Aphrodite’s Gift: A Year in Divine Love

I’ve had this blog in my “drafts” for almost 8 months now, kept fiddling with it as the loose ends came together, then I forgot it was there.  Alas, this is becoming a chronic condition for me. I recently rediscovered these writings, and for posterity I choose to post them now, even though they are 8 months out of order. Better late than never? ~Heron


Moody Rose By Heron Michelle

Moody Rose By Heron Michelle

I’ve thought long and hard about the Great Work of 2014 on “Unconditional Divine Love.”  I continue to wrap my head around all that I learned and I know that work never really ends, just continues to process into something more and more refined.

Here in the restful weeks following Yule, I look back over my previous year seeking the neatly crafted conclusion paragraph at the end of what was a confusing, heart-breaking, yet, ultimately rewarding story of my last year, so that I may look forward and discern what the upcoming dedication should entail.

So, here are a few rays of Yuletide lights to part the darkness…

Aphrodite:
After a year in the presence and service of Aphrodite, I will never think about the phrase “rose colored glasses” in the same way again. She gifted me with a way of seeing through all the posturing, vitriol, and vehemency; the lies, anxiety, and desperation; the assholery, and bitchocity; the control-freakery and the escape-goatery; the bullying and victimhood of the world around me, and pierce straight down to see the broken hearts of my fellow man.

We are a wounded people, and those wounds are still bleeding out all over the place. It’s a mess! She taught me that the more egregious the offenses a person is committing, the deeper the anguish that feeds it; the louder the hate-speech, the more clearly I now hear the cry for love. When I see destruction, I can now see clearly past all that to the suffering animal, merely lashing out to protect that part of itself that is weakened from a lack of love, and the fearfulness that engenders.

I became aware that this apocalypse we are living in is the field of destruction made by the dominant paradigm in this society, the battlefield paradigm of good vs. evil, brought to us by the dominant, patriarchal, Abrahamic religions. Anyone who has ever survived a war zone will tell you that no matter which side “wins” the war, everyone loses something profound and is left adrift in the rubble.

venus-541127_640The Mabon Day Revelations
The Mabon Day Revelations of the third and fourth “rules of Witchcraft”, and the tarot confirmations, continue to percolate through my thinking, finding application in all aspects of my everyday life, magickal life, relationships, governance, parenting, etc., I am struck by their integration.

1. Don’t burn the Witch
2. Don’t be the Asshole
3. Don’t be the Weak link
4. Must be Present to Win

These all flow from one into the other, and none can be plucked out separately, or the whole system falls apart. Not burning the witch is no help, if you refuse to be fully present to actually resolve conflicts. How can one possibly have the discretion over whether or not they are being the asshole, if they have no awareness of the fabric of existence within which we are all interlinked?

What good does it do to give lip service to “harm none” without an deep and abiding oath for “perfect love and perfect trust.” Hell, as far as I can tell, most folks out there in the Witching world don’t even know what that phrase is supposed to mean. Why? Because too many have had to rely solely on book training, and too often the only books they had access to were incomplete and written by those who did not yet understand.

Or, they were also forced to rely on those witches who can only regurgitate what their High Priestess once had regurgitated to her, and so on and so forth. I guess what I’m saying is that we will be stronger as a people if we consciously decide to BE PRESENT TO WIN, and continually check in our ideas and praxis with the Divine, DIRECTLY, and be willing to release what may have been traditional, for what promises to serve our evolution individually, and as a species.

All these “rules” require a great sense of purpose, a higher sense of self. All these require a sharp mind, a whole and opened heart, and an alignment of personal will with Highest Divine Will, which are extremely difficult to achieve, and may take years to even begin to understand. It also will, at some point, require vigorous good health to survive the strains of high-level energetic and magickal work. I know I have much work to do on my health and physical condition.

yoga-815288_640Have you looked around the average pagan gathering recently? If ever the humans there were again subjected to the evolutionary test of “survival of the fittest” you know as well as I do that most of our wheezing, broken, imbalanced, addicted, poisoned, morbidly obese numbers would be the first to fall, and a damned succulent feast we’d make for whatever force sought to devour us.

How can we hope to either serve the gods, or build a better world, if we don’t have the physical stamina to stand in sacred space, nor kneel at the altar? If reading that makes your cheeks flush with anger, indignation or embarrassment, then consider this mirror I’m holding up to be my loving gift to you. Maybe I’m the asshole for expecting great things of a great people, or maybe there are assholes among our number polluting themselves and then blaming every other thing for their problems.

