Creating Sacred Space: Calls of Thanksgiving

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Tomorrow, The Sojo Circle participates in the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service alongside our Abrahamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Secular Humanist, and Unitarian Universalist neighbors. I’m proud to say that a member of our circle is now the Director of the Interfaith Alliance of Eastern North Carolina, so we feel right at home in their lovely services. Every year this is a beneficial experience, and I look forward to reprising these poetic calls that we first shared in 2011.  Of course, we celebrated the Mabon Thanksgiving sabbat and feast back in September, but I’m happy to join my neighbors during this time our nation sets aside for gratitude.

Should the opportunity present itself, I welcome you to use these words to create your own sacred space. Happy Thanksgiving, and many blessings of abundance to you all!

Mabon Calls of Thanksgiving

~By Heron Michelle

Blessings of the East and of Air!
Amber twilight and crisp autumn chill, reddening the cheeks and painting the hills!
As the harvest ends, I greet you in this sacred space!
Open the gates of thought and inspire us!
Let there be wonder and wisdom as we gather in Thanksgiving!
Welcome Air!

Blessings of the South and of Fire!
Crimson sun and hearth fire burning, warming heart and home this autumn turning,
As the nights lengthen, I greet you in this sacred space!
Open the gates of action and revitalize us!
Let there be generosity and gratitude as we gather in Thanksgiving!
Welcome Fire!

Blessings of the West and of Water!
Silver rains and misty morning, hot mulled cider and memory swirling!
As the tides ebb, I greet you in this sacred space!
Open the gates of emotion and stir our hearts!
Let there be compassion and benevolence as we gather in Thanksgiving!
Welcome Water!

Blessings of the North and of Earth!
Russet fields and bounty gathered, family recipes prepared on heaping platters,
As the feast is celebrated, I greet you in this sacred space!
Open the gates of growth and nurture us!
Let there be abundance and fulfillment as we gather in Thanksgiving!
Welcome, Earth!

Blessings of the Center, Great Spirit!
Known by many names and many faces, Mother and Father, Nurturer and Provider!
Dark fertile earth and flaming sun, when met with love brings forth the bounty of the land and all that can sustain us.
As we assemble with our greater family, I greet you in this sacred space!
Open the gates of Spirit and unite us!
Let there be acceptance and peace for our community as we gather in Thanksgiving!
Welcome, Spirit!

Release

Blessings of the Center, Great Spirit!
From this sacred space we send the light of acceptance and peace into our community!
With gratitude and reverence, we walk in Spirit.
Blessed be!

Blessings of the North and of Earth!
From this sacred space we send the light of abundance and fulfillment into our community!
With gratitude and reverence, we bid you farewell.
Blessed be!

Blessings of the West and of Water!
From this sacred space we send the light of compassion and benevolence into our community!
With gratitude and reverence, we bid you farewell.
Blessed be!

Blessings of the South and of Fire!
From this sacred space we send the light of generosity and gratitude into our community.
With gratitude and reverence, we bid you farewell.
Blessed be!

Blessings of the East and of Air!
From this sacred space we send the light of wonder and wisdom into our community.
With gratitude and reverence, we bid you farewell.
Blessed be!

All!

The circle is open, but never broken. Merry Meet, Merry Part and Merry Meet Again!

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Heron’s Rules of Modern Witchcraft

[Heron’s note: following is the continuation of Aphrodite’s Thealogy of Perfection that developed into our “Four Rules.” This is the story of how the last two were revealed to me as a visionary message back on September 23rd, 2014.]

Allow me to take you back to a time not so long ago…It was a warm and shining Autumn Equinox day here in North Carolina, and we’d just returned from vending at the Pagan Pride Festival in Raleigh the previous day, so I was considerably exhausted.

By USFWS Mountain-Prairie ("And the Raven Still is Sitting ...") [CC BY 2.0] Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

By Lori Iverson, USFWS Mountain-Prairie (“And the Raven Still is Sitting …”) [CC BY 2.0] Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

We’d spent a lovely weekend in the company of 3000+ fine pagans . It was also a family reunion, as we got to see many from our Sojo Tribe who live in that area. I love my tribe; they are the most mature, civilized and responsible group of witches I’ve ever known. It is a rare thing to have a teaching coven last so long without strain from diva-drama.

The Mabon Day Revelations

That crisp afternoon, I was cruising Facebook and see a posting by Raven Grimassi lamenting how within the witching communities, many are quick to stoop to pitiful levels of back-stabbing each other in public forums.  He implored us to become the kind of people who seek out the best in each other, rather than constantly harping on the worst in each other.

