It’s Earth Day! Go Outside!

earth day “But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.”  ~ Rachel Carson

“If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.” ~ Rachel Carson

The Sea2
Now I see the secret of making the best person: it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”  ~ Walt Whitman

sleep with the earth
Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them into paper, That we may record our emptiness.” ~  Kahlil Gibran

tree
~~~~~~~~~
For as long as I can remember, I have been in absolute awe of the things I’ve found in Nature. “Outside!”, according to my mother, was one of my first words. “I want to go outside, Mom!” At the beach I would stand at the shore’s edge and breathe that salted air into my lungs and just gape at the vastness of the ocean. “I want to go outside, Mom!” I climbed trees, I smelled flowers, I collected fallen leaves and twigs and acorns. “Outside!” I caught and released a million frogs, snakes, turtles, caterpillars and fireflies. I sat Outside to watch thunderstorms. I rolled my body in the first snows of winters.

frog
As I grew up the science behind all of these wonders fascinated me too. And as a young adult, I never lost that wonder. I looked to others then for some reflection of the amazement I felt at all these miracles. And most of the time, I found others were unimpressed. This shocked me deeply. I would say … “LOOK at that TREE!!” And they wouldn’t look, or they would, but just glance and then they’d look at ME… as though I had three heads. They would look at those things of beautiful nature and not SEE them! This baffled me. But it didn’t change me. And I am so thankful for that. To me, the divine manifests nowhere more evidently than in Nature. I have always seen it all (US ALL) as a single, living, breathing organism… Gaia. She is We and We are She.

presence_of_gaia

So for me, the fact that we now have (need) Earth Day is kind of weird. It makes me a little sad, in fact. It harkens back to the days when the blindness and indifference of others toward this WONDERFUL planet made me feel like a freak. Now, it just infuriates me. Earth Day started because a woman named Rachel Carson, like me, loved this planet and understood that we are part of it. And she could see the disconnection that industry built. We were hurting our mother and ourselves. She also understood that wonderment is the key to rebuilding the connections between people and the planet. We’ve raced so fast and so far in our giant, gas-guzzling rocket ship to “Progress”, that we’ve forgotten exactly who and what we are.

city
Until last year I lived in (mostly) rural spaces where it was normal to step outside and find some stunning miracle of nature just outside my door. Now that I’m a city-dweller, I understand how it happens. Urban life insidiously takes over. And while I still make a point to admire something green and growing, or to watch the humming birds and grackles every day, I still find that my daily routine involves far more concrete and steel than trees and critters. It’s easy to begin to think that this is normal.

It’s not. When I feel this I tell myself “Go Outside!” “Go Outside and look.” And when I do, I find Nature, yes…. But what I really find again, is myself. And this is the heart of the heart of it all. When we experience wonder in nature, what we are doing is recognizing our own souls in it. This is how we can save ourselves, by knowing that we are not separate. And that moment of amazed awe is the moment we know, no, the moment we experience that we ARE SHE and She is We.

nightskySo, remember to go outside.
Here’s the thing… it’s not the planet itself that’s in trouble from all the greedy, blind resource exploiters in the world, it’s US. Gaia will not die from our horrible treatment of her. She will simply scratch us off like so many fleas. She will do what every living organism does with a parasite. She will make her body an inhospitable place for that parasite.
When I chose Wicca as my spiritual path, all of this was, of course, at the heart of it. And I have, gratefully, found many others, who share my awe and wonderment at this beautiful universe. And I’ve come to also understand that wonder and excitement and recognition of beauty can sometimes, SOMETIMES, be contagious. So I don’t hide my amazement at everything. I DO Say things like “LOOK at that TREE or Flower or Bird or Sky!” I say them out loud to whoever might be standing near, strangers or not, because someone could catch this wonderful germ.

chihuly flower

And that would be something. So Go Outside! If you’ve got it, this germ… spread it around!
And so here I rant about Earth Day (which should be EVERY day) in my blog…my “witchy” blog.  My audience is pretty much made up of Tree Hugging Dirt Worshippers. So, I’m preaching to the choir here. All I want to do is spread the germ of wonder.
So I’m asking you all, dear readers, to go outside. But before you do, because all twelve of you (am I being too optimistic there?) already love the outside, please SHARE this blog. Tell some of the OTHER people to GO OUTSIDE! Tell the ones who don’t know that’s where to look for real happiness, real satisfaction and inner peace.

Tell your friends who would rather go shoe shopping to GO OUTSIDE!

