Thinking About: Rites of Passage / A Pagan Life’s Rituals

14962576_1308522592511297_2212614169165080724_n.jpg

This post is sort of serving as a jumping-off point for a video I have planned for prompts 17-22 of the YouTube Pagan Challenge, all of which sort of center around rites of passage, major life events, and rituals of living a pagan life:

17. How would you introduce spirituality to children, would you pass this book on to your children?
18. Funeral rite and how would you prefer your remains to be treated?
19. Rites for the birth of a child, adoption, naming and blessing ceremonies.
20. Coming of age rites and customs for the stages of life.
21. Marriage or partnership ceremony.
22. Is there such a thing as a twin flame, soul mate, destined partner?

I had mentioned before that I was sort of raised without a formal religious background. To my knowledge, I wasn’t baptized in any way; there wasn’t any sort of formal naming/blessing ceremony. Significant birthdays for me were age 13, 18, and when I left my teens behind at age 20 (By the time I’d hit 21, I’d already consumed alcohol and had been able to do it legally in the U.K. two years prior. The magic had sort of worn off). But they weren’t, at least in a way that was obvious to me then, spiritual in any way.

I also haven’t been married, or undergone any of the other rites mentioned above myself. The funerals I’ve attended have all been rather Christian in their design as well, so in a Pagan sense I’ve not much experience there either. But I do have ideas, which I’ll discuss further down below.

IMG_0708.JPG

I think, given the opportunity and provided I end up having children, that I would definitely share my spirituality with them. I would want to call upon my gods (and my partner’s) to bless and protect that child. When they were older, I would share with them the stories of the gods, celebrate the sabbats, explain to them the different parts of spellcraft, ritual, and my altar spaces. If, when they grew older, they found that that faith was not what they believed, they would absolutely be free to practice whatever religion (or lack thereof!) they wished. I think the important thing is approaching religion with children not as something obligatory or something that will bring upon the punishment of you or your gods should they elect not to participate in. It should be something exploratory. It should be something they are welcome to ask questions about, form their own ideas / opinions about. I really would have enjoyed something like that as a kid- not that coming to my own conclusions and learning on my own wasn’t valuable and rewarding in its own right.

As far as coming of age rites go, I think some of the birthdays mentioned above might be important to them. Perhaps, should they decide they want to, I might help them with their own witchy dedications and the like, but I really feel that so much of that is deeply personal to the individual. The important thing, when I get to that point, will be open communication with my child.

I don’t know that I would pass my books of shadows on to my children at all. They’re too personal to me. I think I’d much rather have a compiled grimoire of things that I had found useful or created myself to pass down instead of my full journals themselves. I think I’d want those buried with me (but more on that down below).

e7489eececa6d700ba1f108588a4db5c

Two of Cups- After Tarot

Moving past childhood and adolescence, we come to the questions about marriage and partnership. I’m not sure that I believe in twin flames or soul mates and all that. I believe that my current boyfriend is someone whom I would like to spend the rest of my life with, and we have indeed talked about marriage, children, all that good stuff. Maybe it’s soul-destined, maybe not? I don’t know, really. Maybe some people are soul mates, but I think that society has created this sort of toxic idea about soul mates, and all of this stress on finding “The One”. In reality, all things in life are transient. People change, circumstances change, etc. I think that focusing too much on finding “the one” and that being the end-all-be-all of our intimacy and relations with people can be more detrimental than helpful.

But enough of that negative nancy-ing about soul mates, and on to the more fun stuff, yeah? I would very much love to have a handfasting ceremony. This is something I’ve been discussing with my boyfriend as we’ve making plans to live together, etc. Basically, the “Big White Wedding” really isn’t my style. Give me an intimate gathering of close friends and family, a simple handfasting ceremony where everything is done outdoors and such, and big bonfire and good food to celebrate afterwards. That to me is infinitely more special than a fancy white dress I’ll only wear once, and a big elaborate party. As I’ve said though, this is still nothing more than a Pinterest board fantasy lingering in the periphery of my life right now.  There’s much to do still before that becomes something I need to worry about.

