Thursday, May 31, 2018

The joys of solitude

When I was in high school, I took the Myers Briggs personality test for the first time.  I was classified as XNTJ, which I then had to figure out, because typically speaking, the first letter is either an I for introvert or an E for extrovert.  But I was an X...evenly split between the two.

As an adult, I definitely find this to be true.  I need both my solitude and my socialization.  If I spend too much time surrounded by other people, I get cranky.  I will find myself irritated and just edgy.  On the other hand, if I spend too much time alone, I get somewhat depressed.  I need both to balance me.

I spend a lot of time alone.  I don't work outside the home, and we have one car, so half the time, when hubby is working (when he is on day shift), I won't have access to a car, so am pretty much stuck at home.  Typically speaking this doesn't bother me.  I might be a little more tilted towards being introverted now, as I can spend time interacting with people digitally, to help assuage my need for socialization, combined with meeting up with friends on the weekend (and of course, spending time with my family at home).

And, while we definitely do stuff together as a family (right now we are pretty into board games), we each also have our own personal pursuits, so even when we are all at home, we might be doing things on our own. 

But there is a special quality to being truly alone (or at least being the only one awake).  For me, when my son was in school, this often meant mornings.  After he went off to school, if hubby was on night shift or at work, it was just me.  I would be alone for most of the day.  Now that son is out of school, it typically means late night (but since I don't have to get up early, that works too). 

Time seems to move differently, when I am alone.  There is a lessening of pressure, there are no expectations.  I don't always sit in silence, but when I do, either inside my house, or standing outside tasting the night air, I am more aware of my surroundings, in a way that goes beyond my standard senses. 

For me, this is a kind of medicine, a necessary thing.  I can tell when I'm not getting my alone time, and sometimes hubby can tell too.  Typically, by the end of a summer, or if both he and son are on vacation at the same time, he knows I'll be craving my solitude.  It's not that I don't love my family, or want to spend time with them, I just need some space to be me.

And I think that is the absolute crux for me.  I set expectations on myself, I bend my own activities around other people, I am flexible and adaptable.  And I love being able to be that way, but it is a subtle pressure, a slow wearing down of stone as the water rushes past it.  Spending time alone lets me build myself back up, it lets me be the rock that holds my family together, that makes sure all the things get done, when they need to get done.

We are taught to be social creatures, and we are told over and over that people who are loners or who spend time by themselves are damaged or unstable.  But there is a very distinct difference between someone who is comfortable with themselves, and comfortable alone, and someone who lacks the social skills to be able to function with other people. 

If you find yourself craving solitude, embrace it!  Find ways to do things on your own, ways to fill your cup and find that space that you need.  Taking care of yourself, in whatever way that manifests, is a very necessary thing, and if you need solitude, ensuring that you have time makes your whole life better.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Gratitude practice

Gratitude is something I have, for many things, but not something I have always practiced, at least not in the sense of having a gratitude practice.  I was raised to send thank you notes, in fact, I wasn't allowed to spend any money received until after I sent my thank you.  And it couldn't just be a card that said, "thank you for the money," it had to be a proper letter, that included gratitude.  Boy, did I not care for this practice when I was little.  It's funny though, it was the rest of the letter I didn't like writing, not the giving thanks part.

Gratitude can be hard.  By expressing gratitude, we are accepting something for which we are giving thanks, and accepting blessings can be challenging for many people.  Sometimes, what we are accepting is physical:  someone has given us a gift or money or some other actual thing.

If we had a need in our life, accepting the blessing might mean admitting that we needed help, which can be hard to do.  We have been taught, by society, that needing help makes us weak and unworthy, and often times the exact opposite is true!  When we need help, and we admit it, and we let someone else step in and give us the help we need, we are demonstrating a different kind of strength.  We are creating the opportunity for someone else to aid us, which can often be a joy to them as well!  And when we graciously accept that help, and offer heartfelt gratitude for what was given, we multiply the blessings!

But even if it was something like a birthday gift, it might not be something we actually wanted (I know many people get very strange gifts from both family and friends), but we still feel obligated to give thanks.  It is easy to get caught up in some amount of resentment or to have hurt feelings.  If they really KNEW us, they would have gotten us something we liked.  Why did they have to give us something practical, why couldn't they have gotten us something fun?  Where did they even find this thing they gave us???

To me, gift giving is a particularly tricky thing to navigate, because not only do we all have different wishes and desires, but we express ourselves in different ways.  I love the idea of love languages because it makes SO much sense to me.  Most of the people in my life speak very different love languages, and this was a lesson I learned really early (because my mom's love language is acts of service, so I grew up getting Christmas wish lists that didn't include actual gifts, but rather things like:  a straight A report card or a clean house).

It can also sometimes be hard, especially for people who have known us a long time, to separate their memories of us from who we are today (doubly true for anyone who knew you as a child).  They have this image of you, like a fly trapped in amber, and they may not update that image, and so they will gift you things that you may not be interested in anymore.

