To Every Season

We are closing in on the last of the season of abundance. Wherever we look we see Her harvest around us. Purple grapes hang from their vines. Branches hang heavy from the weight of fruit and sweet nuts. All the forces of life have done their work ~ the sun ~ the rain ~ the earth ~ the wind ~ all have added and blessed everything with fruitful abundance.

We have reached the time of the harvest. The shadows of the day are lengthening and our growing season is drawing to a close. We reach out claiming our rich rewards ~ our bountiful harvest.

If we are lucky we will see a show of beautiful color, the trees bursting forth in dazzling color of ~ reds and golds ~ yellows and oranges ~ in final preparation for plants to move into their resting season. The minerals of the Earth fed these living things, giving life in the spring followed by summer, with flowers blooming into fullness. Finally, heaviness swelling, they return the body to the earth in this deepening autumn. We begin a season of quiet rest.

We are not unlike our kin of the plant kingdom. We plant our feet on this firm Earth as well. We live in similar cycles, first with fresh adventures, new ways to grow, new plans all bursting within us. We move into the summer of our work ~ the blossoming forth of our dreams into reality, each promising a fruitful harvest following our hard work. The visible signs of what is yet to come hold promise, a thread of light that runs through everything in the Universe, a promise without which we could not ever begin again with hope for new endeavors, just as the trees, without it, would not bloom in the spring.

As we move deeply into our own experience, we feed on what nourishes the soul, we expand to embrace new ideas, concepts, visions, pleasures, and sorrows. Much like the trees reaching higher and wider, we expand our view. Just as the plants, we struggle in the summer of the cycle for growth and expansion.

In our cycles of growth, inevitably there comes a time when no matter what our involvement or dedication, a change comes. Somehow no matter how much we try to resist, some important process within us stops and we cannot move forward.

This is not an indication that all is lost or even that the growth is over. It is simply a sign of change. The trees know the change is upon them when the day grows shorter and the temperature begins to drop; and if these signs do not speak loudly enough, the first frost brings home the message. We know the summer of expansion is at an end when we can take in no more, when no fresh understanding unfolds, or when the heart has gone out of the experience.

It is time to pause in our growth, to rest from our steady seeking. We must put aside our books, come home from our adventures and just sit by the fire. In the closing of this cycle we, too, must let the quiet enfold us while the fruit of our searching ripens. We must take the time to gently search within ourselves for the full harvest of our experiences.

As I am writing, I am singing this in my head …

Turn! Turn! Turn! by the Byrds

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

To know the cycle of nature is to know our own cycle. Every season has its purpose. When a cycle of life becomes autumn for us, we are not delaying new growth by taking time to rest in the sweet wonders of our experience. Before we look ahead to the promised spring, before we hurry on to our next project, let us take counsel with ourselves, and take part in the rich reward that is the true fruit of our seeking; let us celebrate the harvest and rest awhile in these the lengthening shadows of autumn.

Many Blessings,
Bendis

The Descent of Inanna to the Underworld

Inanna provides a many-faceted image of the feminine. She is a goddess of order, fertility, grains, love, war, heaven and earth, healing, and emotion. She is called the “Lady of Myriad Offices”. Most of the powers once held by her, “the embodied, playful, passionately erotic feminine; the powerful, independent, self-willed feminine; the ambitious, regal, many-sided feminine” were eroded by the patriarchy throughout time.

Her descent to the Underworld is a valuable story at any time of the year but even more so here as the wheel turns fully into the dark of the year. During the dark of the year, we are to turn inward, our most introspective work is to be accomplished at this time. It is vital that we enter the darkness as did Inanna, bare and bowed low.

Inanna’s most important myth begins with the great goddess opening “her ear to the Great Below”.

“From the Great Above she opened her ear to the Great Below.
From the Great Above the goddess opened her ear to the Great Below.
From the Great Above Inanna opened her ear to the Great Below.”

In the Sumerian language, the word for ear and wisdom are the same. Enki, who is the God of Wisdom, is said to have his ear “wide open” indicative of being fully receptive. The message here is that Inanna’s primary reason for traveling to the Underworld was to seek wisdom and understanding.

What this meant was that Inanna had to abandon everything she knew, everything she possessed, all of her powers in heaven and on earth to gain this wisdom and understanding.

“My Lady abandoned heaven and earth to descend to the underworld.
Inanna abandoned heaven and earth to descend to the underworld.
She abandoned her office of holy priestess to descend to the underworld.