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

There is a reason that the yogis and masters of the oldest mystery schools put such emphasis on the connection between body, mind, and spirit. That is why there are martial arts and yoga, tai chi, qi gong, special “ritually pure” religious diets, fasting and purification protocols. Living purely and consuming only what is in alignment with your core values can make a huge difference in your ability to spiritually level up; you are what you eat.

Have you ever read up on Pythagoras? He followed a very well defined and pure diet that he believed strengthened the vessel to channel the gods. Into what quality of vessel do you invite your gods? Think about it. If you offer the finest quality offerings on your altar, but you feed your own incarnate divine body poisons and junk, you are burning the witch; you are the asshole; you are the weak link; you are not present to win, you lose.

roses-66527_640The Initiatory Process:
We call the path of the Witch an initiatory process. There are transformations that must catalyze and refine all of our bodies: flesh, will, emotional, mental, spiritual. All of life is this process, all of spiritual evolution across *many* lives is this process, too. Every step upon the path of the Witch is both a death and a rebirth into our most Divine self. That is why I keep calling it the “Thorny path of the Witch” because this process can hurt like hell.

Being a Witch does not happen with a simple profession of faith, nor with “foolish wand-waving**,” nor even with a ritual wherein another human declares it to be so. Beneficial Witchcraft cannot exist in the darkness of ignorance, nor in the bindings of fear. The minute a Witch starts to think of themselves as an island, as “greater than,” or as “power over,” in terms of their pedigree and accolades, they become the weak link, and they lose.

Humility and Leadership Burn Out
If I’ve learned anything at all about Witching over the last 23 years it is this: there is a direct relationship between awareness and humility. The deeper in awareness you advance, the more humbly you accept the vastness of what you do not yet know. Those true servants of the Divine that I’ve met over the years may never disclose to you their most excellent pedigree. The truly wise person may never mention their well-earned 23rd degree, grand-pubah, all-high-muckitymuck status in well-regarded mystery schools, time spent at the knee of greatness, nor the 42 Great Things they accomplished before breakfast this morning.

Usually, they just smile, shake your hand and introduce themselves with their first name.  But when you take that hand, you feel it….that sense of warmness, calm, centered, balanced, compassionate, self-awareness. They are powerful, but they transmute that power into loving creation, strong and sovereign. Approve or disapprove as you will, they are beyond caring about such things.   They probably garden somewhere on the lunatic fringe, retired from the bullshit of the whiny, cantankerous freak-show that has become of certain segments of the neo-pagan movement.

This is our profound loss, my people. It is our loss that those of greatest attainment and at-one-ment, are so heartsore from the constant insane demanding, squabbling, complaining and general assholery within pagandom that they’ve retreated from community leadership altogether, with a “good riddance” and a backward-thrown middle finger. Into that breech, I’d like to bring the lessons of Divine Love and the Four Rules, and hopefully create a little change to bring peace enough to retain the best leaders before they burn out.

thorns-627759_640
In short, I asked to understand and practically apply the lessons of unconditional Divine Love–of perfect love and trust–to human relationships and I was first stripped bare, heart broken, and then shown through excruciating experience all the ways that I feel the FEAR OF THE LACK OF THE LOVE. It was a tour of how humans are horrible are to each other. Yet, once I recognized and acknowledged each lesson, the painful blows of that ass-kicking would stop. Now I know how to avoid being the Asshole!

I call those my eight Love Conditions:

  1. Acceptance: when my inner truth can be expressed outwardly without risk of rejection.
  2. Sovereignty: My absolute authority over myself are respected and I have FREE WILL as a being of dignity and worth within society.
  3. Resources: Access to sufficient resources to sustain my life in good health.
  4. Affection: Touch and nurturing; the healthy sensual intimacy I prefer.
  5. Expression: Expressing my needs and opinions as a sovereign being, with the respect of being heard, my contributions are valued.
  6. Security: My physical safety is not threatened and boundaries not trespassed; my spiritual, emotional and mental privacy are respected.
  7. Authenticity: I can trust that the outward appearance and declaration of my environment and any situation I encounter are the actual truth, without deception or trickery. I’m not being fooled or exploited. I am not the butt of the joke.
  8. Trustworthy: I can trust that the people and environment I’m in are worthy of my trust, care, and mutual respect.