I used to really feel guilty about regifting or letting go of things that I had been gifted.  It felt like I was being ungrateful.  But I have started to realize that I can appreciate and honor the spirit of the gift...without holding onto the actual item at all.  And sometimes, part of the joy for me is in finding a home for the gift with someone who will really love it!

People can also give us gifts of time or service.  Just like physical gifts, this can be a hard thing for us to accept...and even harder for us to ask for!  I am not very good at asking for help, especially when it's something that I can do myself (but perhaps someone else could do it better or easier).  I am more likely to just push through, to do it myself, than to ask for help.

But sometimes, when we do things ourselves, we are again denying other people the opportunity to help us.  A proper attitude of gratitude can go a long way in helping us to not only accept help, but to ask for it when needed.  If we are truly in the spirit of gratitude, we look at tasks different ways.  I learned to speak in gifts of service because of my mother, and I often do things for the people I care about, as a way of showing that I care.  It is one way in which I show my gratitude for them being a part of my life, for the things they do for me, or give me, or just for being who they are!  And when I let myself be grateful for the people in my life, I can then allow myself to show that gratitude by asking for help when I need it and accepting help that is offered.

I heard of gratitude practice many years ago, as it is often talked about in conjunction with journaling.  Most gratitude practices suggest writing down five things you are grateful for every morning when you first wake or at night right before you go to bed.  I tried this, and it so doesn't work for me...either morning or evening!  I sort of gave up on gratitude practice for a long time.

About three years ago, I saw a challenge circulating about:  it was a year of gratitude.  There were 52 different prompts, one for each week, and the challenge was to list at least one thing, for each prompt, that you were grateful for.  I thought this was a brilliant idea, and I wanted to share it.  And this started my very first, year long project.

But, I didn't want to just write in my journal about it, I wanted to share it.  So, I turned it into a community thing!  My local group has a group on Facebook, and each week I would share the prompt and everyone could join in.  It was a really cool year, not only did we all spend time each week focusing on what we were grateful for, but we got to see all the things everyone else loved as well!  This project has evolved over the years, but I am still doing a weekly prompt for sharing with my local group, and it continues to be amazing.

On a personal level, I have finally figured out what works for me.  Firstly, I don't think of my gratitude practice as JUST a gratitude practice.  I added these sticky notes to the start of my journal, because they were ideas I had come across that really resonated with me.  Not only ideas about what I could write in my gratitude journal, but also a shift in how I thought about it.

I do like noting what I am grateful for, but I don't want it to be just a list of things.  I don't want to sit down every day and tick off the important things in my life...that just feels too much like a repetitive chore.  In that first sticky (if you can read it!), it really expands on the concept of gratitude, and what I really like about it is that it includes things that you accomplished that day!  I think it is easy to focus on external things that we are grateful for, and never reflect that back on ourselves and see what we love in ourselves.  I also like that there is a 'room for improvement' prompt....instead of thinking about something that went poorly, we can turn that into thinking about how we would do it, if we could do it over!  And that is a very powerful thought.

The journal I use for my gratitude is one I almost didn't buy.  I love journals, and I have a stack of empty ones (and more stacks of partially filled ones).  I like to dedicate journals to specific purposes, and keep different thoughts in each one.  Typically speaking, overly flowery, yellow things aren't my style.  But this journal was on clearance, for a price I couldn't pass up, and I figured I could always gift it to someone.

And then, when I decided to actually start trying to keep a gratitude journal, I thought I would use this one.  I do love the silver, and the inside pages are lovely, with uplifting messages.  It really is a lovely journal to look at!

 There is something really special about having your gratitude journal be something that is physically pleasing to you.  Every time I reach for this journal, before I even read or writing anything in it, I find myself wanting to smile.  It just makes me happy.  Which definitely puts me in the right mindset to write in it!

The biggest hurdle for me in actually using my gratitude journal is when to write in it.  Morning doesn't work for me.  I'm not a morning person.  I plan in the morning, but I'm definitely not in a grateful place (not until the coffee kicks in!), so trying to use my journal in the morning wouldn't work.  Plus, I'm often just not awake enough to think clearly about what I am grateful for (morning gratitude would probably look pretty repetitive for me).

Right before bed wouldn't work for me either.  Though I am a night owl, I tend to stay up later than I should, and by the time I drag myself off to bed, I'm so tired I can't think straight!  If I really want to remember to do something, I try to tie it to another thing I already do.  In this case, we typically watch a show while we eat dinner, and I have found that what works for me is writing my gratitude after I am done eating.  So, I keep my journal here, between our two big beanbag chairs (mine is the one on the left!) and there is a pen in the box on the table, so I have everything I need, and it is easy to remember to do.  When I know we have other plans for dinner, I write in it after lunch...and when the day is really crazy, I just plop down when I have a moment and write then!