She gathered together the seven me.
She took them into her hands
With the me in her possession, she prepared herself:

She placed the shugurra, the crown of the steppe, on her head.
She arranged the dark locks of hair across her forehead.
She tied the small lapis beads around her neck,
Let the double strand of beads fall to her breast,
And wrapped the royal robe around her body.

She daubed her eyes with ointment called “Let him come,
Let him come,”
Bound the breastplate called “Come, man, come!” around her chest,
Slipped the gold ring over her wrist,
And took the lapis measuring rod and line in her hand.”

She gathered all of these things as a means to protect herself. Each of these adornments is worn at one of each of the seven chakras. She traveled to the Underworld and when she arrived she met with Neti and demanded to speak with her Sister Ereshkigal.

Ereshkigal is the place where potential life lies motionless. When Neti described Inanna and how she looked as she waited at the outer gate, Ereshkigal was not pleased.

She sent Neti to defend her. Ereshkigal wanted Inanna to experience what it is to be rejected, to enter only when she is “bowed low”.

At each gate, Inanna is asked to remove one item and when she asks why, she is told,

“Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect.
They may not be questioned.”

She is deprived of her godhood, her connection with heaven, her ability to manifest, her feelings of ecstasy and rapture, her emotional being, her will and her sexual role in life. All of these represent who she was, as a queen, a holy priestess and as a woman.

Naked and bowed low, Inanna entered the throne room.

“Ereshkigal rose from her throne.
Inanna started toward the throne.
The Annuna, the judges of the underworld, surrounded her.
They passed judgment against her.
Then Ereshkigal fastened on Inanna the eye of death.
She spoke against her the word of wrath.
She uttered against her the cry of guilt.

She struck her.

Inanna was turned into a corpse,
A piece of rotting meat,
And was hung from a hook on the wall.”

It is here, at this point that we end this part of the story, for Inanna must remain in the Underworld until it is time for Her Return. Her transformation as a result is not something that happens quickly.

And so it is that we too, as we enter the dark time of the year, must shed what we hold too close. We must step out of ego, let loose all of the things we think we know or understand. We must present ourselves to the dark, laid bare and bowed low. For it is in this state that we open to wisdom and great knowledge. We too, must turn our ear to the Great Below.

Wolkstein, Diane and Kramer, Samuel Noah, Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1983

Deanne Quarrie. D. Min. is a Priestess of The Goddess. She is the author of five books. She is the founder of the Apple Branch and Beyond the Ninth Wave where she teaches courses in Druidism, Celtic Shamanism, and Feminist Dianic Wicca and mentors those who wish to serve others in their communities. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Ocean Seminary College and is the founder of Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine.

Ogham Twig of the Day – Ngetal

ngetalNgetal (NYEH-tl)

Reed and Broom
Color ~ Nglas ~ Glass Green
Stone ~ Clear Green Jasper
Bird ~ Ngeigh ~ Goose
Word oghams ~ wound – charm – healing
Ngetal represents a sense of established power.

Reed is the tallest of the grasses, and is associated with water. It has a long tradition as a wand of authority, which is a symbol of recorded time. Papyrus is made from reed. A broken reed is a broken promise, a loss of trust, a seeping away of authority. The Reed is the scepter of the Queen. The reed is earthly power and authority.

The Irish used the reed “whitten rose” for thatching of roofs. A house was not completed or established until the roof was thatched. The dead stems rattle in the wind.

The month of reed marked the beginning of winter. The symbolism of the reed, rod, and scepter are symbols of power and authority derived from ancient tree worship.

It is time to batten down the hatches! Take time to prepare for what harm may be on the way. Reed offers protection. With reed in hand – protection is yours! Be prepared for a change or a disturbing event. Be prepared, organized, and stable. If you are prepared you can weather anything.

Ogham Twig for Today ~ Gort

gortThe Tree ~ Ivy ~ Finemain
Color ~ Gorm ~ Blue
Stone ~ Serpentine
Bird ~ Geis ~ Mute Swan

Message ~ Tenacity, raw survival instinct enabling triumph over circumstances.
Meanings ~ garden, growth, sweeter than grasses, counterpart of heaven.

There is determined power in Gort. It offers boar-like tenacity in applying the will to do difficult work. It is important to remember that the tools we use are not the ends, but only the means to give rise to something coming from the depths of our being. We must keep on our true goals.
Ivy It has the ability to bind all things together. It can wander freely, linking tree to tree, or form dense thickets that block out the light and restrict passage. Ivy brings shelter or overwhelming darkness and reminds us that where there is life, there is also death. Ivy represents our souls wandering in search for enlightenment, but carries a warning to be sure of the direction we are heading!

