Tag Archives: Samhein

Flowers for Shiva: A Thousand Mornings

Mary Oliver’s latest book of poems, A Thousand Mornings, is out. NPR has an interesting interview with Ms. Oliver. Following the death of her long-time partner, Molly Malone Cook, Oliver flirted with Christianity, but in this interview:

“I think one thing is that prayer has become more useful, interesting, fruitful, and … almost involuntary in my life,” she says. “And when I talk about prayer, I mean really … what Rumi says in that wonderful line, ‘there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.’ I’m not theological, specifically, I might pick a flower for Shiva as well as say the hundredth [psalm].”

That makes more sense to me, given what I know of Ms. Oliver’s aesthetics.

She also echoes some of the points that Richard Louv keeps making, noting that:

[S]he feels a great sorrow over humanity’s lack of care for that world. “The woods that I loved as a child are entirely gone. The woods that I loved as a young adult are gone. The woods that most recently I walked in are not gone, but they’re full of bicycle trails,” she says.

“And this is happening to the world,” Oliver continues, “and I think it is very very dangerous for our future generations, those of us who believe that the world is not only necessary to us in its pristine state, but it is in itself an act of some kind of spiritual thing. I said once, and I think this is true, the world did not have to be beautiful to work. But it is. What does that mean?”

Here’s a lovely poem for this time of year when the veils keep getting thinner and thinner.


~Mary Oliver

The first time Percy came back
he was not sailing on a cloud.
He was loping along the sand as though
he had come a great way.
“Percy,” I cried out, and reached to him—
those white curls—
but he was unreachable. As music
is present yet you can’t touch it.
“Yes, it’s all different,” he said.
“You’re going to be very surprised.”
But I wasn’t thinking of that. I only
wanted to hold him. “Listen,” he said,
“I miss that too.
And now you’ll be telling stories
of my coming back
and they won’t be false, and they won’t be true,
but they’ll be real.”
And then, as he used to, he said, “Let’s go!”
And we walked down the beach together.

What if you were to pay attention to the world for one thousand mornings? What if you were to record what you found?

Picture found here.

May the Goddess Guard Her. May She Find Her Way to the Summerlands. May Her Friends and Family Know Peace.

American poet, feminist, and anti-war activist Adrienne Rich has slipped through the veils. She was a huge influence on my own development and always showed how to act upon the courage of conviction.

Selected for the National Medal for the Arts in 1997, the highest award given to artists, Rich refused it.

“The radical disparities of wealth and power in America are widening at a devastating rate,” she wrote in a letter addressed to then-President Clinton. “A president cannot meaningfully honor certain token artists while the people at large are so dishonored.”

Her poem, Transcendental Etude, hung on my refrigerator all through the long years that I taught school all day and went to law school at night and when I was starting over in a new career, unsure that I had what it took to practice law.

No one ever told us we had to study our lives,
make of our lives a study, as if learning natural history
or music, that we should begin
with the simple exercises first
and slowly go on trying
the hard ones, practicing till strength
and accuracy became one with the daring
to leap into transcendence, take the chance
of breaking down the wild arpeggio
or faulting the full sentence of the fugue.
–And in fact we can’t live like that: we take on
everything at once before we’ve even begun
to read or mark time, we’re forced to begin
in the midst of the hard movement,
the one already sounding as we are born.

I will call her name at Samhein.

Picture found here.

Blessed Samhein to You

At Samhein, we call those who have gone, across the veils, before. And, we call those who are just now being born. Late this morning, I awoke from a dream of a young owl, a young robin, a young hedgehog.

May the coming year bring you all blessings of new life.

As a Child Enters the World

As I enter my new family,
May they be delighted
At how their kindness
Comes into blossom.

Unknown to me and them,
May I be exactly the one
To restore in their forlorn places
New vitality and promise.

May the hearts of others
Hear again the music
In the lost echoes
Of their neglected wonder.

If my destiny is sheltered,
May the grace of this privilege
Reach and bless the other infants
Who are destined for torn places.

If my destiny is bleak,
May I find in myself
A secret stillness
And tranquility beneath the turmoil.

May my eyes never lose sight
Of why I have come here,

That I never be claimed
By the falsity of fear
Or eat the bread of bitterness.