Tell your friends in the bar to GO OUTSIDE!

Tell your family members who just want to stay on the couch and watch TV to GO OUTSIDE!

Share this…. And then GO OUTSIDE!

“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.” ~  William Butler Yeats

faery river

A Vision of Ilsa

bronzelady_sAsk and you shall receive. I had asked for a vision. I had been told, some months previous, of a “past life”. The seer said I was walking through a village, which she believed to be in the Viking age. I was dressed as a peasant, carrying a basket past open fires, past small stone and mud dwellings with thatched roofs. As she spoke, my mind’s eye followed and I had a glimpse of the basket I was carrying. It was shallow, round-ish and had handles, like a tray.

In the basket were a few scattered items. There were two stones, one small round and white, the other rough and large and dark. There were several bundles of plant matter and a leather pouch. That was all I saw. I was intrigued by this experience. I had never been told of a past life before and I had always been drawn to the Norse gods and the Viking stories. I am a priestess of Odin and I had a practice at the time of going into trance and communing with deity during my workouts.

odin2 Odin is believed, by some, to have at one time been a mortal king – a hero of such merit that generations later, he was elevated to the level of deity. So I was working out on an elyptical, eyes closed, having a conversation with Odin. He was encouraging me, pushing me on. He said, “You have warrior blood in you… perhaps you even have my DNA. I was human once, you know.” This reminded me of the past life story. I asked him to show me something from that life. He stared at me for a moment, then asked, “Are you sure?” I understood that the risk was mine, that what I was about to see might be unpleasant or even traumatic. I took a deep breath, leveled a gaze at that cool gray eye. When you look right at Odin, you want your expression to be determined, confident. I said, “Show me.”

And I was gone. My body continued moving on the machine, but suddenly, my BEING was still and in a darkened room. I looked down. I was holding a basket, shaped like a tray. I saw the items from my previous glimpse and then the items faded away and I heard Odin’s voice. “No, not then, earlier.” And the basked was empty. I became aware that I was tasked with collecting those items for the basket. I put on a woolen cloak and ducked out through the doorway, which was a flap of fabric or leather covering the opening. Cold air hit my face and the almost complete darkness of the hovel was replaced by a different kind of darkness. Bright stars shone down from the clear blue velvet sky. A hint of purple light in the east confirmed it was very early morning. To my left was a great tree, dark buds forming at the ends of the enormous branches. It was springtime. I turned away from the great tree to see, on the other side of the dwelling, the edge of a thick and vast forest. I stepped to the side of the hut and picked up a yoke with two buckets and hefted it to my shoulders. Head down in resignation, I started towards the forest. I could feel a tremendous heaviness in my heart, a deep sadness.

Just inside the tree line I began to examine the brush, seeking a particular plant. I bent to harvest one, and a voice (this was my mother, gone now) said, “No, not that one. Look at the leaves.” Then “Over there.” And even though this voice came without hands to point or body to motion, I knew that “over there” meant further ahead and to the left. I looked, and there was the plant I needed. I harvested that, and put it in my basket. I continued on a narrow path picking a plant now and again. A feeling of sorrow hung so thickly over me. And self-pity, that too. I moved slowly, lethargically. Soon I noticed that the plants were easier to see and, startled, I looked up at the brightening sky. Now there was an urgency. Something in my mind was saying, “the River! I have to get there before the sun…” So I ran. I ran with the basket, with the yolk and when I found my rhythm I ran fast and for what seemed a very long time. Finally, I arrived at the river. I checked the eastern horizon and was relieved to find that the sun had not crested the hill yet.

I bent to fill the water buckets with the cold running water, being careful not to wet my clothing. I searched the shore, then, for a stone. I picked up and discarded several seemingly identical small, white, smooth river stones until I found the perfect one, white, luminous, almost translucent, and put that in my basket. There was a glint of bright yellow on the horizon and suddenly I understood the urgency of getting to the river at sunrise. This part of the river was lit up by the rays of the sun and I searched for another stone. I feared I wouldn’t find one and then a large, stepped-edge rock glowed red in the sunshine and I picked it up. Without the sun, it just looked black. Garnet. I placed it in the basket and headed back to the village. The yolk was much heavier now with the water and my shoulders slumped. Looking at the ground, feeling the weight of the yolk like the powerful responsibility before me, I trudged the long path through the forest.
