My Angelic Inheritance / The Holographic Will

by Angeliska on August 8, 2018

The 8th of August has rolled around again, as it is (thankfully) wont to do, and I am rolling my feelings around in my palms like the smooth sphere of pink rose quartz I meditate with – holding them gently, turning them this way and that, and just trying to sit with it all. As usual, it feels like a lot. This day holds so much for me, as death anniversaries tend to do. I’ve always used these special days to mark time, to examine my own emotional and spiritual growth and progress, and just to check in with myself. Where am I at? I feel: quiet, contemplative, heavy, grieving. My heart is full of longing and determination and love and sadness. I’m thinking about inheritances, and what is passed down from generation to generation – intentionally and unintentionally. In the readings I give, I explain often about how lightworkers and healers have always known that pain is passed down through ancestral memory – but that only fairly recently, has it been acknowledged by the scientific community that trauma is passed down epigenetically, through our DNA. I’ve been working with my ancestors in a deeper way, in the past few years, and have found great peace in being able to integrate some of the painful stories that thread through my family line. I’ve been focusing intently on healing, for myself, for my inner child, for the grief I carry, for my mother, and for all those that came before us. It’s a massive amount of psychic material to process, but I’ve had a lot of help along the way, from wise and generous teachers – and I’m so grateful for that. It’s been huge to step back and really take a look at how far I’ve come – how much I’ve moved through since I really became aware that if I didn’t, I might get seriously stuck in the sorrow, and in some really self-destructive patterns and coping mechanisms that I had no wish to hold onto. We inherit pain, and we inherit joy – or the capacity for it, and I’ve learned that when we protect ourselves from that pain, that we also protect ourselves from the joy. I’ve been embracing joy more and more – and understanding that bliss is my birthright, is all of our birthrights. We didn’t come to this planet to suffer, believe it or not. We came here to love, and to be loved. So I’m holding that today – the love, and the sadness. I’ve discovered that it’s okay for them to hold hands, that it’s possible to feel them both at the same time, and came to understand that they don’t cancel each other out, but rather, support a deepening into both. There’s a saying about grief that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately – that grief is just love with no place to go. This is the place I come to every year, to put all my grief, and all my love. Thank you for coming to visit this place with me.

cacti 3
My mother’s prized cactus blossoming on our back patio

Grief, I’ve learned, is really love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot give. The more you loved someone, the more you grieve. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes and in that part of your chest that gets empty and hollow feeling. The happiness of love turns to sadness when unspent. Grief is just love with no place to go.” – Jamie Anderson

mama in gertie

Here’s my mom waving from the open window of her pride and joy, her legacy, a white 1959 Buick Electra Sedan she named “Gertie”, after Gertie the Dinosaur. She was so proud of that car. It was the culmination of years of longing and fascination for classic cars that she’d had since she was a kid, most likely inherited from the deep appreciation her father, my Grampy. Grover was a mechanic, and the rusted hulls that became our inheritance still inhabit the back pasture out in Lone Grove, down the little dirt road named for him – “Grover’s Paradise Lane”. My grandfather’s idea of paradise was definitely a place where he could haul all the gutted chassis of his beloved old Morris Minor trucks and Datsun pickups and Rabbit hatchbacks and tinker with them and all his other projects to his heart’s delight, which is pretty much exactly what he did, until his dying day. The steel bodies of those old cars loom like the fossilized shells of massive prehistoric armadillos that used to roam over the Hill Country, paint jobs flaking away into dust, backseats and wheel wells now home to snakes and scorpions. Gertie’s still out there too, with flat tires and lichen growing on her back bumper. My mom would be heartsick, furious to know that she hasn’t been driven or really dealt with probably since she drove her out there, and then died not long after. When I look at the photograph above mom waving goodbye, forever. If only she could have driven Gertie over the rainbow, through the clouds, into the land beyond. Or had a Viking funeral in that car she loved so much, instead of leaving it behind to sag and atrophy, the finned and rusted hulk reminding us how we failed her. No one had the money, the capacity, or the wherewithal to do anything with that legacy. We were all just trying to survive, to weather what a loss like that will do to you.