In everything I do, think,
Feel, and say,
May I allow the light
Of the world I am leaving
To shine through and carry me home.

~To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings by John O’Donohue.

Picture found here.

Conversations with G/Son

G/Son (trying on his Harry Potter costume for the third time this morning): Nonna, do you want to know where Halloween comes from?

Nonna: Sure. Where does Halloween come from?

G/Son: It comes from England. A long time ago in England, they didn’t know where Winter came from and they thought that Winter was caused by an evil wizard. So they dressed up in costumes to scare the wizard away, but Winter always comes, anyway.

Nonna: That’s interesting. Where did you learn that?

G/Son: Miss ___ at my school told us.

Nonna: Sometimes, when people don’t understand something, they make up a story to explain it. When other people tell the story, it becomes a myth.

G/Son (fidgeting with Gryffindor necktie): You mean, like where Winter comes from.

Nonna (adjusting the tie): Mmmm. And like Halloween.

Friday Night PotPourri

*Just off a conference call to finalize plans for this Sunday’s Celebration of the Divine Feminine and Religious Freedom. It’s going to be absolutely amazing. It will start at noon at Lafayette Park. Without giving too much away let me just say: Have you ever wanted to dance the Spiral Dance in a place of power at Samhein? Well, have you? 😉

*Valeriana’s pretty much got Samhein covered:

As people around me speak their dread of
the coming cold and the growing dark, I sink into my roots, release summer’s fire through my fingertips, and begin the composting of the year. Dreaming into the dark, I tap the ancient well of blood-wisdom. In the spring, dreams will rise up through my veins like the sweet sap of a sugar maple.

You should go read the whole piece.

*Last weekend and, again, tonight, G/Son and I watched Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. G/Son isn’t quite sure what to make of Gollum. On the one hand, he can tell that Gollum’s bad. But, on the other hand, he feels sorry for Gollum. We talked about how Gollum used to have the ring and the ring is power. And about how too much power can corrupt someone. Tonight, G/Son asked me, “Nonna, how come when Gollum got the ring and power corrupted him, it made him so that he couldn’t walk upright like a hobbit?” I love that kid.

*Here’s a lovely chant for Samhein:

Between the heavens and the earth
The way now opens to bring forth
The Hosts of those who went on before;
Hail! We see them now come through the Open Door.

Now the veils of worlds are thin;
To move out you must move in.
Let the Balefires now be made,
Mine the spark within them laid.

Move beyond the fiery screen,
Between the seen and the unseen;
Shed your anger and your fear,
Live anew in a new year!”

Found here.

*Winter seems determined to make an early start, at least here in the Mystical MidAtlantic. I worry about the OccupyDC protesters. I’m going to pull out my yarn stash (every knitter and crocheter has one!) and start making quick stocking caps for them. We all do what we can. I’ll think of it as guerilla knitting.

*Ireland’s elected a poet as president.

One wonders what it would take for Americans to do that.

Picture found here.

Samhein’s Coming Poetry Blogging


~ Annie Finch

(The Celtic Halloween)

In the season leaves should love,
since it gives them leave to move
through the wind, towards the ground
they were watching while they hung,
legend says there is a seam
stitching darkness like a name.

Now when dying grasses veil
earth from the sky in one last pale
wave, as autumn dies to bring
winter back, and then the spring,
we who die ourselves can peel
back another kind of veil

that hangs among us like thick smoke.
Tonight at last I feel it shake.
I feel the nights stretching away
thousands long behind the days
till they reach the darkness where
all of me is ancestor.

I move my hand and feel a touch
move with me, and when I brush
my own mind across another,
I am with my mother’s mother.
Sure as footsteps in my waiting
self, I find her, and she brings

arms that carry answers for me,
intimate, a waiting bounty.
“Carry me.” She leaves this trail
through a shudder of the veil,
and leaves, like amber where she stays,
a gift for her perpetual gaze.


Poem from Eve.

Picture found here.