Entwining Ivy represents the female principles of life Through conception and birth, the male life force is given form by the female body, but in giving life substance so too does women bring death into being.

Ivy is sacred to Bendis, Mor Righ Anu, Osiris and Dionysus. Dedicated to resurrection jointly with vine because they grow spirally.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary Ivy stands for “a place of concealment or retirement.”  Many creatures are concealed from harm beneath the spiraling ivy.

Ivy attracts the last bees of the year, reminding us of the sweetness of the Goddess as we prepare to enter the dark time of the year.

“I am a ruthless boar.
I am a fierce boar.
I fled as a bristly boar seen in a ravine. (for valor)
I am a thicket which holds the roebuck.
I have tasted joy.
I have strength born of ecstasy.”

The symbolism of the boar is used because the cycle falls during boar hunting season and the boar is the beast of death symbolizing the “Fall” or the beginning of death, of the Old Year. But the Ivy’s serpentine spiraling signifies resurrection. Again, a reminder of the birth/death cycle of life.

The Boar’s descent into the Underworld is not purely a journey of destruction: because it is basically, in spite of any others roles, it may play, a creature of fertility, it plants within Death itself, the seeds of renewal.

Our Loss of Od

Freyja is an Old Icelandic goddess of the Earth, fertility, and beauty. Her name means “Lady.” Freyja is known to be very beautiful and sexual. It is thought that Freyja was first in union with Od. This union represented what is known in Old Icelandic as sam-vit, a state of united consciousness. In other words, consciousness that reflects a state of being united, integrated, or whole. Od had vanished from Her life causing her to weep for his loss. Where her tears fell on the land, they turned to amber and where they fell in the Sea they became gold. Amber and gold are both sacred to Freyja. From the time he left, she continued to travel and search for him.

We come into this world as infants, and in that state only experience the present moment. We know our mothers from the heart beat felt in the womb and perhaps through other senses as yet undefined. We know at any given moment that we are hungry or content, wet or dry, sleepy or wakeful. Our ability to see is not fully developed and at first we see only hazy images around us. We are born knowing how to cry. It is our only way to communicate as infants. Our interests focus only on “self” and our own needs. We are, except for this ability to cry, basically helpless, unable to do anything except be where we are placed and are totally dependent on those who care for us.

As we mature, however, we begin to hear and identify sounds, see colors and shapes and taste foods we like or dislike. We learn to smile when something pleases us and we learn to laugh when feeling happiness. We learn to recognize other people, sounds and gestures and eventually the many words spoken to us. We learn to scoot, crawl and finally walk. With that we learn to mimic and then, with understanding, communicate with speech. We still however, live very much in the “now.”

As children, if not damaged by the care given us, we are fully sensing beings. We may not always understand our sensory perceptions because our experience is limited but we use our senses easily. We are creatures of exploration and discovery. Using an Old Icelandic term once more, you might say finna is fully active at this time. Finna is a critical and innate element of being that is critical to our spiritual and physical health and well-being. It means to discover, find, perceive, notice, feel, learn, to come across, and to meet.

Something happens to us when we are old enough to enter school. We are placed in an environment where sensory exploration is no longer the focus but rather we begin to develop left brain perception, through reading and writing. We are taught to be more analytic, oriented toward mental processes rather than sensory awareness. Because of the rigid conformity required of us, we lose the ability to be open and much of the inherent wonder and deep curiosity of our own body’s desire to be open to our environment is lost.

For those of us on a spiritual path, awareness of this loss comes to us as we seek answers to our own spiritual questions. Our yearning is much like that of Freyja for her Od. We have body memories of our connections to the sacred in those simple ways of childhood. We may not consciously remember what it is like to be open to all that is around us, but there is an inner yearning to seek and find, no matter how elusive it might be.

Once we recognize that we are sacred beings and one with our Source, as well as everything else around us, the connections begin to grow. We take ourselves back out into nature. We learn to really “see” what is around us. We learn that everything can speak to us, tell us what we need to know, if we listen. We study our past, digging deeply into our ancestors spiritual past wanting to know how they honored the divine in their lives and how to connect with them in the present.

We learn that our bodies truly are our temple because they house our sacred spirit. From this we begin to see the advisability of caring for our bodies and begin eating in healthy ways. We learn to take care of this “temple” we have been given or have chosen for ourselves.

If we allow it, music can enter our souls and speak to us, recalling far distant longings, awakening emotions hidden deeply within. Our food can give us new pleasure, with taste sensations unnoticed before.