Now that I know the love conditions so intimately well, I can spot them clearly when they are missing from any situation presented to me…. my new pair of “Rose Colored Glasses” helps me see 20/20 what wound from a fear of a lack of love is the source of these witch burnings and assholery, what weakens the links, and makes us absent for the win in our community. Its like a damned super-power now! HAIL APHRODITE!

IMG_9756The Gift:
Then, I was gifted an opportunity to be in relationship with a great man, a great partner, who had been on a parallel journey to my own, who knew too well the pain of a broken heart and was still hopefully seeking the answers to these very questions. Together, through gently helping each other correct our old fearful and wounded relationship habits, we’ve so far been able to build the healthiest love I have ever known. This love inspires me to be the best person I can be, not for him, per se, but for myself, so that I will have the longest time possible to be fully alive, strong and present in this life, to enjoy his company. This love makes me a better witch. Hail Aphrodite and THANK YOU!

A key lesson I learned this year: The only heart prepared to receive love is the heart already opened from the sharing of love.

“All began in love, all seeks to return in love. Love is the law, the teacher of wisdom, and the great revealer of mysteries.” ~Starhawk

I conclude the Great Work of 2014 a healthier, more compassionate person than when I began, and I am grateful for the very practical framework for applying these lessons for a better life. I understand this to be the work I am meant to carry forward into the coming Great Work of 2015, so that I may widely share the lessons. I will soon welcome Hermes onto the altar and seek his aid in communication, travel and mediumship.

Into the breech once more!
With gratitude,
~Heron

**”foolish wand waving?” If you don’t get Harry Potter references, there isn’t much I can do to help you. Probably best if you just stop reading here, and go get you a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling. Then all will become clear.

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Solstices, Life and Death

cauldronfireLithaHappy Solstice! I hope that yours was as meaningful and relaxed as mine was here in North Carolina. Here, The Sojo Tribe and I celebrated Litha, the Summer Solstice, and the apex of the Sun and all that we’ve accomplished so far during the growing light phase of the year.  We lit a fire in my copper cauldron with the remains of our beeswax class candle (We prepare a candle and light it during our classes to create sacred space. This one has been in use since Imbolc.)  We then fed that fire with harvested Rosemary and Litha incense, and the rays of our accomplishments written on colorful paper. We applauded, and congratulated each other, then released our ego-attachment so that we could strive for even greater things in the future! And…then we went out to a local patio bar and shared some “summer solstice” beer and a meal. “All acts of love and pleasure are her rituals….”

As the copper cauldron heated up, a fantastical chemical reaction happened wherein the flames turned green! It was the witchiest thing we’ve had spontaneously happen in a long while and it was glorious in its simplicity.  This was an impromptu ritual because our dear Tribe member, who intended to host and lead our Litha ritual, lost his father earlier in the week.  Death is not only an ending, it is a beginning, just as Litha is both the triumph of the sun, and the beginning of decline into the dark half of the year.

We’ve had a lot of death visit us this midsummer with several people known and kin to folks in our group crossing the veil, which is a fitting reminder that death ALWAYS hangs in the balance with life. All the more reason to savor the joys and bounties when they come, for tomorrow we may die… This summer season, I am overjoyed to travel to see my family in my mother’s home town for the first time in many years. That is my celebration of life, as I honor the life of my maternal grandmother, who passed through the veil at Beltane.

Back at Beltane, My grandmother Frances came to visit me before they even laid her body to rest. As my daughter and I toured a historical church yard with cemetery in New Bern, NC, (because that’s what my 12 year old daughter likes to do for her birthday, Witchy much?) who should join us in that cemetery? Only the spirits of our maternal ancestors, and they spoke to us via a medium from New Jersey named Denise who was touring the same churchyard, and was kind enough to deliver their messages.

left to right, Frances, Elmore, me and Sondra Rouse, circa 1998.

left to right, Frances, Elmore, me and Sondra Rouse, circa 1998.

Yes, Frances and Elmore, my grandparents divided by the veil for almost 15 years, and Sondra, their daughter and my mother, gone these last 7 years, were with us once more. Their family is rejoined in Spirit at last and looking out for us. They came to tell me that they think I’m a great mom, that they they love us, are proud of us, and not to worry about them because they are just fine, the afterlife is better than they even expected.