Thin Veil Pot-Pourri

*Is it breezy in here, or is it just me? My, the veils seem to be thinning at an amazing rate this near-to-Samhein season. And the energy from the Occupy movement seems to be calling to a number of interesting Ancestors. In my personal practice, the thinning veils call for careful attention to grounding. With my Sun in permeable Pisces, it would be too, too easy (and too, too tempting) to let myself drift too far through those open veils, too far down that misty road, too deep into that fairy hall in the hill. And, so, I get enough sleep. I try to eat right. I get on the treadmill. I balance time alone with time out in the world. I dig in the dirt and leave myself little reminders — an acorn on my desk at work, a flower in a vase by my bed, a tiny polished stone in my purse — to remind me to do what Ram Dass said: Be Here Now.

*”Our labors are witnesses for the living mystery.” Carl Jung, quoted in Ego and Archetype by Edward F. Edinger. Had a great conversation recently w/ a dear friend about how we can’t live our lives entirely focused on our inner processes, nor can we live our lives entirely directed towards the outer world. And, at some point, the feedback loop of doing both inner and outer work is far more effective than either process in isolation. It’s outer work — running for office, and deciding what compromises are worth making (some are, although I know it’s fashionable these days to decry all of them) and which aren’t, or working with the incredibly slow and sometimes frustrating process of consensus decision-making in the Occupy Movement, or rocking cranky babies — that gives us a chance to practice the inner work we’ve been doing of breathing, centering, learning to apply our True Will. And it’s inner work — setting aside time for a daily practice, doing shadow work, stopping throughout the day to reconnect to our Higher Selves — that allows us to be more effective when we confront Fox News, stop logging of old growth forests, let a homeless person know that they’re valued. Before enlightenment: chop wood & carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood & carry water. Where do you find the balance? Are you at a phase when it’s time to shift your emphasis from one mode to the other?

*Had lunch several days ago with the brilliant and deep Judith Laura. I’m reading her new book, Goddess Matters: the Mystical, Practical, & Controversial, about which a formal review in a few days. She takes on the lie that Goddess religions, because they do not have a set of rules, such as the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments, lack ethics. Judith provides a list of her own Goddess guidelines:

Seek knowledge.
Revere wisdom.
Be joyful.
Know pleasure.
Love one another.
Protect life.
And live in peace.


Sounds about right to me. I’m also down with:

Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.

Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.

And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.

Charge of the Goddess.

Some ethical practices are better conveyed through poetry. In Evidence, Mary Oliver writes:

Mysteries, Yes
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the mouths of lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever in allegiance with gravity while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the scars of damage, to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say “Look!” and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads.

*Literata has been doing some amazing blogging on the whole New Apostolic Reformation (NAR/DC40) attack on Pagans. If you aren’t reading her regularly, you should be. Here’s an example:

In [Dominionist] worldview, democracy is sort of a surface phenomenon. It can be used as a kludge when not everyone accepts their god-given place in the power dynamics (especially unbelievers). It can be used as a compromise, or a temporary expedient. But it’s not a long-lasting solution. It’s not a fundamental idea, it’s not something to work for, and ultimately, it’s un-biblical.

With that in mind, read what Wagner has to say about the roles of self-proclaimed apostles and prophets in the NAR:

WAGNER: “The Bible teaches that apostles – related to prophets and also teachers – should form the basis of the government of the church. Now, up till now, recently, most churches in America functioned on a democratic system, so that the authority in the churches and the authority in the denominations resided in groups of people.

And, of course, that’s what we’re used to politically in America, so that fits in very well with our culture. But in terms of the role of the apostle, one of the biggest changes from traditional churches to the New Apostolic Reformation is the amount of spiritual authority delegated by the Holy Spirit to individuals. And the two key words are authority and individuals, and individuals as contrasted to groups. So now, apostles have been raised up by God who have a tremendous authority in the churches of the New Apostolic Reformation. And I think this is the most radical difference between the old and the new.”

When he says, “that’s what we’re used to politically in America,” I hear the unspoken statement, “but that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.” When he talks about how the NAR’s authority structure is a “radical difference,” I connect that to the kind of “transformation” that he wants to see in American culture and American politics.

Wagner also made a point of saying that the NAR is “working with whatever political system there is” in each country it’s engaging. But he strictly disavows any mention that they want a “theocracy,” which he specifically links to states like Iran or like Constantine’s Rome. He is telling the truth there, but it’s a specific kind of truth based on his ideas about authority.