We learn about our deep inner nature, our lightness and our shadow. We acknowledge and love both. We see who we are though our learning about ourselves, perhaps through the many self-development avenues available to us. We learn to love who we are no matter if flawed or not, because we know that all are flawed in one way or another and we see that even “flawed” is a faulty perception.

As we explore the five senses given to us at birth, opening in our perceptions, somehow another sense is developed and it is a returning of our own intuitive awareness. We have the ability to know of things seen by the inner eye and heard by inner ears. We delight in the sense of touch, both in the touching and in the being touched.

And so this ongoing search for Od that we have leads us into a return to a natural state of openness and from there to an inner consciousness that reflects the state of being united, integrated, and whole. When we are in that state we are able to access all that we need to manifest “possibilities” in life. Our Freyja will have found her Od.

Deanne Quarrie. D. Min. is a Priestess of The Goddess, and author of five books. She is the founder of the Apple Branch and Beyond the Ninth Wave where she teaches courses in Druidism, Celtic Shamanism, Goddess Spirituality and mentors those who wish to serve others in their communities.. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Ocean Seminary College and is the founder of Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine.

A Change in the Air

Lying in the cool, green grass, I feel it thick beneath me.
I gaze at the clouds in the sky and my mind wanders,
drifting out to times remembered and times yet to come.
I feel close to the Earth, immanently connected and
embraced by the unknown universe above.

I have sought to learn the secrets of both
and the more I think I know
the more I realize how much there is yet to learn.
They keep their secrets guarded from inquisitive minds
giving a bit at a time, just enough to tempt
a hungry mind to search for more.

I remember when I used to take a nice thick blade of grass
between my two thumbs and raise it to my lips
squealing  a sound out into the wind.
I try it now and there it is,
that old familiar sound still there, even now.

I see the geese flying overhead
the cool air of autumn blew in on the wind today.
They are honking their way south.
As I think about this time of calm and stillness
summer’s end and just now feeling the change
moving toward winter, but first a time to watch
all the colors change from green to yellows and browns.

Trees know that it is time to rest and close down.
A time to prepare for the inward journey of the dark.
I think I’ll lie here in the grass for a while longer
taking in the autumn day and feeling the Earth
rich and warm beneath me while my mind wanders
with pleasant thoughts that drift
and spiral with no purpose but to just be.

Opening the Faerie Hill

DFaery Circle

Danu, Danu, Danu
Three times round we go
Moonwise in our circle
Dancing with the flow.

Danu, Danu, Danu
Three times round we spin
To waken all the Sidhe
In the mound within

Danu, Danu, Danu
Three times round we dance
Lead us to the Otherworld
Spinning in our trance.

Danu, Danu, Danu
Three times round we sing
Happy all together
In the Faerie Ring.

A Morning Prayer for Danu

Danu, Danu, Danu
Flowing rivers and streams
We are bathed in your love.

Danu, Danu, Danu
Your Body, this beautiful Land
We suckle at your Breast.

Mother of All
Redeemer of Souls
Source of all that is Holy.

Bring peace to all who suffer.
Bring health to all who are ill.
Bless us this morning as we arise.

Bless us with food and drink
A warm hearth for all
And shelter from the storms.

We offer you sweet milk
Our bread and fruit, gifts for you
With grateful hearts, we share.

Danu, Danu, Danu
Flowing rivers and streams
We are bathed in your love.

Danu, Danu, Danu
Your Body, this beautiful Land
We suckle at your Breast.

Mother of All
Redeemer of Souls
Source of all that is Holy.

Fire, Her Bright Spirit

dd croppedIn Celtic Tradition our world is composed of Three Realms, those of Land, Sea and Sky. In the midst of these Realms we find the Sacred Grove, the place of flowing together. There the Sacred Fire burns, by the Well of Wisdom, beneath the World Tree. Sacred Fire is that which weaves itself throughout the Three Realms.  It connects us and all of life to the Realms as well as to our gods and goddesses.  Fire is Sacred Spirit, Sacred Inspiration, without which life would have no meaning. (image by Marilyn Masden)

Fire is the spark, the flame, the heat of passion.  It is what ignites our creativity, fuels our passion and fires our hearts to love.  It is the Dance of Life, the joy found in movement, sexual energy and the warmth that germinates new life in seeds. It is the warmth of sunlight on our skin and the ecstatic pleasure of orgasm.

Fire is that which transforms fuel to light and heat as it can transform anything we feed it to pure energy.  We associate Fire with the Sun which provides all living beings on Earth with warmth and light. Without it, life as we know it would be impossible.  The Sun burns above us…and its energy supports life.