One big thing for me is to not be hard on myself if I do miss a day.  I don't play catch-up or give myself grief, I just go back to it the next day.  And if I find a pattern (like I did when I missed a couple of days because we ate out) I figure out what I can do that will help me stay on track (which is when I started writing at lunch if I knew we had dinner plans)!

So what do I actually write in my journal?  Well, if you can read my writing, you can have a peek!  But I'll share, in case you can't. 

I write about the wonderful things that happened in my day.  This might be a package I got in the mail, a gift I received or something nice someone did for me.  I write about things that are going really well in my life.

I write about food.  This is kind of a family thing that I've inherited.  My family loves food, and if you look at our family emails, we probably spend more time telling each other what we ate than what we did.  I love food, and I have a complex relationship with it, but I find that by being grateful for the wonderful food I ate (or times where I was really good with my eating habits), that is starting to shift my perception of myself in regards to food.

I write about my cats...a lot.  This is my go-to when my day is bad.  I turn to my cats, and just spend time with them.  And when I can't think of anything to write in my gratitude journal, I write about my cats.

I also read through my journal, when I'm having a rough time.  Looking back at all the blessings in my life, makes me feel blessed.  Reading about stuff I was excited about, makes me feel enthusiastic.  Reading about my cats makes me feel happy!  It's just good stuff.

I won't tell you to start a gratitude practice, but I will say that I enjoy mine.  I will suggest that if you want to, that you play with it.  Don't feel like you have to do it a certain way, and be assured that you can't do it wrong.  Find things that make you happy, that make you feel blessed, and that let you really fill up with gratitude for all the amazing things in your life.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Blogfest, and more about me!

I am participating in a project called the Gentle Visibility Blogfest, a nine day adventure in writing and sharing blog posts!

If you are new to my blog, welcome!  I am Jennifer, a Norse-Fusion Pagan, who has been exploring and following a spiritual path for over two decades now (since I was in high school!).  I started this six years ago!  It's had a few rocky years, but this will be my fourth year of writing a blog post every week (plus a few bonus posts here and there).

I write about whatever is on my mind, mostly spiritual stuff, some crafting, some hobbies, and some 'pulse of the moment' (things inspired by whatever is going on in the world).  My blog, has always been my space to write about anything and everything, so you never know what you will find!

I also write for my Patrons over at Patreon, where I write a monthly short story, share my blog, talk about other things in my life and share WIP excerpts from my other writing.  One of my big writing projects every year (for the past 10 years!) is NaNo (National Novel Writing Month), where you challenge yourself to write a 10,000 word novella..entirely in the month of November!  It is a crazy, hectic thing to do, but I love it, and it pushes me to grow in different ways every year.

I am passionate about my writing, for many reasons.  I have always been a writer, and creating stories and characters is something I was doing on the playground in gradeschool.  This has also translated into one of my main hobbies:  roleplaying games.  If you haven't heard of them, a roleplaying game is kind of like taking part in an ongoing story!  One person is the storyteller, they create the world and the many people who live in it, come up with plot and challenges for the players to overcome and rewards for when they do.  The other people each make a character, and take on that character's role in the story.  It's great fun, and I love both playing and running games.  Really, any excuse to make up characters (for stories or games) is great in my book!

But I also think that we each have our own unique perspective, our own place in the world.  And no matter how similar you might be to me, we each bring something fresh to the table.  By sharing our words, our experiences, our thoughts, our hopes, fears and dreams, we give a little bit of ourselves.  And we share things that someone else might not be able to get anywhere else...and how cool is that!

I learn so much, not only by what other people share with me, but also by organizing my thoughts to share with other people.  If I am in need of some clarity in my life, I write about it!  By trying to figure out how to say something so someone else will understand it, I often find that things make more sense in my own head as well.

So, come and join me on this Blogfest journey.  Who knows where it will lead, but I am sure it will be an adventure along the way!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Little things add up!

Someone in one of my groups posted a meme recently that spoke about supporting all the witches who might not have energy to 'do the witchy things'.  There is this (mostly) unspoken judgement, that if you practice witchcraft, or Paganism, or have personal spirituality...that there are things you NEED to be doing. 

People talk about doing daily meditation, daily divination, working with the moon cycles, honoring the Sabbats (or other big, festivals important to your faith, throughout the year).  There is the expectation that you will be reading books, studying, journaling, working on improving your Self, helping others....truly the list is really long and sort of intimidating.

Most of the time, I don't see people coming out and flat out shaming other people for not doing whatever they feel is 'necessary'...but there is often what feels like a subtle shaming, where someone will post about what they are doing, ask about what someone else is doing, and then either start trying to one-up them (as if they aren't quite 'worthy' enough if they aren't doing more/bigger/better than other people), or they say something sort of condescending ("Oh, you don't do X....well what DO you do then?").

