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Letting The Darkness Show You The Light

It is a cold, dark day here in California’s Central Valley, fairly typical for December.  We’ve had a bit more rain than normal, so soon the yearly fog will drop down, blanketing the valley in endless murky gray. It is the kind of day when I want to do nothing more than grab my favorite afghan, curl up in my recliner with a cup of peppermint tea and binge watch Netflix.   However, the witch in me sees this as a time to embrace the darkness, immerse myself in it, feel it wrap around me like cozy sweater. As the winter winds and rains send me inside, the lure of the dark is overwhelming.  It is this season when I let the dark guide me, giving me the clues for what I need to know or do in the upcoming year.  It is the time when I let the darkness show me how to find the light. 

Our ancestors knew a thing or two about the darkness, of flowing with the seasons. Winters could be very harsh and cruel for them. Forced inside for days, even weeks, at a time they learned how to cope with this time of darkness and many would even spiritually thrive.  The dark was the time to tell our stories, to teach the children our traditions, a time to perfect skills such as weaving, knitting, and sewing.  While the wind blew and the snow fell, we rested, conserving our energies in order to conserve our resources. The dark was a time to petition and commune with the Gods, asking that the food last until planting time and that the fire never go out. Frigid temperatures, fear of starvation and waning light has a way of humbling even the haughtiest of souls.

While the majority of us never have the fear of freezing to death or running out of food, the dark of winter can still be a frightening time. The cold and early darkness brings us inside – not just into our homes, but into our psyche, our souls as well.  We may find ourselves gazing out the window at the rain or snow, contemplating life as it is, life as it was, or life as it should be. We search for warmth, not only of the hearth and easy chair, but the warmth of friends, family, our chosen deities, anything to dispel the darkness invading our lives. The dark draws us towards introspection, the examination of our lives, thought processes, our spirituality. It is now that all inner work – meditation, trance work, divination – calls to us, implores us, to go inside ourselves and listen.

Use this dark time of year to rest, rejuvenate, become. Follow the dark into the light by finding your authentic self again. Create and refine the you that you wish to be in the coming year.  Learn new skills and relearn old ways. Spend time speaking to your soul and even more time listening to it.  Give yourself breaks during the hectic days of the holidays for some “you” time.  Allow others to do for you instead of you always doing for others.  Shrink your circles, keep those you love close – you can expand again as the light expands. 

The dark is here for a reason, to allow you to slumber, to withdraw into rest as the earth also sleeps. Yet the dark also calls for action. Your shadows are no longer visible in the dark. Instead, they are the dark and as such demand that you acknowledge them, see them for what they are, learn from them, and then release them before the light again casts them onto the path before you. Deal with what you have ignored, pushed aside.  You have time during these long, quiet nights. Push aside the fear.  It has no place here.  This darkness is your companion, your partner, your friend.

As you journey through the dark toward the light, a lantern, a road map, can assist you in finding the right path in the waning light.  Illuminate your way by creating a list of the things you wish to accomplish during the year, use it to guide you towards those things that will let your mind, spirit and heart grow, blossom and thrive.  What do you want for yourself? Your family?  What will add to your happiness?  What would allow you to feel fulfilled, useful, creative?  What would make you glow with love, hope and joy? Place these points on your map and then plot a course to reach them.

As the light gains strength outside, so shall the light within wax and grow  stronger.  The dark, once embraced, becomes our ally, not our nemesis. Darkness becomes the fertile soil where we plant our dreams and ideas for the future, ready to let the light bring them into being.  The gloom and gray which chases us indoors gives us the same  opportunity it gave to our ancestors, the opportunity to share, to grow, to speak to our Gods, to be thankful for the life we have and to plan for the future.

It’s okay to plant ourselves on our couch and our comfy chairs and dream as the winter surrounds us.  Just remember to cultivate the seeds we’ve planted in the dark soils of the winter season, give them the energy and light of your attention. As you gaze into your hearth fires or watch as the candles flicker beside you, remember that it is only through the dark that the light shines the brightest.  Enter into the darkness and let it show you the promise it holds. Allow the darkness to show you the light, moving you forward on the journey that is you.

Blessed Be!