7494a2dfff616e79843b66a75c8709e8

10 of Swords- Robin Wood Tarot

And now, onto the stuff I’m actually, strangely, the most passionate about: death and funeral rites. I’ve been increasingly more interested in the death-positivity and green burial movements: those that put after-death care more into the hands of the family of the deceased. I think that handling the corpse, arranging the funeral, etc. should be less taboo. There was a time when all of this was done by the family, and I’d really love to work towards making that more common-place once again, and making burials less harmful of an impact on the natural environment.

That said, I’ll return to a statement I made earlier about my books of shadows, and the topic of how I would like my remains treated. I think, truthfully, that I would like my books of shadows burned with my corpse and the cremains used in one of those Bios urns to plant a tree. That, I feel, would be a lot better than a concrete tomb with a giant stone over it.

Obviously all of these things are entirely dependent upon what happens in the future. How starting my own family goes in the future, who my partner is (though I’ve a pretty good idea of who that’ll be 😉 ), and all manner of other circumstances play a part in how these different rites of passage will come into being. Regardless of what happens, my faith in the gods, will likely play a large part in how they’re carried out.

What rites of passage have you marked? What ones do you plan to? Leave them in the comments below!

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

Advertisements

Thinking About: St. Patrick’s Day and The Spring Equinox

d0umbzf

image found via wallpapercave.com

Today marks a holiday that has, for a very long time, held a great deal of significance in my life: St. Patrick’s Day. Now, I am not, nor was I ever raised Catholic, but I was made familiar with the story about how St. Patrick “drove the snakes from Ireland” as a kid- and was later introduced to the notion that the “snakes” in question were in fact the remnants of Celtic paganism in Ireland.

Growing up, St. Patrick’s Day was among the most elaborately celebrated holidays in my family / friend group (Halloween and Christmas/Yule were the only things of more significance). It was something that had many fond memories, wearing green, listening to Celtic music, attending the parade downtown, and enjoying the Irish inspired feast that was prepared by family friends. I had, for a long time, been very interested in my Celtic heritage, and St. Patrick’s Day was, in essence, a day in which I could celebrate that apologetically. But realizing, as I was growing into my Pagan path, that this day was considered to be a day celebrating a man who is credited with ridding Ireland of pagans, left me at a sort of moral quandary.

When I was a bit younger than I am now, I liked to support the sort of anti-Catholic reclaiming of the day: all of those “Proud to be a snake” type sentiments that seem to go around. But, as I’ve made clear, I’ve been studying medieval history (in which the Catholic Church plays a rather prominent role), as well as my own ancestry and continuing my interest in Celtic spirituality. The truth of the matter is that much of what we know about the ancient Celts and their stories come from the transcribing of them by Catholic monks. I’ve learned more, also, about the ways in which the Celtic Church adopted certain aspects of Celtic spirituality from the pagan roots that had remained. Books on Celtic spirituality today, whether they’re focused on a more Pagan or Christian view point seem to focus on many of the same virtues: hospitality, heritage, music and poetry as sacred things, connection with the land…

So why get lost in the battle over which religious tradition is more “correct”? Why spend a day being angry about something that happened well over a thousand years ago?  I’ve chosen, instead, to observe this day as one on which to connect with my ancestors: both of blood, and of the Celtic spirit that still survives in both Pagan and Christian aspects of spirituality, and to really focus on those aspects of Celtic spirituality that I wish to continue on into my own practice. So, whichever way you observe St. Patrick’s Day, I hope you enjoy it!

ostara-eggs

image found via: crystalinks.com

The Spring Equinox is also just about upon us. This year, I believe it falls on March 20th. For me, Ostara, or the Spring Equinox, has been a holiday I’ve never really know what to do with. As I believe I’ve mentioned, the seasonal weather patterns don’t always quite line up in Michigan, to the Wheel of the Year which is more oriented towards European climates. The days and nights may well be equal in length on the equinox, but the hold of winter is usually still very present here well into April / nearly May. The balance has never quite been something I’ve really felt this time of year. Speaking in the terms of deities, the goddesses often associated with the name of the festival: Eostere, Ishtar, etc. have never been goddesses that I have felt called to work with either.