And even if you are lucky enough to not have subtly shady people making veiled comments about your practice, it is very easy to self-shame.  To read about what other people are doing (or what they say they are doing....) and to compare yourself to what you think your practice should be.

Firstly, we are all unique, which means our practices will be different!  And our family/home situation is different.  And our work, our location, our economic status....all the different parts of our life combine to make what we do different.

One person might have a lot of money, but very little time, and so they buy lots of fancy, pre-made products to use in their practice.  Another person might have very little money to spare, and so they harvest materials, upcycle stuff and craft their own things to use.  Both might look at the other and feel some sort of envy.  The person who buys all their things might wish they had the time to spend creating their own stuff, and the person who makes all their own things might wish they could splurge on those beautiful things they see the other person using. 

Even if you think your circumstances are similar to someone else's, the details may make things work for one of you but not the other.  Two stay-at-home parents might have vastly different amounts of 'free' personal time (and/or privacy to practice), based on how they raise their kids, family involvement and all sorts of other things.  Just because you don't have a traditional job outside of the home, doesn't mean that your day is all free and that you can do whatever you want whenever you please!

And of course, we all have different energy levels.  We may have health complications, or just bad days.  We may have very different energy levels on different days, that we have to work around.  Or we may be consistently low (or high!) and have to figure out how to manage the things we want to do, given the resources we have (hopefully without burning ourselves out!)

There are lots of days where I feel like I'm not 'doing a whole lot', especially when it comes to my spiritual life.  Sometimes it feels like I'm just sort of skating around, in a haze, and I do feel envy when reading about other people's, often very involved practices. 

But then, I'll go to explain what I DO do....and the things that feel very basic or simple to me, when I try to put them on paper, sound really complex and involved!  My morning and evening routine, which are about five minutes each, take forever to explain (and when I read back over what I have written about them, it sounds like I am doing all this fancy stuff). 

In some ways, I'm also a bad example.  Because I do know, that when I step back and look at the things that I do, it is a good amount.  I may not do the biggest, most fancy rituals, or the most regular offerings (though I am getting better at that!), but I have a fair amount of time at my disposal, and over the years I have built up a pretty solid practice.

Also, being a writer, I do write about what I lots of detail.  Words are sort of funny that way, what might only take me a few seconds, might take three or four paragraphs to describe.  Some things look so much more impressive when you have put them to paper.  I also recognize that I am very blessed to have a family that may not share my beliefs, but they allow me the time and space to do my own thing.

I am also, most of the time, guilty of talking about what is going well, and not so much about what is going poorly.  I do try to share my struggles, because I know, that for me personally, when I am having a hard time, I want to not only read about other people who are doing well (because that inspires me), but also people who are struggling.  It doesn't matter if their struggles are anything like my own, it just makes me feel less alone.  And sometimes, something they have done will click for me, and I'll have one more tool in my box to pull out when things are going rough.  And I definitely want to give that opportunity to other people.

But mostly, I do write about the positive things.  I write about the rituals I've done, or the practices that are established.  I don't write as much about the (many) things I've tried to add to my practice that haven't worked or stuck, or the tools that I have that I have never used, or the gaping holes in my magical cabinet (I really have a very limited herb selection, and my essential oils can be counted on one hand...).  So, from the outside, if you are just reading my blog posts or the things I share on social media, you see only the success and not the struggle.

I think it can be useful to remind ourselves of this, anytime we are reading about what other people are doing...especially if we are reading something like a blog or an article that is sharing a practice.  People are going to share what works, and they are mostly going to share stuff when they have a solid handle on it, not when they are just starting out and still figuring out how things work.  You are seeing the end of their journey, not the many, many steps it took them along the way (or the detours, dead ends and obstacles they had to face).

I have said many times before:  I have never felt any sort of disappointment from any of the beings I work with, when I have honestly done my best, no matter how tiny of a thing I have done.  And even when I really could have done more, but didn't, I feel like most of the judgement on what I didn't do is coming from within my own head.

Spirituality challenges us to be more, but it doesn't want to break us.  Our practice helps us to grow, but it also gives us space and supports us when we fall.  No one has a right to judge you on what you do (or do not do)!  If you need to adapt your practice, change it, or put it off entirely, that is your call to make!  If you had planned on doing a big ritual, but ran out of time, do a small observance instead.  If you can't stand for an entire circle casting, sit down.  If you are dead tired from work, look at some art that speaks to your soul instead of reading the next chapter in that spiritual book you are working on.  If you want to make an offering, and think you have nothing to give, speak from the heart and let your words be your devotion.