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Summer’s Ripening

Our coven had a beautiful Summer Solstice ritual this past week. Our theme for the ritual was “Becoming”.  We asked each other how has what you planted at the Spring Equinox helped you to become who you are today?  As things are want to happen, this planned ritual evolved into not only our becoming, but our ripening.  How I love that word.

As witches we can’t stay green forever.  We need to learn, grow, advance, ripen or we shall merely rot on the proverbial vine,  But how can we gauge where we are in the process? How can we identify if we are green, ripe, or somewhere in between? I’d like to share my thoughts on this.

A green witch is a newbie, a beginner.  This does not imply that the witch has just found the Craft, but may also designate one who may have been practicing for a few years but has never moved past the beginning phases.

The beginner, the green, unripe witch does only basic work. They feel uncomfortable delving into shadow work and the mysteries. Ritual work is minimal and why they may follow the cycles of the year they are doing so rote, without actually delving into why we do so, they neglect to learn about their meanings, their core.  Spell work is their main focus, but the outcomes are hit and miss.  They understand that they need to do more, may even want to do more, but lack the proper instruction and/or motivation. While many may feel the lack of instruction others are perfectly comfortable with the level they are at. This is not necessarily a bad thing.  If you are comfortable at this level, then stick to it. But when has witchcraft ever been comfortable?

Next we find the burgeoning witch, the witch that is in the process of ripening but still has time on the vine. The majority of witches I know are in this stage.  Here, we are constantly learning, taking in the nutrients of hard work, dedication and practice.  We are delving into our shadows and dealing with the crap that is holding us back from reaching our potential.  We are understanding that the mysteries take years, decades to understand, if we ever truly do. Spell work is done when there is a need, not just for the sake of performing a spell and when we do so it is with the knowledge that our skills, through years of hard work and trial and error, are such that our outcomes are 98% favorable (sometimes what we want the Gods know we don’t really need).

In this phase we may begin to share our knowledge with our covens, circles and groves. We may become teachers, priest/priestesses, and counselors. Still, we require the support of our sisters and brothers in the craft to aid us in moving into the more advanced aspects of our journey. Trance work, thought forms, advanced sigil magick and divination work all are made easier when the witch in this stage leans heavily on her/his guides and magickal families to aid them on their journeys into ripeness.

The ripe witch, the crone, the sage, the adept, is what we all aspire to be and desire to emulate. The ripe witch is the one we all seem to go to with our questions, our stumbling blocks, our magickal failures as well as successes. They have mastered themselves, have delved into their shadows and come out whole.  They “know” without seeming a “know it all”. A ripe witch is one that has done the difficult inner work, has delved beyond the veil and back, has a deep relationship with their chosen deity(ies). He/she understands the web of life and how each and evert action we make affects us all. They are simply themselves, strong, capable, bad ass witches.  They live their magick each and every day. They ARE magick.

Where am I on this journey? Somewhere between burgeoning and ripe, I think.  I do know that there is so much I still need to learn and experience, so many of the mysteries I have yet to delve into.  My inner work is on-going and my skills can always be improved.  No matter where I may be on this adventure we call witchcraft, this is the path I wish to be on. But today I will just enjoy the summer sun and then, one day, I too shall ripen and become the adept witch I know I can become.

Blessed Be!

 

 

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Spring Cleaning my Craft

As the Vernal Equinox approaches and the days grow longer and warmer, my entire being brightens up.  My thoughts are taken out of the darkness of winter and into the light of Spring. Because a big part of my craft revolves around herbs and my garden I can’t help it if I get a bit giddy this time of year. The sunlight beckons and the bird’s song as they ready their nests echoes the sentiment in my heart.  Time to get up, get moving, and get cleaning!

With the return of the sun, I find myself reevaluating my Craft and where I wish to take it during the following year.  I break out the notes I made at Yule and do a “spring cleaning” if you will of those plans and ideas that need a bit of a dusting.  Are those plans I made in the winter still viable in the new light of the spring?  Which ideas need a bit of spit and polish to make them shiny and new again?  Which ones are worn beyond measure and truly need to placed in the trash? Are there some that just need a stitch or two here or there to “mend” a shoddy, but still usable concept?