I believe him that he doesn’t want a “theocracy” where there’s an institutionalized church that runs the institutionalized state. He wants to meld the two, indistinguishably, because his religious ideas about authority and power are so all-encompassing that they would make a separate institutionalized government redundant.

She’s spot on, is a student of history, and always does her homework.

Anne Johnson has been interviewing a different “Bored God” every day, with a focus on the state under attack that day by NAR. If you haven’t yet read her interview with the Spirit of Ayahuasca, used by, primarily, Native Americans in their religious ceremonies, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Anne: Welcome, Ayahuasca! I’d offer you a cup of tea … but that’s what you are.

Ayahuasca: I’m not your cup of tea, though. You haven’t been initiated into the Mysteries.

Anne: So true. About the most adventurous I get is a vodka gimlet. But this isn’t about my religious experiences, it’s about America’s religious experiences. And You, o Sacred Ayahuasca, have been foully and cruelly treated! Everyone has heard the tale of the DEA agents bursting in on a ceremony of the Unaio do Vegetal praise and worship team in New Mexico. The agents pulled You right out of the priest’s kitchen and carted You off to the slammer. (Or in this case, the refrigerator.)

Ayahuasca: We took them to court. To the Supreme Court. And we won.

Anne: Damn right, you won! It’s called the First Amendment, and there’s a long and well-documented use of Ayahuasca tea in numerous religious paths originating in the Western Hemisphere. I was rooting for Unaio do Vegetal every step of the way.

Ayahuasca: Thank you. Here is how I look at it. You never see DEA agents bursting into a First Communion, confiscating the wine, and arresting the priests for serving alcoholic beverages to minors.

*The Occupy Movement has been training lots of people in the use of consensus decision making. That’s difficult work, both to teach and to learn. In honor of all of those teachers, learners, and users, I offer the following picture by Robert Bissell, entitled, The Decision:

(found here.)

*I had a delightful houseful (I have a tiny cottage, so it doesn’t take too many to make a houseful) of people over for brunch yesterday. Some were long-time friends, in town for OccupyDC, some were family, some were Witches and their spouses, some ( 😉 ) were Landscape Guy. Gemini Rising, there’s not much that I enjoy more than bringing interesting people together, feeding them, and listening to them talk. Consequently, I’d saved a long list of chores to be done today, but, in the end, I slept late, spent extra time on the treadmill, and drove up to Benkhe’s nursery, which I really did not need to do. But, as I said a few months ago: OPG. I bought some begonias for inside the kitchen windowsill, a tiny pot of succulents to keep on my desk all Winter when the sunlight comes as strong as can be through my Northern window, and a big blue pot for my office jade tree, which has needed repotting for some time.

*If I am related (by blood or experience) to you and you are beyond the Veils, this is a gentle reminder that you do NOT have a standing invitation to visit me every night in my dreams. Some of you, I didn’t even really like very much while you were alive, and I’m certain that I never wanted to sleep (in the prosaic (or other) sense) with all ya’ll. It’s going to be a long month. Go bother someone else. And, if you do show up, please remember to tell me where the money is buried, how much you really did love me even though you couldn’t say it, and to give me the recipes for stuffing and sweet pickles. The “you were not a very nice little girl” stuff you can save for L.L. She may care. And she really wasn’t.

+First published in Judith’s book: She Lives! The Return of Our Great Mother.

Picture found here.

The Parallel Life of Undone Things

Early Autumn, between now and Samhein, is a time devoted, in my practice, to summing up my accomplishments and considering those things that I had hoped to, but didn’t, get done. (OK, and to shopping for pumpkins. G/Son and I spent a long time today looking at pumpkins and running through the local Autumn Maze (G/Son: “Nonna! It’s just like Harry Potter! There was a maze in Harry Potter!” Nonna: “I can show you a lot of mazes. Sometimes, they’re called labyrinths.”)) More than a simple tally, I try to spend time figuring out why I was able to do certain things, but unable to accomplish others. And, if I still want to accomplish those undone items, what must I restructure or revise in my life in order to be able to accomplish them? Or, am I ready to lay them aside, undone? That’s a difficult task, but it’s one that I believe real Witches and magic workers sometimes need to do.