Great TreeWhen I arrived at the edge of the clearing, I looked up and my eyes fell instantly on that great tree. There was a form at the base of it, which I now recognized as a body. All at once came the realization that I had collected these items to prepare that body for funerary rites. All at once, came the understanding that the body under the tree was that of my mother and that this job, the midwife of the dead, was hers, and now mine with her passing. And my own mother would be the subject of my first solo ritual. A steady stream of tears ran down my cheeks and I thought over and over, “Too young! Too young!” Both she and me! Even as my thoughts raged, “I can’t do this! It’s too hard! I’m barely more than a child!”, yet my feet continued walking towards the tree and the body. I knelt down before her, carefully setting the buckets and the basket down and removing the yoke from my shoulders. And free of the burden of many pounds of wood and water, those shoulders still slumped. For the weight of this task was heavier still. I gazed upon the still face of my mother. Her features were delicate and pale. She had blonde hair and high cheekbones. To me she was beautiful.  I took some of the herbs from the basket and placed them in the first bucket. From under my apron, I pulled a clean cloth and moistened it in the fragranced water. When I turned back to wash the body, the face was that of my daughter in this life. I do believe we travel in “soul groups” or “soul families” and I knew that she and I had a past. And although this was not a great shock, it renewed the pain of what I was about to do and I began to cry more openly. So I began to wash her, with the water and with my tears, reverently, lovingly, the way I had been instructed. I was to pour the pure water over her forehead, her heart, her genital area and her feet. She was so cold. And when I came to her feet, I grasped them and rubbed them one last time, as I did in her life, on nights when she finally sat by the fire at the end of a long and tiring day. Her final tiring day was done, so I did this for her one last time. It was not a part of the ritual I’d been taught, but this was my mother (daughter) and I loved her. There was a coil of pale, gauzy cloth next to her. The next task was to wrap her body in the material. I began the process at her feet. It was full light by now, and I became aware that I was not alone. I looked up to see my sister, my older sister, and again I was flooded with understanding (and emotion). There was the strangest sensation of inner dialogue between me in my present life and me in that distant life, which seemed to occur in just an instant, but conveyed so much information. “Why, if she is older, am I the one to inherit this responsibility?” (resentment) – “She was sickly as a child, no one believed she would live, so you (we) were trained.” (love) “She is our greatest friend.”

I looked at the face of my sister and it WAS my greatest friend in my present life, my twin soul, Maria. We’ve come to know that we have shared many lives together.
Coming back to the task at hand I realized that my sister was looking at me with love and compassion and concern and quiet strength. She watched from a respectful distance as I continued wrapping. When I had wound the fabric to her chest, I hesitated and stared at a necklace she was wearing. It was a large piece of amber hanging from a leather cord. My sister’s voice soft but firm said, “You must take the necklace off before finishing.” I couldn’t tell if she thought I forgot how this was done or if she was simply helping me past my immobility, but it worked. I untied the cord and held the amber piece in my hand. (Small hands, shaking hands) I lifted it to her, hesitantly and she stepped back as if frightened and shook her head. “It’s yours now, put it on.” There was love in her voice, but also a cold strength. Now I began to sob, as I held my mother’s treasure to my face, I rocked and sobbed and consecrated it with my tears. My sister allowed this for a short while and then said, “Ilsa, the time. Finish.”
I pushed on. The wrapping task was physically demanding. I had to lift her from time to time to get the fabric underneath her body. I was small and not very strong. My sister didn’t help, though she saw me struggling She couldn’t help. It wasn’t her place. It was mine and I had to complete this task.
Once again my sister spoke. I was sewing the wrappings to cover her. She said, “Settle yourself! And hurry! They’re coming.” It was then that I realized that I was still crying. I stopped abruptly and picked up the dampened cloth, the one with which I had washed my mother’s (daughter’s) lifeless body, and washed my face. There was some magic in it. I felt better and the tears stopped. I finished my task quickly, then gathered the stones and the rest of the herbs in a leather pouch. I stood up just in time to greet the procession heading towards the tree. I handed the pouch to the man leading.

procession He looked at me kindly and with great sadness. I had to make a stone of my face and breathe deeply to avoid falling back into my sobs. Some of the processors had a stretcher made of tree limbs and leather. They gently lifted my mother and placed on it. As I turned to take my place in the procession, my sister stood before me with a staff. This was our mother’s, now mine. It was a long solid piece of wood, with a metal spiral at the top. I took it and walked with the group towards what type of funeral (burial, burning?) I know not. For there, my vision ended.