By breaking out the metaphorical soap and water at least once a year, I am able to keep my Craft fresh and moving in a forward direction.  Any thing, any idea, that is stagnant, smells off, or seems to have grown a funky green fuzz on it from neglect over the winter gets a very thorough scrubbing. If afterwards it still stinks or just can’t seem to keep my attention, out it goes.  I’ve had some really grand plans and seemingly awesome ideas turn to absolute mush over a long winter.  I’ve had pieces of my Craft break off or shatter so badly no amount of time or glue could piece it back together. In the winter, in the cold and gray, I’ve tried in vain to save them.  But in the light of spring I come to realize they have broken because they no longer serve me. I reexamine everything and purge, purge, purge! Out with the old!

Once the surfaces have been cleaned, the dust bunnies corralled, old candle wax scraped of the shelves, and the broken down and tattered remnants burned away, it’s time to bring in the new. With the smell of fresh beeswax and lemon polish in my nose, I sit and meditate on the plans and ideas that remain.  How can I best use them?  Will they take my Craft on the path I feel I need this year or do I need to purge further?  Is there something I could add to enliven my Craft and my connection to the Gods? What makes my soul sing, my heart happy, and my Craft powerful?  Do these concepts, these plans do that?

Once I am satisfied that all is organized, in its place and ready to use, I’m ready to move forward, to put those plans into action. I tuck my Book of Shadows under my arm, careful not to let all those refreshed notes, new spells and polished ideas spill out.  I grab my freshly scrubbed cauldron, open a new pack of candles, and place what is left of last years offering of dried herbs in my basket and head to my outdoor altar, eager to begin my work. In the sunlight of a new spring day I feel cleansed and refreshed in both my spirit and my Craft. I’m ready to move eagerly towards the new experiences that await me in this season and the next.

Blessed Be.

 

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A Garden of Possibilities

Spring comes early to California’s Central Valley.  When other states are knee deep in snow, our temps are mild, usually in the mid 60’s and rarely going below 36 at night.  By Valentine’s Day our corner of the globe explodes in color. Trees of every variety burst into blossom filling the air with a heady scent.  It is then that almond orchards are covered in “Central Valley snow”, their snowy white blossoms stretching as far as the eye can see. It truly is a spectacular sight.

This is one of my favorite times of year.  It is the time when the garden calls, beckoning me to come and play.  Seriously, I get giddy just thinking about it. My garden is my playground, my sanctuary, and my local therapist all rolled into one wonderful, but not very large, piece of heaven. With trimmers and trowel in hand I answer the call, ready to clear away the winter debris.  Dead branches and foliage are trimmed, the leaves that have not already become mulch are cleared out of pots and garden beds.  As I trim and clean,  my mind, my very soul begins to clear itself of the winter doldrums. The dirt under my nails and the mud on my pants is better medicine to my being than any drug could ever be. Each bucket of decaying matter, each tender shoot that is uncovered, lets my mind and heart open once again to the possibilities of the new season ahead of me.

If you garden, you know that a good portion of what you do is all about the possibilities.  You plant a seed, give it water and fertilizer ever knowing that there is a distinct possibility that it may never germinate. Or perhaps a bird may eat it or an unseasonal cold snap may end its tentative life.  It may thrive, poking its tender head above the soil, only to be eaten by a ravenous snail or earwig.  Yet we continue to plant, for the wonder, for the joy, for the possibility of a gorgeous row of happy-faced pansies or a deep green summer squash. We understand the risks involved but are willing to put in the work, take the chance, all for the reward of a red, ripe tomato for our summer salad.

Possibilities.  Life, like the garden, is all about the possibilities. Each idea, each dream we have is a possibility, calling to us like the garden to come out and play, to take a chance on making it grow. We have to work on these ideas and dreams,  give them enough energy, food and water so they may grow properly.  In the process of growing our possibilities into realities we are going to get sweaty and dirty. We will need to get down on our hands and knees and pull out the weeds of doubt that threaten to strangle our garden. Just like the tender plant that stretches towards the sunshine, gaining strength with its warmth, we too must make sure that there is enough light, enough energy, to see our ideas come to fruition.  We must be vigilant, monitoring them as they grow. We may need to adjust the amount of water so that they do not drown in worry, or be parched by the heat of our fears. An occasional sprinkling of the fertilizer of a new discovery or a different way of looking at our ideas, will help them thrive. On occasion we may need to pinch back the stray tendrils of thought, the runners and branches that stray from the garden plot, before they take us off task and disorder our garden. We work, we prune, we shape and we feed our plants, our ideas, our dreams, until that day when we walk out and can revel at the glorious garden we have created.