Everything we do, can be a part of our practice.  And the tiniest of things, can be full of meaning and intent.  Do what you are capable of!  Tune in, and see where you are at, and what you can manage, in this moment, and do that.  Even if it is nothing more than sending your thoughts up in prayer, in thanks that you have made it through another day.  Like grains of sand, every small action will build, and a thousand grains of sand is a mighty thing indeed!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The SHEro Archetypes (Book Review)

The SHEro Archetypes by Rebecca Kane (link to Amazon page)

This is a bit of a different review, because I have know the author, Rebecca Kane, through her Facebook groups for about two and a half years. I joined her moon group at the end of 2015 (I know this because I did my big moon exploration over 2016, and I had joined her group right before starting that adventure!), and I have joined and participated in several of her groups over the years.

She provides a lot of wonderful resources and I have really enjoyed being a part of her groups, and when I saw she had published a new book, The SHEro Archetypes, I knew I had to have a copy. I have had glimpses of these archetypes, through her groups, and I adore the images she has for them (she has an oracle deck for them that I absolutely have to get my hands on sometime, they are so cute!) And, she had shared the lovely map from the book, that shows the different archetypes on their spots around the wheel.

I love archetypes, and the hero's journey, and it is always fascinating to me, to read people's experiences with this type of journey. One of the points that I feel was made very clear early in the book, is that this journey not linear, but a spiral, working along a circle, but ending up in a new place from where you started. And that the archetypes she outlines in this book are all a part of us, within us and ready to lend their guidance, at any time.

While the names of some of the archetypes Rebecca uses in her book may be new, the essence of many of the archetypes will be familiar to many readers. These are stages that we go through, as we grow and learn and develop, and this book does a wonderful job of making these different archetypes easy to comprehend and relate to.

The book starts with an explanation of what archetypes are and why they are important. And not just in being able to understand what is going on inside of us, but in developing tools to handle different situations in different ways! It then goes on to elaborate on what the SHEro's journey is all about: how we experience, traverse and resolve the many challenges we will face throughout our lives. I really appreciated how the differences between a traditional hero's journey and the more internal and feminine oriented SHEro's journey are explained.

Then, you get into the meat of the book: each of the nine SHEro archetypes has not one section but two devoted to it. I thought this division worked very well, separating out the 'who they are' from the 'what they do'. I felt that I had a much better concept of the archetypes, both as individuals and as a group, by the time I got to the part that explained how they might show up in my life, which made that area very easy to understand.

When we meet each of the SHEros, we get some really great correspondence type information about each of them, from affirmations, to types of energy they represent, to symbols they are represented by. Not only are these given in an easy to quickly reference list, they are explained further, which I very much appreciate. For me, knowing why something is connected makes it a stronger connection for me.

Another thing I found really great was that each SHEro had a real world example given, of a woman who embodied the qualities of that archetype. I loved reading about these women, and seeing how they represented the SHEro they were chosen for.

Also in this section are examples of what might be going on in your life if this particular SHEro is active or suppressed for you. I think these kinds of lists are very useful for checking in and seeing where you stand in relation to a specific archetype.

More than just giving information, each SHEro also has suggestions for things you can do to connect deeper with that archetype, and journal prompts relating to her. I love the inclusion of both of these! Sometimes it can be hard to figure out where to go next, when you are learning new information, and I felt that these suggestions are great ways to start the process of becoming personally familiar with the SHEros.

After you have met all the SHEros, the final part of the book has a section for each of the SHEros again, but this time, it details how each one follows the SHEro's journey, from the call, to the challenge, through the transformation and into the return.

This was a really great way of showing how the different archetypes approached the same journey. I really felt like I understood how they viewed and reacted to the different parts of the journey, and how I might apply those lessons to my own life.

Also in this section is a personal anecdote, for each of the SHEro's, from Rebecca's life. I adored this! I love reading people's stories, and I feel that sometimes I learn better by hearing actual stories than the more generalized examples.

Overall, the book was very easy and enjoyable to read, but packed a whole lot of information in between it's covers. There is a lot that I can go back to, and much like the SHEro's journey, where you go through the cycle and end up a little bit ahead, I feel like the more times I go back to this book, the more I will get from it, because I will be a little wiser each time.

I definitely enjoyed this one, and would recommend it to anyone who is looking to connect deeper with the feminine archetypes inside themselves. I sometimes struggle with the more traditional feminine archetypes, but I found the SHEros to be very approachable (and not tied to purely biological or procreative natures). No matter where you find yourself, on your journey to connect deeper with your inner female archetypes, this book will help you explore the SHEros within.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Flower crafts

Flowers are a wonderful way to not only appreciate the beauty and wonder of nature, but to bring that little bit of the outside in to our homes and our sacred spaces.  Many people love having fresh flowers for their table, and flowers have been used throughout time as offerings.  They are a lovely way to honor the deities we work with, to bring a bit of the season into our Sabbat altars or to call upon the energy of the flower in our work.

There are many different ways of understanding the magic of flowers, from looking at flower essences to the herbal qualities of the plants.  Flower language was used as a code of sorts, where you could deliver a complex message by making a floral bouquet, and the flowers included would indicate what you wanted to say to the person receiving it.  Some flowers have very strong associations, so much that they are almost dedicated to a particular purpose:  red roses for love or chrysanthemums for funerals.