Denise transmitted their side of the story of what was going on after my grandmother became so sick that she was mostly incoherent. Her family in Spirit became a kind of hospice care on the Spirit side, while my Aunt, Uncle and Cousins, were attending her on the living side. Her Spirit family helped her to relax, let go, and ease across the veil to rejoin them. Her father was even present there in the end, keeping watch over her. That tidbit gives me great comfort.

You see, they were all Christians, and the afterlife just isn’t what they were told it would be, but it is better, and they wanted me to know that they accept me fully for who I am–the Witch in the family.  I’d kept that last bit from all three of them while they were alive.  It was toe-curling awesome to be fully known by them at last.  My granddad told my daughter that he looks out for her especially, that “she’s his girl.” That thrilled her to no end, especially since he died several years before she was even born. If you are going to have an ancestral guardian, make it Granddad Stormy, former police officer!

I stand in awe and wonder of my magickal life. Gratitude.

For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere who visited my blog last week, Merry Winter Solstice!  I wish you all the joys of the new light! As we head into the darkness, you are heading into the light. Isn’t that a beautiful balance? I love how the Wheel of the Year is so relative to where you live.

Blessed be.

Witchin’ in the Kitchen: Yule Recipes

Yule.h3The wheel of the year turns on, and we arrive at the Sabbat of Yule on the winter solstice, when the sun enters Capricorn (December 20-22.)  On this longest night of the year, we gather friends and family around the hearth fires, to jingle bells, feast on the sweet and savory, toast the wassail, and regale each other in song and story until the wee morning hours. We sit vigil to the birth of the new baby sun, the infant God reborn anew to the Goddess.  Like the New Year’s traditions of old, we welcome “baby new year.”

Yule is the celebration of hope, returning light and life, even in the heart of the darkest night. Like the yin/yang symbol, each pole contains the essence of the other side. At Summer Solstice, when the light was strongest, we faced the defeat of the sun and the long dark shadows cast before us. Here at the Winter Solstice, in the cold and dark, we acknowledge that the darkness is defeated by the light once more and will grow stronger and the days longer each day from here.

In the Great Work, we’ve been “holding the space” since Samhain, reflecting on the previous year’s intentions, their harvest and what we’ve learned. Up until now we’ve been letting go of what no longer serves our highest good, clearing the fields, cleaning and putting away our tools. Now, the metaphorical snows have fallen to blanket the world in pure white, obscuring what was, so we can begin to imagine what could be. This is the purification and the starting fresh. This is the blank page, the primed canvas, awaiting inspiration.

With the dawning of Yule we turn the inner eye into the future. We stare deeply into the void of potential and play midwife to the birth of “what’s next,” and over the course of the next 6 weeks, until Imbolc, we will remain open to the messages of Spirit about what the next Great Work for us should entail. (See my Great Work: Holding the Space post on more about this process of remaining opening to the messages from Spirit. See my Imbolc recipes post for the next step in the Great Work.)

Here are some of my favorite Yule recipes that have helped to warm the cockles of the heart, and bring cheer to all at this most joyous of holiday seasons. Note, that so many of our “holiday” spices of cinnamon, orange, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, etc, all have solar and fire magickal associations. Wassail punch is a traditional alcoholic beverage at this time, as well as Mulled Cider, his non-alcoholic first cousin.  For more information and another great traditional recipe, check out this article at Nourished Kitchen. These drinks become solar potions that actually do heat you up, but also would bring you in resonance with the newly returning solar energies. Merry Yuletides!


 

 Wassail_Punch_1Wassail Punch!
Ingredients:
2 quarts apple cider (I prefer the organic, murky stuff in the refrigerated section over the refined clear apple juice in the aisles. But sometimes the cider needs a bit of sweetening with some honey.)
2 cups orange juice
2 cups brandy, or spiced rum (I prefer Captain Morgans.)
1 tablespoon dried All-spice berries
2 cinnamon sticks
1 small orange, sliced into 4-5 rings
1 tablespoon whole cloves
Ginger-ale (optional)

Directions:
Slice the orange into rings and stud the peel with the whole cloves (this is pretty, but it also helps to keep the cloves from being scooped up into your cup this way, and that can make for some floating fire bombs in your cup.) In a crock pot, set to warm, add all the ingredients and let warm for several hours before serving. This is called “mulling.” If you would like to serve it to the kids, simply leave out the alcohol. You can also add a splash of ginger-ale to give it some kick and bubble for the little ones.