Once our plants, our possibilities have grown to maturity, our work is still not done.  We have to harvest those fruits, prepare them for the table, put them to use.  We could gorge on our success, letting the juice of attainment drip down our chins like a red, ripe, strawberry. But that is fleeting, an act of momentary self-gratification.  Instead we should strive to preserve our bounty, make the moment last. While we can’t make jelly out of our realized ideas and dreams, we could “can” them. Using the tools of social media, journaling, a new Etsy store or a published novel, they are preserved, allowing us to savor them when winter once again brings its chilling winds and waning light.  As our garden slumbers, awaiting the spring, and with it new possibilities, we shall be able to look back on our accomplishments with pride and gratitude for the garden that brought them forth.

As spring bursts forth in your piece of this glorious world, listen for the call of the garden. For it is there you will find your possibilities.  Whether it may be a physical garden or the garden of your mind, it is there you can find the joy of planting, nurturing and harvesting your own plants of possibility. May they grow beyond your wildest dreams.

Blessed Be!

 

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The Hibernation Quantification

During our last coven gathering as we chatted while arriving, the upcoming holidays was the topic of discussion.  We spoke of the family gatherings and work parties, the shopping and the baking.  Above all we talked about the general craziness this time of engenders.  One of my beautiful sisters (you know who you are and thanks for being my muse) made a very astute observation which really resonated with me.  “Why,” she said (and I am paraphrasing),  “is it that humans find it necessary to be so busy during the winter months when the earth slumbers and rests and her creatures slow down or hibernate.”  Why indeed do we silly humans do what we do this time of year. When did we decide to stop our winter rest and party like its 1999?

As I am not a historian, I am not qualified to give you absolutes on the exact moment when people began taking their simple seasonal observations and morphed them into the holiday frenzy we have today.  Could it have been the first season when we went from small, insular villages to large towns and cities? Perhaps it began in the Middle Ages when the court of Queen Elizabeth the First staged their elaborate parties presided over by the Lord of Misrule?   Or was it later, after World War II when life was returning to “normalcy” and there were many reasons to celebrate (if your ancestors happened to be on the winning side, that is)?  Regardless of the date somehow, some where we created a season of endless cleaning, baking, shopping and partying, which we seem to now consider “normal”.  But is it normal?

Then I had a thought.  Perhaps all of this stress and fatigue generating mayhem is our way of inducing our hibernation phase. We humans celebrate with friends and family to such a degree that we no longer find it necessary to quantify our choice to be insular and restful after the holiday season. All of us are so weary by the time New Year has passed we all understand the need for a time to rest and recuperate. The weather cooperates with that need by becoming colder (in the Northern Hemisphere) forcing us to hunker down in our homes, fires and heaters blazing. We wrap ourselves, in cozy blankets, sip hot beverages and fill our bellies with warm “comfort foods.”  We force ourselves to continue on with only those things we must do, like work and shopping for essentials when truly we long for nothing better than our beckoning beds where we may find the joys of peaceful slumber. Hibernation phase cocoons us in her welcoming embrace whether we want it to or not.  Resistance it is futile.  Give in, get comfy, and enjoy your time of rest. Enjoy the normalcy after the lunacy of the holiday season.

I plan on doing just that.  My fuzzy blanket beckons and hot tea with honey awaits.  There are new books to read and yarn that begs to be made into socks and other creations.  While the wind blows and the frost covers the ground I plan to rest and recuperate so as to awaken again at Imbolc refreshed and revitalized.  As the earth herself stirs to life again in February, may you also come out of hibernation rested and prepared for what the glorious new year has in store for you.

Blessed Be!

By Terry Lynn Pellegrini 2017

 

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