My mother’s death was a slow, inexorable hurricane that blasted our entire family to smithereens. Thirty-two years later, and some of us are still picking up the pieces, putting ourselves back together from the storm of her loss. My aunt Ruth dropped everything to take care of my mom as she was dying, and then she did the same for her parents, as they eventually became more and more frail. Her kids, my cousins, who were like siblings to me, got lost in the mix, I got lost in the mix – though I know that all of our folks just did the best they could to make sure everyone got what they needed, that the basics were covered. Illnesses and deaths wreak such havoc in families. We’re only now really fully grasping the impact of everything we lost in those years, and how hard it was on everyone. There are so many layers to that time that I’ve long wanted to understand – because there’s so little I remember, being as little as I was, and pretty severely disassociated from the very upsetting present reality that was happening then. I remember one of these August 8ths, a few years back, I went out to Lone Grove to visit my mom’s grave, hoping Ruthie would be willing to talk to me, tell me stories about the months, weeks and days leading up to my mom’s death that are still just an amber blur to me. Three years ago, she just wasn’t ready. Maybe it wasn’t the right moment, or she wasn’t in a space to, or perhaps it was because we weren’t alone, there were other people there who wouldn’t be comfortable hearing those stories – or perhaps she wasn’t comfortable with them hearing them. I was so disappointed though – I really wanted to know, to get a better understanding of what it had been like for her, for my mom, for me – for all of us. In the past few years, the memories have been flooding back to my aunt, and she’s been opening up – telling stories rich with the kinds of details I’ve craved, that I’ve longed for. She paints a picture for me, of our shared history – and I help her hold it, now that I am grown, and strong enough.

Out of the blue last month, the floodgates opened, and we were sitting at the table in my kitchen that Grampy made from cedar, when my aunt told me that my mom had fallen into a coma before she died. I don’t think I ever knew that before, or if I did know, I’d either blocked it out or didn’t understand what I coma was. It’s strange, the way we talk about it – like a coma is something you could just trip and fall into, like a deadly puddle, or like quicksand. That it might suck you down deep and never let you come back up for air again. Well, that’s what happened. Aunt Ruth had driven the hour and a half back to Austin for the first time in weeks, and was at home, finally, trying to achieve some semblance of normalcy for her own little family unit. She had just made a meatloaf and put it in the oven when the nurse called from Lone Grove saying she needed to get back up there as soon as possible – that it might be hours, or a couple days, but that it wouldn’t be long. These stories told in flashback, me putting together the pieces, all the events leading up to August the 8th, 1986 – the freight train running on its course to one inevitable end: the tracks running out, a dark portal at the end of the line, the black hole that my mom fell through.

My bedroom window in the dawning, illuminating cobwebs & crystals. I'm trying to focus on tiny wonders in the face of such immense destruction everywhere. Bowing my head in prayer and supplication to Mother Earth's very warranted wrath, and asking her to
My bedroom window in the dawning, illuminating cobwebs & crystals.

Before that, there was the morphine in the big brown bottle my mom had to drink for the pain. It only could be procured at one pharmacy a few towns over, and one weekend, there was an emergency – it had been a rough week, and the bottle had emptied faster. My mom was frantic, inconsolable, and sent Ruthie on a mad dash to get the prescription refilled before the pharmacy closed for the next few days. My mother was horrified at the idea that she’d become a drug addict, and was really freaking out about it, until the lady from the hospice came by the house to talk to her, and explain that she really did need this medicine for the pain. I didn’t know about this, or that my mom had become obsessed with the idea that all our food was was toxic, fast food and sugar and junk. She was terrified by the idea of cancer-causing pollutants in the air, in the water. She wasn’t wrong – but it wasn’t doing any good. By then, it was too late. I think that hit her one evening when she was taken by a craving for a cheeseburger and french fries. I guess she had maybe invoked the “holy fuck it”, and asked Ruth and Grampy to take to over the Marble Falls to the Sonic, because Llano didn’t have one of those back then. They decided to eat at the picnic tables instead of in the car, as they were finishing their dinner, a father and two little boys sat down at a table near by. The boys were dressed in cowboy costumes with had cap-guns in little leather holsters, and were chasing each other around the tables, making a ruckus. At one point, one of the boys turned to my mother and fired his cap gun at her, yelling “BANG BANG! YOU’RE DEAD!” It upset her so much, she totally let loose on the kid, yelling at him in a rage. Grampy was mortified, not understanding her reaction – saying “Cissie, now why’d you go off and holler at that little ol’ boy?” I can hear his voice in my mind, exactly, asking that question. The boys’ father didn’t get it either, until Ruth went over and quietly told him, “My sister has terminal cancer.” The man’s face turned white, mortified, and he gathered up his kids and left. I don’t think I’d ever heard that phrase spoken aloud before I’d heard this story. Terminal cancer. Or, again – maybe I had, but I’d blocked it out, or didn’t really know what it meant. I think when you’re little, death is just an idea – a very foreign one. For many adults, it’s still a vague notion. Something we don’t often talk about, or address directly. There’s so much fear around it, and so much denial – which we think protects us from it, but really it doesn’t. I think it makes it worse. I think it’s better to look, with clear eyes, at the honest reality of it. I believe there’s more compassion in that way – in the way of truth.