This year, I’ve been finding myself called to an archetype I believe does sort of coincide with the idea of balance between dark and light: that of the maiden goddess of death. Persephone as flower maiden / Queen of the Underworld, Hella the half beautiful/half corpse like ruler of Helheim, Blodeweudd as beautiful flower maiden / but also the one responsible for Lleu Llaw Gyffes’ death… The juxtaposition of the beautiful young woman and the archetype of death one might more readily associate with a crone goddess instead. It feels extremely relevant to me, a young woman, who is seeking to go into funeral service work in the future. Perhaps, this Spring Equinox would be an ideal time to start working with one or more of these goddesses and see where the journey takes me.

How will you be celebrating the Spring Equinox?

Wishing you a blessed St. Patrick’s Day / Ostara / Spring Equinox and wonderful weekend,
Rachel

Gallery

A Humble Tribute to David Bowie

Very few moments are as burned into my memory as the night I learned, one year ago today, of David Bowie’s death. I was ill-prepared this evening when, as is my sort of ritual, I clicked over on the “Memories” feed on Facebook. The heartbreak is just as great now as it was then.
But there isn’t just sadness: there’s a remembrance. He touched the life of countless artists, musicians, actors, etc. both famous and not. There are other people, just like me, who still feel the heaviness of losing him as if it were just yesterday… And, most touchingly, my identifying with Bowie and his work had a lasting impact on those around me. I got to re-read the messages, posts, etc. of people saying “I heard the news, and immediately thought of you.” Me. I would never have dreamed that that connection would be so strong for some people- some of whom I’ve only talked to in courses I’ve taken and the like. It fills me with a great amount of love, and pride, and awe still.
The next few days, I’m sure will be solemn as more of those memories show up on social media. I’ve already spent the past few days revisiting Labyrinth and a good deal of his music- including the EP “No Plan” that was released this year on his birthday. 2016 was a year full of losses, and David Bowie was only one of the first in an absolutely devastating list of pop culture icons lost in this past year. It left me, at times, wondering how we would ever recover from that loss… But it is also important to remember that death clears the way for new growth. The endless song of creation cannot continue if nothing dies off. All that’s left to do is pick up the torches they had to set down, and carry on with their memories in our hearts and inspiration, and continue their work: of creating, of holding space for all of the other weirdos and creators out there.

-Much love to you all,
Rachel

Breaking Free: A Summer for Shadow Work

5b809bd451562aa3a378989a595b7170

I couldn’t find an artist for this image, but found it via Pinterest here.

I have been, in the past five days since my first post’s publishing (and since I started working on this new blog), really beating myself up over what my first few posts should be about. Being at home- and without my campus job’s income- means that I have a lot of limited space to do things, and access to not only some of my tools but things that I tend to like to purchase such as candles, incense, and the like. Especially this summer, it’s been feeling a bit like I’m not doing much that seems worthy of a blog post.

I have, however, been doing a lot of thinking and planning.

As I mentioned in my previous post, a lot of my focus this summer has been on improving my self in the sense of health, organization, etc. and really jump-starting my spiritual practice which had all but ground to a halt entirely over the course of the last year. I had some ideas about what this might mean when I left Grand Valley for the summer, but it’s turning out to have touched me on even deeper levels than I could have ever imagined. It seemed simple enough to come up with some daily things to do, go on some camping trips, get my inspiration flowing again. What has begun, instead, is a complete transformation of self.

Now, I’m sure if I looked good, long, and hard enough back at journals and the like, I could see the beginnings of this change hiding out in the months leading into summer break. The more noticeable thing, however, was a sudden resurgence of Morrigan imagery after many many many months of very little nudge from anything at all. Almost as soon as I acknowledged that perhaps this message was for me, and not a close friend of mine, things began to pick up rather rapidly right before my most recent camping trip. I kept getting more and more and more of that crow/raven and warrior goddess imagery, and quite literally the day before I left for the camping trip, a filling broke in one of my teeth. What I had been planning, really, was eating healthier, meditating more, doing witchy things… But Morrigan came knocking and insisted on something else: over the last several years, I’ve taken pretty dreadful care of my teeth. Depression kicks in, and my will to care sometimes just drifts away. This was a jarring wake up call- to not only face some deep fears (I hate dentists, and have developed this weird thing where I worry about how bad the news will be and therefore avoid hearing it), and to take better care of myself. It’s something I’ve added to my list of things to work on for the summer, and I’m already starting to feel a bit better (though I’m still in need of some dental work done).