I read this sad message just as I was laying down for a nap. As my three kitties snuggled in around me, I thought about all the times folks I’d trusted had betrayed me, and the “Rules” that developed as we tried to learn a better way to coven together. They started as a comedic way to illustrate thealogical concepts (3). Until this fateful Mabon day, we only had two: Don’t burn the Witch and Don’t be the Asshole. As I descended into sleep, I knew this is basically what Raven was asking of us.

"Burning at the stake. An illustration from an mid 19th century book" By mullica [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

By mullica [CC BY 2.0] public domain via Wikimedia Commons

1.  Don’t burn the Witch.

The obvious: If you are going to work with the element of Fire, respect its potential, then avoid accidents.
 The less obvious: Be careful not to conjure up what you don’t know how to safely send back.

Heal thyself: All things vibrate, and like vibrations attract more of the same. (Hermetic Principle of Vibration, also called the Law of Attraction.) If you remain a pulsing magnet of self-loathing, no matter what intention your mouth speaks, you are doomed to repeat your past suffering. If you continue to harbor your wounds, you cannot evolve beyond “wounded consciousness” and all your magick will ever cause is a good ol’ fashioned witch burning of YOURSELF.

“If that which you seek you find not within, you will never find it without.” Charge of the Goddess, Doreen Valiente

Empowerment starts with YOU. Wisdom starts with YOU. Healing starts with YOU. YOU ARE THE MAGICK, so make it effective, harmonious, kick-ass magick sourced by Divine Love. The FIRST step on the path of the Witch is to learn to recognize these wounds for what they are, release all lingering connection to them, and heal from the inside out. Love yourself first. THEN, and only then, can you begin to break the cycle of woundings and don the crown of personal sovereignty.

Perfect Love and Perfect Trust: In the name of all things holy, STOP burning your fellow Witches!  We have a hard enough time not being “burned” by the rest of society, if we can’t treat each other with respect, what are we playing at?

Heron Gets Her Groove Back

mabonHappy Mabon-tides, my witches! I know I’m a little late, but I’ve been out in those fields of metaphor, harvesting all kinds of existential goodies, and getting into Aphrodite’s favorite shenanigans. Oh yes, my dearies, and it was about damned time this dedication to a Goddess of LOVE and PASSION became a joyous good time again.

BEHOLD! The fields of my Great Work finally bore fruit and I’ve been drunk on her sweet nectar for months.  In the dance of this Wheel of the Year, as the lamenting music that led to Lammas waned, and the last sorrowful notes of heartbreak faded into solo acceptance, I turned my view and my feet from the past faltering steps, into the present moment, did a little do-si-do with a bow and a nod to Her harsh lessons, then plunged onward into the reel.

IMG_7880The next steps involved a visit from writer and lecturer Jason “Pan” Mankey of Raise the Horns, who came out from California to teach through The Sojourner. In addition to 4 excellent seminars, he offered us a chance to initiate into the Morrison Clan, the Jim Morrison Clan, with a ritual of music, ecstatic hedonism and an unleashing.  Jason was just the Priest this circle needed to shake things up.  Into our temple he called in Jim as a modern incarnation of Dionysus, Pan, Aphrodite, and Eris Discordia, because if you don’t, she shows up anyway, and we’d rather not have hang-overs, thank you so much.

I know what you are thinking, and you aren’t entirely wrong, but this was some serious business. The ritual was set to the music and the spoken word of Jim Morrison and The Doors, and there was dancing, singing, wine, whiskey, and an excavation of that feral part of ourselves too often buried under layers of reservation, prudence, and socially respectable facades. We let our hair down, unwound, and Spirit moved.

We pledged to enjoy life, to let inspiration flow, to have hedonistic fun, to “drink the good wine to the old Gods,” to let “all acts of love and pleasure be her rituals,” in full-throttle engagement with the ecstasy of the flesh.  All this within healthy balance, dontchaknow, so that we do not flame-out prematurely as Jim did. I mean, good gods, y’all. Gimme some of THAT old time religion!

IMG_8120We each received a strand of mardi gras beads, and a clan name. I was dubbed “Story Morrison,” because I have stories to tell, and I’m often caught retelling them. Um, guilty as charged. But more than that, I think this was the opening salvo for the next phase of story-telling ahead of me, one that I hope is a bit more formalized, and will someday find its way into print. But that is a harvest for another blog….

*This* blog is about how Heron Got Her Groove Back. Note the swiftness of this magick:

Saturday night: Initiation in the Morrison Clan with a re-dedication to enjoying life again.

Monday: Deliver Jason back to the airport with so much gratitude and a genuine shift of perspective, thanks to his insights.