My mother’s organs were shutting down, one by one. Ruth told me, “The heart is always the last to go.” She observed that with my mom, and from years and years of seeing animals make their exits, both at home and at the animal shelter where she used to work. She said, “That’s how it is when a living being dies – the rest of you can be completely shot, ready to go, but the heart holds on tight until its last beat.” Life preserves life, or tries to.

I’ve been digging deeper into the ugly reality of what it is to die from cancer – how debilitating, how incapacitating that process can be. I’ve needed to really absorb what it was like for my mom, because I was so protected from the process as a child, and so really couldn’t fathom how much pain and fear she was experiencing. I didn’t understand why she didn’t have the energy to talk to me, or engage with me. I took it hard, thought it meant I wasn’t lovable. I think I’ve always had this gothic, romantic idea of the invalid consumptive, coughing delicately into a bloodied lace hankie, languidly approaching death while still penning letters and posing prettily with hair fanned out on silk pillows like a Victorian painting. I was kept out of the sick-room, but I’m pretty sure now that my mom’s death wasn’t anything like that. Knowing this helps me forgive her for not preparing better, for not leaving any messages for me, for not talking to me about what was happening to her, where she was going. I always thought that was because she didn’t care. Now I know that it’s because she was too sick, too out of it, too scared and also – deeply in denial. Up until the very end, she was praying for, and believing in a miracle that would save her life. She appealed to Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, and even a faith healer quack doctor up in Houston. Instead, she went into a coma.

cacti 4

I guess I always assumed I’d go the same way – that there’s was only one real, concrete way to die that I’d seen firsthand, and eventually it would be coming for me, too. I’ve always pictured a long and agonizing convalescence for myself, ending up with the same cancer that killed my mom. It was never a matter of being morbid, really – it just seemed logical. Lately, I’ve been second guessing that forgone conclusion. I mean – I intend to live for a very, very long time (if I have my druthers), and would prefer to depart this plane of existence well into my as a nonagenarian if not (ideally) centenarian. I’ve been looking at my astrological chart, and given that I have Uranus in the 8th house, this would indicate that I will instead, one day die very suddenly (and potentially painlessly!) in very unusual circumstances. This placement is found in many of the charts of people you read about in the news who perish in bizarre situations. I think about this when I travel, when I’m doing something foolhardy, like climbing a rickety ladder alone in my house, or when I would fall asleep directly beneath my chandelier in New Orleans, from which radiated cracks into the crumbling plaster. Despite those potential pitfalls, I’ve intentionally sought to make this one a fairly risk averse lifetime – I mean, I’ve done a lot of insane shit, and probably will continue to – but I’m not a thrill seeker. I don’t fly in tiny airplanes, go bungee jumping, skateboard, or parasail. I keep my feet mainly on the ground, and will try to hold off the reaper, hopefully for decades to come.

That being said, I’m finally doing something that I’ve said for years that I would do – something I’ve believed fervently that every adult person should do, but somehow never got around to quite yet: I’m writing my will. You’re really not a true adult until you do this. I’m embarrassed at how long I’ve known I needed to do this, and yet not done it. It’s such irresponsible, inconsiderate, avoidant bullshit to not to do it – and yet, we exist in a culture of denial around our mortality that supports a kind of superstition around actually talking about and preparing for your death, as if to do so might bring it closer. Death is coming for each of us, whether we prepare for it or not. To tiptoe around it or pretend like it won’t ever happen is to potentially put your loved ones into a world of misery and confusion when trying to figure out what to do with everything you’ve left behind, on top of the grief and sadness they’ll already be dealing with. It doesn’t actually take much to put your affairs in order, and so like a dutiful Capricorn (going through some major Pluto and Saturn transits), I’m gonna lay it out for y’all (and myself) as best I can.

Rainbow prism appearing like a little benediction over scars on top of scars. Today, I let myself rest. I've been burning with fever and plagued by cedar, and so I welcome in the year from my bed. I've been working so hard hard hard. Now I am surrendering
A rainbow prism appearing like a little benediction over scars on top of scars.
My mom always hung chandelier crystals in the windows of my childhood bedroom,
so that I would always be surrounded by rainbows on sunny days.