Many common flowers are often seen as weeds, even though they delight children everywhere.  The simple dandelion, with it's bright yellow flowers and delightful seed puffs are beloved by many, as they blow the fluff and make wishes.  These are often found in lawns, and while many people bemoan them, they have some really interesting properties!

Every part of the dandelion is edible, and in fact is quite nutritious!  They are perennial, meaning as long as the taproot is undisturbed, they will grow back every year.  The leaves can be eaten in raw in salads or cooked like spinach.  The flowers can be made into wine and the roots into a coffee-like drink.  Dandelion root is one of the ingredients in root beer!

While the fluff is safe to eat, they have little taste and are generally found to be an unpleasant texture in the mouth.

Medicinally, dandelion flowers help restore skin and soothe pain.  They can be turned into a healing oil or salve.  While I haven't made the salve, the oil is actually really easy to make!  First, you will want to gather as many dandelions as you can....seriously, you will need a TON, I made two small canning jars of oil and probably had gathered a bucket full of the blossoms!

Once you have gathered them, you will want to wash them.  Not only will this remove any dirt, it helps clear out any remaining ants or other critters that were on the flowers.  I found it helpful to dump my bucket out first (outside!) after I had gathered up all that I wanted, because it let a bunch of the creepy crawlies wander off on their own (they had been crawling around my bucket!), but I still washed them afterwards.  Then you will want to lay them out and let them wilt.  It's really astonishing how much they compact when wilted!

Once they have dried for about a day, put them in your container.  I used a simple glass canning jar, that had been thoroughly washed and dried.  I packed them in fairly tightly (by shaking my jars, not by smooshing them down), and then topped each off with olive oil (or any other carrier oil).  You will want to use a knife or stick to poke the flowers down, and try to remove as many air bubbles as you can (I used a chopstick!).  Let them steep for two weeks (I poked them down every day, to help ensure no bubbles), and then strain.  I found that a clean handkerchief worked great to strain out the flowers.  Then you can put it in a bottle to store (away from light), though you will want to use it within a year, so it doesn't go rancid!

Here's a pic of one of my jars of dandelion oil, while it was steeping...and some chive blossoms I was washing for another flower craft:  chive blossom vinegar!  I have a group of chives I've been growing for years.  They are the absolute hardiest plant ever (thank goodness!), and have lived through snows, me not watering them, the soil getting ever lower in their pot...just about anything you can imagine.  They were the only herb in my starter kit that actually grew, and every year they give me a crop of blossoms.

Once the flowers are fully opened up (like you can see in the bunch over my coffee cup), I clip them off and bring them inside.  They get a thorough wash as well (again, to help remove any critters), and once they are clean, I clip them right at the base of the flower, put them in a bottle or jar, and fill it with vinegar.

The chive blossoms give a light chive flavor to the vinegar, and they turn it a beautiful purple color!  I keep mine in the fridge, and take the flowers out after a couple of weeks.  Some of the color might bleach out if it gets too much light.
I have been drying and saving flower petals since I was a child.  Pretty much anytime I get flowers, I'll probably dry them.  I have some old jars of flower petals I've had since high school!  Many flowers retain their color well when dried, and some hold up as whole blossoms, while others tend to loose their petals.  Last year, while my mother-in-law was on a trip, I was taking care of her rosebushes, so I dried a whole lot of rose petals!

As there was a decent chance of spiders in the roses (I think I found at least one in every bag of roses I brought home), I took them outside, and pulled all the nice petals off (discarding the ones that were brown or eaten by bugs), and then brought them inside in a large bowl to dry.  Every day, I'd fluff them up, flipping them around so they dried evenly.  They smelled lovely as they were drying!  I did put a lid over them at night, or our cats thought they were fun toys to get into...

One craft I haven't done yet with my rose petals (but plan on...) is making rose beads.  You take your dried rose petals, add a tiny bit of water and grind them into a paste, and then form them into beads.  This is a very traditional craft, and many historic rose beads still exist.

I love having flower petals to add to mojo bags. 
This is actually the start of a sachet I made, with the dried leavings of some Florida water (which used some of the dried rose petals among other things).  I also add flower petals and dried herbs to spell bags or bundles that I am going to leave outdoors.

One beautiful thing to do with dried (or fresh..) flower petals is to sprinkle them over your altar.  You can also draw symbols with them, or use them to mark the boundaries of your circle!

Florida Water is a wonderful thing to make, and can be used to cleanse (like burning sage).  I have made my own the past two years, and I love how it smells!  I start with the peel of one orange, along with bits of cinnamon, whole cloves, lavender, star anise, and this year I added rose petals.  I make mine with Vodka (and I don't water down my base) so it all goes into a bottle, and steeps in the vodka until it smells potent and lovely.  Every day, I give it a bit of a shake, to mix things up inside.