In magical traditions, we associate Fire with noon, when the sun is at its peak in the sky. We also associate it with summer, that time when the Sun is with us for longest days in the year.  It is associated with the active phase of our adult lives, the time we expend the most energy.  It is the time of creating families and careers. Clearly, sex and passion are all about Fire.

Fire also heals by stirring things up and getting them moving. It overcomes the stagnation of apathy, the heaviness of depression, or the distant coldness of always living in one’s head. Fire corresponds to our will.  It is our power to choose, to make and keep goals and to take care of any obstacles that prevent forward movement.  We use fire to remove anything in our way. Fire is what gives us courage. Fire is our independent spirit. We can use the magic of fire to face fears and overcome them.

We must also look at the destructive side of Fire.  The consuming hunger of fire is what strikes fear in our hearts. Magically, then, fire is about transformation.  Changing what no longer serves us and fueling what does.  And as with any burning fire, we must carefully contain and direct it lest it burn out of control. We see Fire within us, when it is out of control, as destructive tendencies, aggressiveness, jealousy, hatred, resentment and vindictiveness.

CenterFire is at Center of the World. If asked the question, “where is the center of the world,” I have three answers. When speaking for myself, my answer is “where I stand.” To someone else in my family, it would be wherever we gather at the center of the home. In ancient cultures, that would have been the hearth or the center pole.  Today, it may be at the kitchen table.  And if you were to ask a Druid of her clan, it would be the sacred Bíle or sacred tree of the Gods. As one who practices, Celtic based spirituality, the Goddess Brighid connects all of these “centers” for She is the Goddess of Fire. She is Fire in the head and the heart, the Fire in the home and hearth and the Fire of smiths and poets. She is the magic that connects the Three Realms of Land, Sea and Sky. She is the Fire that transforms. She is the Fire that opens the way into the Otherworld, into Inspiration.  For, it is Fire that gives inspiration to all creativity.

Author Tom Cowan introduced many to the term, “Fire in the Head”  which he described as meaning to be called to another world, that which carries one who can travel to realms unseen by others and return with special knowledge.

Words, written a certain way, in their finest expression can set us fire. The Celtic expression “Fire in the Head” also makes reference to the passionate inspiration that leads us to our finest work, our most beautiful creations, our poetry, songs and written words.

Amergin, a great Druid whose name means “Birth of Song” said as he stepped ashore in Ireland, “I am a god who sets the head afire with smoke.” It was this “Fire in the Head” that fueled Amergin’s ability to “be” all he claimed to be and thus use that power to claim the land for his people, the Gaels.

We are at the time of Midsummer – the height of the Season of the Sun; the longest day of the year.  Fire is an important aspect to Midsummer celebrations with bonfires on hilltops, at crossroads, or any place where folks could gather. The Midsummer Fire is traditionally kindled from the friction of two sacred woods, fir and oak. Nine different types of herbs are thrown upon the Midsummer fire. These consist of mistletoe, vervain, St. John’s Wort, heartsease, lavender, and a choice of four others chosen from herbs typical of this season such as yarrow. In Celtic traditions, it was nine sacred woods, thought to be the first nine trees of the Celtic Tree Calendar.  Folks would feast, dance and jump the fire for luck and fertility. The herds were driven through the smoke to purge disease and illness from them. In the Isle of Man, fires were lit so that the smoke could pass over the corn fields.  In Germany, Fire wheels hurtled down the hills representing the Sun’s movement.   If the wheel flamed, all the way down the hill, farmers expected a plentiful harvest.  If not, lean times lay ahead.

This is the time when the fullness of the Mother is evident in the lushness of growth around us.  It is when the crops are ripening in the sun; the time the honey bee gathers in sweetness.  We celebrate this season with dance, bonfires, and yes, sexual pleasure. This is the revelry of Midsummer and the Dance of Fire…

midsummer brings a craziness of spirit,
a wild urging to break loose and soar.
the drones impregnate the queen
and fall to death’s door.

my longing and lustful heart
seeks this ecstatic trance.
is it the horned Sun King
drawing me into the dance?

seeking the company of wild youth
to dance at revel fires,
drumming out nature’s rhythms
triggers my inner desire.

heat caught from the Solstice fire
and the sun on its longest day
arose this sleeping woman
now ready for sacred play.

I dance bare breasted in the sun
seeking the fire and the flame
my heart opens to all that is
my spirit wild and untamed.

Blessings in the Summer Solstice Season