As I set out on my mission to cross this looming behemoth off my perpetual to-do list, I came across a term I’d never heard before: the holographic will. What a wondrous sounding thing! You might imagine a document made out of refracted light and prisms, or perhaps a glowing figure, the ghost of your loved one dictating their wishes from beyond, as a hologram. Strangely, it is neither of these things. A holographic will is just a handwritten document outlining your final wishes. These are not legal in all states, and of course it’s best to bite the bullet and have an official document drafted, witnesses and filed by a lawyer. But I know many of us might not get around to that, and something is better than nothing, right? Check and make sure holographic wills are accepted as legal where you live, and then sit down and write one out. Just do it, okay? Even if you think you have nothing. Chances are, you have some debt you’re leaving behind for your loved ones to deal with, plus all your stuff, and most likely, your body. What do you want done with all that? Don’t say you don’t care, or think that no one else willing. Somebody is going to have to reckon with you when you go, so make it easier on them – it’s just the right thing to do. Once you’ve dashed out (or calligraphed, or whatever) your holographic will in your own hand, being of sound mind, delineating what you would like done with your stuff and your body, and who’s in charge of all that, you’ll have a some kind of document to take to a lawyer when you’re ready to be even more official and adult. It can be really simple, if you want. It doesn’t have to be daunting, or sad, though it might feel that way. Feel those feelings, and DO IT ANYWAY.

“Holographic wills are common and are often created in emergency situations, such as when the testator is alone, trapped, and near death. Holographic wills often show that the requirements for making a valid will are minimal. The Guinness Book of World Records lists the shortest will in the world as ‘Vše ženě’ (Czech, “everything to wife”), written on the bedroom wall of a man who realized his imminent demise and made a swift attempt to distribute his chattels before expiring. It clearly meets the minimum requirements, being his own work and no one else’s. On 8 June 1948 in Saskatchewan, Canada, a farmer named Cecil George Harris who had become trapped under his own tractor carved a will into the tractor’s fender. It read, ‘In case I die in this mess I leave all to the wife. Cecil Geo. Harris.’ The fender was probated and stood as his will.”

So, at the very, very least – write something somewhere, and let someone know about it. As an additional note to creative people reading this – your writing, music, paintings et cetera are all part of your estate. What do you want done with that stuff? Who has the rights to it? Think on it, and then go read what Neil Gaiman wrote on the subject a while back on how to prepare. He even offers a template for a sample will that will help you figure out what to do with everything. As he says, “It’s a PDF file, which you can, and should, if you’re a creative person, download. Pass it on. Spread it around. And then, if you’re an author, or even a weekend author with just a few short stories published, or one thin book you don’t think anyone read or would want to republish, fill it out. Sign it and date it in front of witnesses. Put it somewhere safe. And rest easily in the knowledge that you may have made some anthologist, or some loved one, in the future, a bit happier and made their lives a little easier. Or better still, print it out and take it to your own lawyer/ solicitor or equivalent legal person when you get a formal will drawn up. Take it to a lawyer and discuss your choices. And the same goes for you artists, photographers and songwriters, although a few words may have to be changed or added.”

Quiet birthday morning in my bedroom. Sophia Rose came to visit me that day, & captured this moment. This is where I'm happiest.

Here I am, in my beloved bedroom, a few birthdays ago. What will happen to that room, that house, that bed and that Art Deco lamp and those blue bottles (all inherited from my mother), that chandelier, that stuffed goat head, that bathrobe, that body when the spirit has left it? Who will take down all the crystals I’ve hung in the windows, like my mom hung for me when I was little? Someone will have to, eventually. Again, it’s not morbid to think like that. It’s just real. Someone’s always left behind to pick up the pieces – even when you think you don’t have anyone. Chances are, you do. I’ve got a lot to sort out, it turns out. Tons of stuff to leave behind, to be dealt with. All my collections, my precious accumulations. Someone will have to sift through it all, distribute it elsewhere. What will happen with all my creative work, my writing, my home, and my dogs, should I not outlive them? I have some ideas, and it’s time to sit down and consign them all to paper, even if it’s just roughest outline. What is the legacy we leave behind? This is a good, and necessary question to contemplate. I come from a family of earth signs. We like our stuff, and we tend to kind of end of with a lot of it. You could call us collectors, though there is a marked tendency towards hoarding, on both sides of my family line. It’s something I have to watch, be very mindful of. A kind of sickness around objects can grow when you’re not looking – a fear of losing that turns into a hunger for acquisition. Being an antique dealer for so many years, and an intuitive/psychic being, I became very aware of the resonance carried by objects, the memories they can hold. Trawling estate sales showed me the intense pathos of a home stuffed to the brim with junk and treasures, the meanings and stories lost – only to to be pawed and fought over by strangers. It’s a very invasive and strange process, and eventually turned me away from wanting to work with stuff and objects, and towards wanting to work with people and their hearts instead.