During the trip, a dear friend of mine brought out some shadow working and self-analysis prompts that were posted on Kelly-Ann Maddox’s site, and I’ve really started to address things like how I truly feel about various aspects, how I handle fears and angers, etc. We’ve continued these prompts over the last couple of weeks.

The other really big change in my life came with what felt like a random whim to sort of revive my more classy-goth sense of style in the couple of days before my birthday on the 2nd of this month. I’d been at the library and picked up a copy of Walking the Twilight Path: A Gothic Book of the Dead, which I’ve admittedly not delved into quite yet (but seems to really delve into some personal vs/ slightly anthropological-ish issues involving death, dying, etc. and seems like a book I’ll order on Amazon because I may not have time to get to it this summer), as well as a couple of other more light-hearted books on the goth subculture.

On my birthday itself, I set out to sort of search for some new clothes to sort of reflect this darker aspect of self I was embracing, and ended up visiting my local metaphysical shop with my mom and aunt. I received both a tarot and astrology reading (from my aunt and the shop’s owner respectively), and had a good, long talk with them about what the future had in store for me as I turned twenty-two and was headed into my final year in university. In both readings, the themes of rebirth, redefining the self, working through a lot of shit, and looking towards a future seemed super prevalent. But what started the real turn-around of the conversation was them asking me what I wanted to do for a career once I’d graduated.

And it sort of hit me: I don’t want to work in a museum. I don’t want to go to grad school. I don’t want to continuously do historical research- not for a living, anyway. That’s not what I find fascinating about history. What I find really interesting is the ways in which history acts as a many-faceted story of us: humanity, and it’s really those stories- and the stories that often go unheard that interest me, not what can be researched and argued. I also bemoaned that being a witch, doing tarot readings, writing pagan books, blogging, etc. is not exactly an easy way to make money (though I damn well think it should be). I said, sort of off-handedly, that I’d debated going into mortuary work: more specifically funeral directing and the sort of pre-need counseling type stuff. Of course, the shop’s owner gets excited because that seems to match quite well with my chart.

But the more I thought about it that day and in the few days that followed, the more it sort of made sense. It’s something which allows me to use my spiritual, compassionate side- to assist others in dealing with what is arguably one of the greater transitions in life: its end. There’s a creative, compassionate element to it; it echoes the sense of purpose I get when I think about being a priestess and leading others through ritual. I have a post detailing my thoughts on ritual and its purpose on my older blog, found here, but essentially, my thought is that ritual is supposed to in some way be transformative and transitional. One should leave ritual slightly different than when they entered. It also sort of reflects my views on the Wylde Hunt, my feeling drawn to them, what I’ve always sort of felt my purpose in working with them is, and how they act in the grand scheme of the cosmos. Detailed here, it is essentially that the Wylde Hunt for me acts as a sort of psychopompic force; that they are the necessary end to life, but also the ferriers of souls into whatever next state of being they are destined for.

And with the Morrigan death/war/crone goddess symbolism and presence around, with the darker themes of shadow/self-work and even the stylistic choices, it all just suddenly seemed to make sense. I looked up the information I needed, and could get certified to be an apprentice and work in the funeral industry within a year after graduating if I enroll and complete a 21-credit online program from a university only about 45 minutes away from where my boyfriend is living in Florida. Suddenly, even moving down to Florida to be with the man I love dearly makes a lot of practical sense that I seemed to be lacking in the beginning.

I sort of joked that I’d gotten some new tops, a new bra, and my life-purpose for my birthday.

With all of this change, it’ll be interesting to see where else this flow takes me by the end of the summer.

Lots of love to you all,
Rachel