Tuesday: I get the familiar twitchy feeling, that deep longing to go forth into the night and make merry mischief. Basically, the sexy Heron beast within me awoke, stretched her wings and began to preen. I posted this to Facebook: “My kids are out of town with their dad for the rest of the week and I’m seeking shenanigans. I would like to attend to them directly.”

Back to my altar, I renewed the work, I thanked her for the lessons in heartbreak, in ugliness and loss, and I asked that at this time I be given the lessons of healthy love, of beauty and grace with the person correct and good for me at this time.  Oh, and could it be with a playmate who actually lives in my town this time, pretty please?

HAIL Aphrodite, of sensuous pleasure,
who restores my heart in full measure.
I give myself in reverent mirth,
hands, hips, and lips in holy rebirth.
Each little death, sweet sacrifice,
I am your willing acolyte.
As worship, let there be romance,
deep longing met in sacred dance,
to sing in divine duet once more,
I call forth the ideal paramour.
In perfect trust, in perfect love,
No harm to cause, to all involved,
I call the highest good for me,
As I do will, SO MOTE IT BE.

Wednesday: I receive a message in reply to my FB post from the most fabulous, interesting, compatible man I know in this town, asking me to meet him on Friday.  He was once a Gentleman of Interest, that long ago I’d set my sights upon, until I learned he was in a relationship, and had therefore retreated and been effectively avoiding for almost two years. Whaddaya know, he is newly single…imagine that!  As it happens, his previous relationship had been dismantling for just about the same time frame as mine had been…how very…fortuitous!

Since that fateful Friday: Well, let’s just say that since that auspicious beginning, I’ve learned a lot about living in the bliss of the moment, and being grateful for what is unfolding, without putting too much concern into what it might “mean” or where it might be “going.” I’m just too darned thankful to taint this gift with second-guesses. I feel like my wings are fully outstretched in rapturous flight, and I’m just enjoying how this new breeze lifts and inspires me to soar to new heights.

Isn’t the Universe grand in it’s poetry? So long now I’ve danced with Spirit in the Great Work, and even still I sometimes get twisted around and forget how I can trust absolutely Their lead; that all will come to fruition eventually; that all will work out for my highest good in the end, and in alignment with my Divine life purpose. Regardless of what happens from this point onward, I stand in deepest gratitude for that simple reminder.

I celebrated this Mabon with my faith restored, and I am once more fat, happy, grateful and satisfied with the fruits of my labor.

Blessed be.

Witchin’ in the Kitchen: Mabon Feasts Serve up a Challenge

Mabontides are flowing out once more, my lovelies! Witches’ Thanksgiving is one of my favorite sabbats, and it is marked by our entry into the cardinal sign of Libra, a sign of balance. Once again, the sun hangs in the equilibrium of light and dark. This year that moment falls on Wednesday, September 23rd.¹

When day-time and night-time are equal,
When sun is at greatest and least,
The four Lesser Sabbats are summoned,
And Witches gather in feast.²

Witches Wine / Heron Michelle

Witches Wine / Heron Michelle

The second harvest of fruits and vegetables, Mabon is the initiator of the season of Autumn. This is a low ebb or lesser sabbat, wherein we feel the vital energy begin to recede from the earth as she continues her spiral into the decline of the year. This is the time of acceptance, the receptive power of water. The auburn, red and yellow leaves of the trees, the apples ready for picking, the deepness of the setting sun, the darkening afternoons, all remind us that night always follows day, no exceptions.

The dark and the light in succession,
The opposites each unto each,
Shown forth as a God and a Goddess:
Of this our ancestors teach²

In the Wheel of the Year mythos that I enjoy, at Mabon the God and Goddess become the Sage and Crone, and with experience, comes the inner vision to see deeply into both the past and future. They know the sacred order of the “perfect,” complete cycle, that is symbolized by the wheel; they teach us that life is sustained through death, just as death contains the promise of rebirth (at Ostara). As symbolized in the yin/yang, the key to one side of any polarity is found in the heart of it’s opposite. The fruits that are cut down, will rise again both as the seeds planted next year, but also by sustaining the living. As we are fed another year, the gods live on through us.

The birth and rebirth of all nature,
The passing of winter and spring,
We share with the life universal,
Rejoice in the magical ring.²

No Witch is an Island

This time of year, I ask myself:  how will I stay in balance of giving and receiving? It takes hard work to bring in the harvest, and many hands working together toward the common goal of survival. Think about that cookie on your altar platter; SO MANY hands are required to bring that seed of wheat, sugar, and chocolate chip all the way from planting, through harvest, through baking, to the store, to the feast … no witch is an island!