 

IMG_4450Veggie Wreath Appetizer
Vegetarian
Ingredients:
2 (8 oz.) packages of refrigerated crescent roll dough
1 (8oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups finely chopped green vegetables, like broccoli, bell peppers, green onions, cucumbers)
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper

Directions:
Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Remove dough from cans in rolled sections, but do not unroll. Slice each dough section to yield 8 rounds each, 16 per package.  Place a small round bowl, inverted on a cookie sheet.  Arrange flat dough slices around the bowl to form a wreath shape, then arrange an outer ring.  The slices should all be touching each other, but do not press together.  Remove the bowl and and bake for 11-13 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool one minute; loosen with spatula and slide off onto a serving platter to cool completely.

In a small bowl, add cream cheese, sour cream, dill and garlic powder and blend until smooth.    Spread the mixture over the wreath and then top with the green vegetables to form the foliage.  Sprinkle the red bell pepper to form the berries.  Red pepper slices can also be used to form a bow.  Refrigerate.


IMG_2876Deck the Halls Torta
Vegetarian
(Makes 3 tortas)
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 2/3 cups cream cheese, room temp.
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/3 cups drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1/3 cup tomato paste
3/4 cup butter, room temp.
salt and pepper
slices of toasted baguette or crackers

In food processor, finely chop garlic. Add basil, pine nuts, oil and lemon juice.  Process until well blended. Add 1/3 cup cream cheese and parmesan cheese.  Using on/off turns, process until just blended. Transfer pesto to a medium bowl.

Again in food processor, coarsely chop tomatoes.  Add tomato paste and process until almost smooth.  Add 1/3 cup cream cheese and blend well.

Using an electric mixer, beat 2 cups cream cheese and butter in bowl until fluffy.  Season with salt and pepper.

Spray 3 2-cup souffle dishes or bowls with non-stick spray.  Line with plastic wrap as smoothly as you can manage, extending plastic over sides.  To assemble, you will layer all three mixtures so that they have white, red and green stripes when finished.  To begin, spread 1/4 cup of cream cheese mixture evenly on bottom of each dish.  Next, divide tomato mixture into thirds and layer in each dish.  Follow with a layer of 1/4 cup of cream cheese mixture in each dish.  again, divide pesto mixture into thirds and distribute into each dish.  For the final layer, divide remaining cream cheese mixture into thirds and distribute into each dish.  Smooth evenly and fold plastic wrap over the sides to cover.  Chill over-night.  If you only need one torte, you can wrap the remaining two and freeze for up to 3 months then thaw for about 24 hours in the refrigerator prior to serving.

To serve, Invert chilled torta onto platter.  Peel off plastic.  Garnish with basil sprigs and toasted pine nuts.  Serve with crackers or toasted baguette slices.


Sondra’s Chicken Divine
This was one of the most requested of all my mother’s recipes, especially at any holiday gathering. Whenever my sister and I would visit mom after we’d left home, she would be sure to have one waiting for us. This is especially a good recipe to make in advance in a disposable pan and freeze for later, or for taking to sick, recovering or grieving friends. My mother was always the best for arriving at just the right moment to support a friend with a hot meal. I share this family recipe in honor of her.
Ingredients:
1 package Uncle Ben’s wild rice with original seasonings
3 cups frozen broccoli florets, thawed.
2 can’s cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
a dash of white pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
3-4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tubes of while wheat Ritz crackers, crushed
3 Tablespoons melted butter
sprinkles of paprika

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Assemble this casserole in a large, deep baking dish.  First layer: Prepare rice according to package instructions then spread in the bottom of the dish.  Second layer: Evenly spread the broccoli over the rice. Third layer: Blend soup, mayo, sour cream, lemon juice, pepper, chicken, broccoli and 1 cup of the cheese in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.  Spread evenly over the broccoli.  Fourth Layer: spread remaining cheese over the chicken mixture. Topping: Crush the crackers and blend with the melted butter, then spread over the cheese.  Sprinkle paprika over the crackers. Cover with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes or until bubbling at the edges. Remove foil and brown for a few minutes more. Let stand a few minutes before serving.