. The flowers stay fresh longer and the season is extended because from January until the end of June it’s mostly chilly and rainy here.

       

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