How have we helped our fellow humans within this web of existence lately? How have we expressed gratitude for all that we are bringing in from the fields of the gods? They instruct us to FEAST!  Let us bring our best and most tasty offerings to the common table, and share in what we have with generosity.

So drink the good wine to the Old Gods,
And Dance and make love in their praise,
Till Elphame’s fair land shall receive us
In peace at the end of our days.²

Perfect Love as a Verb

This harvest feast, the Witches’ Thanksgiving, calls for a gathering ’round of family, both your family of origin, but also your family of choice. Recently I was challenged by a dear priestess friend of mine with the question:  “When does it get to be Love as a verb? I mean, to see all this broken humanity, yes. But how does that translate into action?”

Goooood question!

This reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by Mr. Rogers, my childhood hero. Despite growing up deep-fried in the contentious and back-biting Southern Baptist church, I can thank a children’s TV show personality and Presbyterian minister, Mr. Fred Rogers, for instructing this young witchling in what it means to be a decent neighbor.

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” ~Fred Rogers

Verbs or nouns, the key word we are looking for here is “active.” We all occasionally fall short of the ideal in our relationships–especially our spiritual relationships. Perhaps sometime in the past, a kerfluffle flared up between friends. It has happened to me more than I like to admit.

Egos get in the way sometimes; perception can be such a tricky thing — especially within covens. We all have shadowy bits that must be dredged out of the deep recesses for processing–that is how we advance through the initiatory and evolutionary process of Witchcraft. Too often (usually when Mercury is in retrograde) we erroneously project those shadows onto our loved ones standing beside us in the cosmic amplifier of the sacred circle. Unfortunate things go down, sad to say.

I hate it when that happens. Hopefully, with time and water under our damaged bridges, things have now settled down. Thank all the gods that life is a cycle … those may have been the winters of our discontent, but the hope of spring always follows. Hopefully, we’ve come through the kerfluffles as wiser people.

The Mabon Challenge

We realize that it is the struggles, the challenges, the grit and tweak against the grain of life that hones us into the powerful incarnate gods that we are, yes?  “Thanksgiving” is a pretty obvious theme of The Great Work at this time of year. This Mabon, we need to dig deep and excavate gratitude for the lessons learned through adversity–including the unfortunate coven kerfluffles.

As a way to turn the idea of perfect love into a course of action, lets consider reaching out with ye olde olive branch.  Mend a fence, rebuild a bridge, send a card, make the call…it doesn’t have to be a huge thing, but in some way let’s reach out to the beloved friends we’ve been missing at our feast tables, and “accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” Maybe that means that the first thing you serve yourself is a heaping helping of crow, but that kind of soul food can be so beneficial.³

This is The Work, folks. No one said witchcraft would be all glitter and moonbeams. (Well, if they did, they were a snake oil salesman!)

And Do What You Will be the challenge,
So be it Love that harms none,
For this is the only commandment.
By Magic of old, be it done!²

As a “spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down,” I’ll share with you one of my favorite recipes (below) to scintillate your coven mates come Mabontides!

Blessed Be!

~Heron

References

  1. For exact astrological times of all the Sabbats for your region, you might find archaeoastronomy.com helpful.
  2. From Doreen Valiente’s, “Witchcraft For Tomorrow” 
  3. I have this theory that “eating crow” actually melts cellulite…uh huh…seems legit!

Autumn Harvest Bisque (Vegan and gluten-free)

Autumn Harvest Bisque / Heron Michelle

Autumn Harvest Bisque / Heron Michelle

(Heron Michelle)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced leeks, white and pale green parts only,
  • rinsed thoroughly and drained
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne or red pepper (optional)
  • 1 Teaspoon Berbere powder (it’s an Ethiopian spice much like paprika.)
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh lemongrass
  • 6 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 can of Coconut Milk
  • 1/2 cup Tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
  • Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For Garnish:

  • 1 bunch green onion, chopped
    1 pound crispy fried bacon (Obviously this recipe is vegan all the way up to this option, but…bacon!)

Directions:

In large soup pot over moderate heat, melt the coconut oil or EVOO.  Add the leeks and saute about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir briefly.  Add the squash, potato and apples, raise heat to high and saute until they begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes.  Stir in curry powder, ginger, lemongrass, berbere and red pepper.  Add in the broth, bring to a simmer and cover,  Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer until the vegetables are all tender, about 40 minutes.

I puree in the pot with an immersion blender, but if you don’t have one, transfer in batches to the blender or food processor and process until pureed.  Return to the pot, add the coconut milk, and tamari sauce.  Stir well, remove from heat and season with sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Serve as soon as possible into individual bowls and garnish with and liberal sprinkles of green onion (add bacon if you don’t need it to be vegan.)