Then I strain it all out, this time reserving the bits and drying them to make a blessing sachet for my clothing drawers.  I store my Florida Water in a lovely glass bottle, ready for use whenever!  You can also dilute it, and put it in a spray bottle, for asperging the air in your home.

One final bit of flower magic:  dandelion fluff wishes!
Once the dandelions have gone to seed, you can gather up the fluff and keep it on hand for your wish magic!  I keep mine in a caning jar, but without the full lid, using a piece of cloth to help make sure it doesn't get moisture trapped inside.

You can also make small wish jars, using small glass bottles, filled with dandelion fluff.  These can be kept as altar pieces or worn as jewelry!

When you need to add a bit of wish magic, take a pinch of seeds and either add them to your working, or take them outside, and blow your wishes into them, releasing them so they can carry your wishes out to the world!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Spiritual legacy

Mother's Day is just around the corner, and for many people, this is a very powerful day.  We all have mothers, and many of us are mothers.  Honoring the woman who gave birth to us, who carried us inside her and brought us into this world is something that speaks to a deep part of us.

But, we will not all be mothers.  Some of us are men, some are not inclined to parenthood, either through choice or biology.  Some, may no longer have children among the living, and still others might no longer be in the role of mother to their children.  Sometimes, we don't really connect with the mothering role.

Often, when we speak of mothers, we speak of our bloodlines.  While people can be unaware of their birth mother, often the mother's line is the one that is known further and with more certainty.  When a child is born the mother is obvious, the father might not be.

But mothering is so much more than just where our blood comes from (although I am in no way denying that is a very strong spiritual connection).  As many families have shown, the person who fills the role of mother might not be the biological mother of a child.  Step-mothers, adoptive mothers, fathers, grandparents, and friends often step into that role of mother.  As many have said, it can take a tribe to raise a child.

So what defines motherhood?  When we speak of the archetype of the mother, we often talk of birthing and nurturing new creations, whether those are children, ideas or projects.  I think there is also a definite sense of teaching, though at a much more basic level than the teaching done by a Crone.  Mother's teach us how to interpret and survive in the world.  They shelter us when we are afraid, care for us when sick, and make sure our basic needs are met.

It is becoming a more well accepted thing to have a spiritual lineage, as well as a bloodline.  I think that this is particularly true within Pagan communities.  Many people are drawn to and connected with cultures and people who are in no way blood-connected to them.  These connections are often undeniable.  They are lifelong, and they are deep.

And I think that the role of motherhood enters into the spiritual role.  We all pass through periods of infancy in our practice.  When we are learning a brand new thing or entering into a new phase of our life.  And we often find guides and mentors, people who serve in the mother's role as we become something new.

These people will often hold a special place in our hearts, forever.  They were there when we needed them most.  They helped us find our way when we had nothing, and they made sure that we avoided the most dangerous mistakes.  They mothered us, and helped us grow until we could navigate on our own.

This is a role that was disappearing for a while, as the trend went from Coven/group work to solitary paths.  But I see it reemerging, often in the guise of lifecoach or mentor.  These people aren't just teachers, they don't just give you information and let you do with it what you will, they take you into their lives, they nurture you and they do their best to see you succeed.

This isn't a role that needs to be paid, although there is absolutely nothing wrong with that either!  It isn't always an intense connection or long association.  Sometimes, we fill this mothering role in ways that seem tiny to us, but are huge to other people.

The modern age has us so very disconnected, in many ways.  We are like infants, laying alone in our beds, crying out for attention, because we are so very lonely.  And sometimes, all it takes is a soft word, a brief touch, a familiar face, and all is right in our world.  We can be that person to someone else, when we take the time to care.

Caring can be listening, just being there when someone needs to vent.  It can be posting a picture to cheer someone up, when they are having a bad day.  It can be giving someone a shoulder to cry on.

Mothering isn't always making the hurt go away, sometimes it's letting people trip and fall and encouraging them to get back up and try again, knowing they may fall again!  Growth comes through making mistakes...and learning from them.  If we don't make those mistakes, we never push ourselves to be more than we were.

I used to think a lot about legacy, about what I would leave behind when I was gone from this world.  It's one of the things that drew me into being a writer.  Books linger, they keep a part of us alive, long after we are gone.  But so do much more ephemeral things!

When we touch someone else's life, we become part of their story.  A part of us becomes entwined with them.  When we nurture someone, we impact their life.  We have helped them change, and become part of that change.  We are now connected to them, even if neither of us are consciously aware of it.

I often say that you never know what will deeply move other people.  It might be one single sentence you said, that you didn't even remember saying.  But it might sit so deeply with someone else that they remember it for decades. 

These are the things that make up our own spiritual legacy!  These little pieces of ourselves that we have shared and given to help other people in their journey.  These are the ways we pass our essence down through the ages, so that generations from now, a thought we once voiced will be repeated, or an act we did will be remembered in story or song.