In To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, John O’Donohue says:

Gradually over the years, a parallel life of undone things builds up. The unresolved has a lingering force and it follows us. Because this happens in the unconscious and unknown regions of our hearts, we rarely notice its effect. The undone continues to live near us; sometimes it is more powerful than what we have actually completed. What is finished lets us go free; it becomes truly part of us and is integrated and woven into memory. What remains unfinished continues to dwell in that still hungry and unformed part of the heart that could not realize itself and grow free; these gaps in our integrity stay open and hungry. This is one of the neglected areas that can be reframed by blessing

“Gaps in our integrity.” That’s harsh, but I like it because it’s true. And we reframe these areas by blessing, or by spell work (they’re a lot alike, although there is a fine line between them). And whether I decide, come Samhein, to recommit myself to a goal or to lay it aside for the time being, I do spell work around my decision; I attempt to approach this area with at least the integrity of honesty. Because I agree with O’Donohue that, otherwise, the unresolved has a lingering force that follows us around. I think that when you announce to the universe that you intend to do X, then you need either to do X or to explain to the universe why you didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t/won’t do X. Your ancestors, your Goddesses/Gods, you Younger Self are listening and they’ll be making decisions the next time that you show up and attempt to alter reality in accord with you Will.

This will be an interesting Autumn.

I have one very large life goal on which I made some, but not enough, progress this year. I’m going to recommit to it and do a boatload of spellwork around it. And I’m going to give myself exactly 12 months to do it on my own before I surrender and deal with it in a manner that I’ve been resisting for years.

A beloved friend recently challenged me to step up to the plate in another area of my life. (It’s the bravest and most caring thing that anyone has done for me in a long time. That’s her gift and she wears it well. That’s not to say that it doesn’t cost her or that those of us blessed by it don’t owe her. She has touched me; I have grown. That’s maybe the most wonderful thing that you can say about a friend.) I’ve begun daily work on that and I’m doing (and imagine that I’ll continue to do) spell work in that area, too. For a long time.

The Tower Card showed up with full force in another area of my life and, surprise!, it’s been the most liberating thing to happen to me in ages. It’s clarified for me exactly what I want, what I don’t want, and what I’m no longer willing to accept as “good enough” in that area. Now, all I have to do is create what I do want. Easier said than done, but it’s easier once you admit that what’s been wasn’t good enough and that you’ve got a job ahead of you.

I always go on a bit of a tear before Samhein to get things cleared up, cleaned up, stowed away. Closets and drawers get cleaned out. I’ve been donating clothing and “stuff” right and left. (Renewed commitment: I will think long and hard before I acquire. Anything. I’m 55. Is this something that I want Son and DiL to have to dispose of?) The garden needs to be cleaned up and put to bed for the coming Winter. (My garden is a goal that I’ve had for most of my life. It’s now 90% of the way “there.” The last 10% is the trickiest. I want to do real magic around it.) I lay in a supply of ice melt, bring in the snow shovel, rotate my Yaxtraxs (because I am EXACTLY like those cool kids doing snowboarding when I inch my old-woman way to the car over the icy ground) to the front of the closet, have my furnace checked, bring firewood inside, locate my car’s ice scraper, prepare to deal with days of ice-enforced staying at home.

I’ve kept journals since I was in my late teens. (And I’ve made careful arrangements in my will for their disposition, unread, by a friend whom I trust implicitly.) One thing that I do on my birthdays is to reread my journals. That magical act does two things for me. First, it inspires such tenderness within me for my younger (and Younger) self. She was trying as hard as she could, often against some pretty serious odds. Rather than beating up on her for her errors and those things that she didn’t manage to do, I spend time amazed at what she managed to accomplish and am inspired to bless her back through time. Second, it gives me hope. When I look back at all the goals and objectives that my y/Younger self had, I can see how, over time, she/I did manage to achieve most of them, often against some rather serious odds. And if she/I did that, then I can certainly achieve X, or Y, or Z.

What’s on your agenda for this liminal time between now and Samhein? Is there something that one more big push could accomplish? Do you keep journals? What do they tell you about your ability to achieve your goals? Would magic help?