A Twist of the Tarot (or How my new Tarot Deck led me to a new Scrying Tool. Really?)

I first discovered that I might have some intuitive skills about 32 years ago (yes, I was VERY young). And the tool that I used which created the best results was a scrying mirror. (Scrying, for anyone who doesn’t know, is the art of gazing into a reflective surface to see images, like a crystal ball.) I made this mirror myself with instructions from some obscure occult book I picked up at a garage sale. The scrying mirror, in fact, worked so well, that I abandoned it and put away the idea of divining for quite a few years. It frightened me. As I said, I was young.

Fast forward a bit and the system of Tarot found me. The archetypal imagery and its usefulness for self examination fascinated me and I was determined to learn as much as possible about this wonderful tool. I studied and used Tarot for years, just for myself. It helped me learn so much about my own psyche, impulses and motivations. Years of Tarot is better than years of therapy!

Fast forward a few more years and I’m reading cards at the New York Renaissance Faire. When you read “professionally” (which I define simply as getting paid to do readings), and when you read frequently, a couple of things happen. As with anything else, you improve your skills with practice. And you also expand your abilities as an intuitive. Rarely have I met a “reader” who sticks to one form of divination. You find others, many, even infinite ways to divine information. The tools don’t matter – they are just that, tools. They give the reader a focus point. So when I read, I also scry. I’ve also added an element of psychometry to my readings. I’ll have the client hold a crystal of their choosing during the card portion of the reading. At the end, I take it back and hold it and either gaze into it or close my eyes to see if there’s an image. This method has produced some very helpful and surprisingly accurate results. I once saw an exact image a gentleman had been dreaming about repeatedly and was able to point him in the direction of its meaning. That was very gratifying. So, one of the things I find so cool about doing any form of divination is that it will lead you off in unexpected directions. For example; as a “scryer” I thought I should have a crystal ball. I bought a beautiful, gigantic one and have been absolutely enamored with it. I did my usual ritual attunement and gazed and gazed… and saw … nothing but the warped images of the objects on the other side of the crystal. But I still treated it like a trusted friend, because these things take time. I waited and continued to see nothing. Then one day, from across the room, it spoke to me. Yes, this divination tool, designed specifically for visual transmission of information, SPOKE to me. It speaks to me a lot. So, it is what it is. I use it how it wants to be used. I keep it on my table while I read cards or stones and it will say what it wants, when it wants. There have been times that I have stopped, mid sentence with a client and looked at the Crystal Ball, Azriel, and said – out loud – “I’ve heard you and I will convey the message, but will you please let me finish my thought?” I know it makes me seem crazy, but what else can I do? She demands attention!

So, I collect different tools for divination. I try them all. I also have about thirty Tarot decks. There are so many beautiful Tarot decks to be found with amazing artwork and powerful imagery, it’s impossible to own just one, for me anyway. So one day, I found myself with a brand new Tarot deck. It is called The Circle of Life Tarot. Here’s a link to where you can buy it if you like it.

 

circle of life cards
These cards fascinated and baffled me. The watercolor artwork and the fact that the cards were circular (no reversals!) called to something deep inside me. I was absolutely transfixed by the beauty and mystery of the images… and I had absolutely no idea how to read them. Once again I performed by usual consecration and attunement rituals. I handled each card, taking in all of its subtleties and nuances. I pulled cards for daily divinations for myself for weeks and even though it is a traditional Tarot deck (78 cards, 22 Major Arcana, 56 Minor Arcana) I simply could not read them. The artist’s interpretation of the Tarot archetypes seemed such a departure from the “universal” Ridger/Waite type cards. This was frustrating. How could I feel such a strong connection and then receive nothing when trying to use them? I sort of gave up on them.

Around the same time, and seemingly in an unrelated realm of thought (hahaha) I developed a new class for my Metaphysical Meet Up group. It was the Journey of the Fool meditation series. This workshop is designed to attune you to a specific Tarot deck, using the time honored concept of the Journey of the Fool. The idea is to visualize yourself as the Fool in your own deck, complete with imagining yourself in the world of the deck. You are to place yourself inside the imagery and atmosphere of your chosen cards. Then, in each meditation in the series, you, as the Fool, have an encounter with each of the characters and events of the Major Arcana in order.