This is how we mother, not only each other, but the human race in general.  When we work to nurture our fellow beings, to nurture the world we live in, to nurture the potential of all who are yet to come, this is the legacy we leave in this world.  And it isn't just about the future.

Every time we do something to lift another person up, everyone's life is made better.  A family works because love binds them together.  The mother often fills the role of the heart of the family.  We need to live from our heart, to mother the world around us, so that everyone can thrive!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Marking significant transitions.

I love celebrating stuff, I really do.  But I think that taking the time to mark and honor significant transitions in life goes beyond mere celebration.  There are times in our lives that are turning points, places where our lives change, and in a way this changes who we are.  Some of these transitions are fairly universal and some are deeply personal, but I feel like all need to be recognized.

As a people, we have drawn away from honoring transition points in our lives.  Children aren't taught the mysteries as they become adults.  Young people aren't shown how to adapt to married life, nor told the stories of other married people before they begin their new lives.  Even death isn't explored for it's role in our lives, simply as an ending to someone else's.

But all these things form us, they shape us, and they influence who we are in the way that we respond to them.  When we do mark transitions, it is often through hollow ceremony, and the deeper meaning of why this particular transition is important is glossed over.

My life is a mess of transitions at the moment.  I am about to turn 40, which for me is sort of a benchmark of middle age.  My son is graduating high school and starting college (which is his transition...but also means I will no longer truly be the mother of the household).   This in turn changes the dynamic of the relationship between hubby and I.   I am really starting to come into my own in terms of writing.

Even in my auxiliary life, my in-laws moved away this year, so I am no longer fulfilling the caretaker role that I was.  My parents have moved to a retirement community, so their role in my life is changing. 

But out of all of those transitions, only one is actually honored (my birthday) in our society, and not in a deeper way (it's just one more year...right).  I think that we owe it to ourselves to really explore what these transitions mean in our life, and how we are moving through them.

There are a lot of questions to ask yourself, as you hit a major transition.  What does this mean to me?  How has this manifested in my life until now?  What will change because of this?  How do I move forward?  What do I need to leave behind?  What am I afraid to let go of?  What do I wish could have been different.

We all have expectations of what life is going to be, and often life likes to throw us for a loop.  We may get something so out of our expectations that we don't know how to respond.  Or, we might get exactly what we wished for, only to find out it isn't what we thought it would be.

If we take the time to work through our transitions, we will find ourselves better able to react to whatever comes our way.  Transitions aren't easy, and you will find yourself torn down before you build yourself back up.  Each transition you face is the death of a part of you, often a part that you felt was a core part of your identity.

I have been a mother for essentially my entire adult life.  We had our son young, so while we did live on our own, for a short time before we became parents, I wouldn't consider us adults at the time (I think both of us sort of slid into adulthood, without any kind of proper transition there either).  I'm not sure I know who I am, as an adult who is a not a mother (of course, I'll always be a mother, just not in a mother-role).

I'm not concerned about aging, not really.  But, I haven't made that mental switch yet.  Technically, most days, my mental self is closer to early 20's than late 30's.  I have grey hair, which I kind of like.  That is one thing I definitely have never concerned myself with (I want to dye it eventually, but not to a normal hair is dark, I'm hoping if enough of it goes grey, I can do neat things with bright colors like blue or purple!)  I really don't care about other people thinking I'm old..I can't wait to get senior discounts (which is still a ways off).

I do think I probably need to start thinking more my age though, and being more mindful that my body is no longer the body of a 20 year old, and might need more care...or at least different care.  And this is something I think we miss, by not having these kinds of societal transitions.

We don't get to benefit from the wisdom of our elders or our peers.  We don't hear the stories, or get the advice from people who are were we are going.  We don't have support for when we feel like we are failing.

I felt this very strongly when my son was young.  We had very minimal information about being parents, and most of what we did know came from books.  The nurses at the hospital taught us the very basic mechanics of how to take care of our newborn infant, but then we were home, and mostly on our own.  Hubby's parents lived close, but that was pretty much it, for family.  We never made a lot of young parent friends, and we learned the hard way, through trial and error.

I'm a bit of a romantic about things like that.  I dream about a society that builds communities, to help support each other, throughout all of life.  In my mind, we would have welcoming and honoring rituals for everything!  I am seeing more and more people embracing this mentality with birthing parties and first blood celebrations, and it warms my heart.

I think we can build our own rituals, with our friends and family, if we have people in our lives who at the very least respect our needs for deeper spiritual connection with our transitions.  But even if we don't have anyone else besides ourselves, we can take some time to honor these transitions on our own.

I will be honoring my turning of the wheel in a few days, and I haven't really celebrated my birthday for myself.  I will be doing some sort of ritual (possibly with sacred art) to mark my exit from the mothering role.  I am still working through some of my other transitions, but I have no doubt I'll find some way to mark their passage as well.