I decided that, as I was teaching the class, I would put myself through the process with my Circle of Life cards. And I had an extraordinary experience in my very first meditation in the realm of the Circle of Life Tarot, so I knew that this would be an eventful journey. Here I am, the Circle of Life Fool:

 

fool

 

But that is a story for another day. This is the story about my meeting with the High Priestess. Here She is:

 

c of l hps

Awesome, right? My vision was very realistic and very detailed. I could feel the path beneath my feet, the moisture in the air, the weight of that ridiculous hat. I could hear discordant chimes and drum beats. I could smell The Lady’s incense, spicy and unidentifiable. The cat (as opposed to the traditional dog) wound around my ankles as I walked.  I approached her gingerly, as I found her to be somewhat intimidating. What kind of heart lay under those beads? Also, her eyes were closed as though she might be in a trance of her own. But I had no doubt she was aware of my presence. I waited before her, silently and gawked at those pillars, supporting enormous horns, her adornments, her posture. I was mesmerized. When she opened her eyes suddenly, I nearly tripped over the cat, I was so startled. She looked at me with eyes at once sparkling and bright and revealing exceedingly dark depths. I was, quite honestly, terrified. Then her eyes softened just a bit. She motioned me forward. In a deep, strong voice she said “Have you something to ask of me?”

My heart stopped. What does one ask of the High Priestess? I poured over other, more traditional, High Priestess images in my mind. Mysteries, Secrets – That, to me, was what she embodied – the scrolled paper she grasps, the dark and light pillars, the curtain behind her. And although this Lady sat in the open, no throne, no curtain behind which to hide the inner knowledge, it seemed to me that this High Priestess held more mystery than any I had encountered before. I took a deep breath and said, “I wish to know your secrets.”

She laughed. It was a hard sound and my heart sank a little. I would be deemed unworthy. But then she smiled at me and it was warmer and she said, “As we all wish to know Yours, my child. Sit with me.” She motioned to the ground before her. So I sat down, imitating her lotus position and faced her.  She seemed larger than life a moment before but as I settled down, we were eye to eye, equal. Then suddenly appeared, at the point between us where our third eyes would meet, a geometric shape. Dodecahedron was the word which popped into my head.

dodecahedron

But this seemed to have more than just 12 sides or facets. It was a crystal. It appeared to be dark, in color, but very reflective. It was spinning, each facet in turn flashing its bright beam at my eyes. I watched it, transfixed. It wasn’t spinning on an axis, but randomly tipping up, then down, but all the while spinning at a speed which was difficult to comprehend. Each shiny plane had its turn in the sweet spot of disco ball refraction. She said to me, “Now make it stop.” It felt like a test, like a test I was about to fail. The velocity of its spinning would have injured my hand, had I reached out to touch it. But I knew that wasn’t what she meant. I was to stop it with my mind. I said, “I can’t.” She gave an exasperated sigh and the crystal stilled. The surface facing me revealed an image (a bear). I had just enough time to register that awareness when the crystal was set spinning again. “Now, you”, she said with widened eyes that said “Don’t you dare tell me you can’t!”
So I made it stop, and start and stop and start, again and again. Each time the crystal came to rest, it showed me another image, until I understood that this crystal (wherever it might exist in the real world out there) was to be a scrying tool for me. The crystal in the vision vanished. The Priestess smiled and said, “Now go find your secrets.” I thanked her and bid her farewell.

And so began my quest to find this particular piece of earth, which was waiting for me somewhere. MY scrying tool, better than a crystal ball, better than a homemade mirror, the one the High Priestess residing inside of me chose for me.
It took nearly three years. But here she is.

Cordelia dollar                                                          cordelia2

In my searching I had discovered that garnet forms naturally in a dodecahedral habit. This stone is deep, dark red. It is the color of blood and passion and manifestation. Garnet is known to be grounding and protective. It is also known to help manifest in reality, those ideas and passions of our dreams, solidifying spirit into matter. To me, this crystal is like a heart. Indeed, I wore it at my heart constantly during my attunement ritual with it. Its name is derived from the word pomegranate, a fruit with significance to the High Priestess card. I found this gem in a shop on Sunday, April 13. The full “blood” moon (due to a total lunar eclipse) occurred at just after midnight on April 15th. There could have been no better time (all things in alignment) to consecrate this heart-stone. Are all of these things coincidence? Of course not.
She will replace all the other crystals (except Azriel, of course) that I keep on my table during readings. She is the stone to be held by my clients, perfect fistful that she is. They will hold her and then place her on the table to spin. And I will look for an image in the facet that faces me when she stops. I’ll keep you posted on how the divining goes. I think I’ll name her Cordelia.