Little me, rockin' a bowl haircut...
Little me, rockin’ a bowl haircut…

This picture was taken only a few years before my mom died. She was already sick, already struggling. I was so, so little. That pink shirt with the rainbow and the pot of gold was my favorite, and I was excited to wear it for picture day. It’s weird to think about someone this young not having their mom – and by weird I mean totally wrong and fucked up. I really needed her to be okay, and she couldn’t be. We didn’t have a choice in the matter. My mother made a holographic will, before she died. I’ve had a copy of it for a long time, since I was pretty young. My aunt gave it to me when I was a teenager, and I’ve pored over it endlessly, because it’s one of the only documents I have where my mother mentions me directly, aside from some letters, and the one journal entry I found. “The” List (as it is titled) was handwritten on a yellow-lined legal pad, in my mother’s clear and determined print that still reveals the pain she was in. It seeps into every line she inscribed. It’s only six pages, but holding it in my hands, it always feels very heavy. She wrote in these pages that she wanted us to treat her possessions as extensions of her, and she really meant it. I took this very literally. When my Aunt Ruth started giving pieces of my mom’s jewelry and little things when I was just 13 or 14, of course an earring would fall by the wayside, the antique rosaries I wore to be punk rock disintegrated, rhinestone chokers fell away at raves and concerts, and I would feel this sinking sick dread in my stomach. I was losing her, pieces of her body, slipping away from me forever. And I thought she would be so mad, if she knew – that I wasn’t taking good care of her stuff, wasn’t respecting her treasures, her legacy. It was a lot of pressure. Sometimes it still is. After Hurricane Katrina, when people tried to tell me that line about everything I lost being “just stuff”, I tried to explain, usually fruitlessly, how it was for me. What if your mom told you that she lived on in the objects she left behind, and then died? How would you feel if any of those aspects of her were destroyed. It’s like losing her all over again. Thankfully, I have most of her beloved things intact, and I care for them and try to be a good steward for them, because I genuinely love and treasure them too. Not just because they were hers, but because I too find them beautiful and valuable.

the list

the list 2

This is my inheritance, from my mother. Her tarot deck, which has given me my life’s work, my livelihood, and one of my greatest passions. I inherited her banjo, her fiddle, her red cabbage teapot. Her perfume bottle collection, her rock and fossil collection, her car. The things that were most precious to her, and now are, to me. It’s a legacy I embrace, and have tried to uphold. I learned to silversmith, to make jewelry like she did, from her pottery shards turned into cabochons, like she did. One day, I hope to play the fiddle and her guitar, though her banjo was sadly stolen years ago. I’m working on the rest. It’s heavy, like I said. It’s a lot to carry, but I’m getting stronger and better at it, more able, every day. My cousin and I dreaming up a plan to get Gertie the Dinosaur Buick Electra converted to electric, and up and running again. I know that would make my mom happy, and I dream of the day I could cruise in that majestic boat down her favorite hill country backroads, in wildflower season.

angelic aura
An aura photograph of me taken by MOOD by MOSS. It shows deep love, eros energy, and the rare white lights of protector spirit guides. My angels. My mama watching over me.

What else did I inherit from her? Angels to guide over me and protect me. My name. My face, my body, every bit of me that she made in her womb. She gave me every eyelash I’ll ever have, my nose, my bones, my kidneys, my eyes. From her, I have astigmatism, and an appreciation for antique roses and piña coladas and Pre-Raphaelite art and freckles on my knees. Even though we only had seven years together, I’ve inherited her gestures, her way of carrying her body. We stand in the same way, one hip cocked, head tilted, the same appraising gaze. The crooked, self-conscious, knowing smile. We both hate drafty winds and fans blowing directly on us. There are so many other things I’ll probably never know, but am always hungry to find out. There are probably so many things I’m unaware of, or that I’m forgetting. It’s overwhelming. How are we the same? What of her is left in me? Is it nature or nurture? The things I go wild for – do I love classic cars and old country music and Czech Art Deco glassware because my mom was gaga for those things, or because they speak to my heart on some core level? I’m gonna go with the latter, because that’s what feels true. I’m a part of her, and she is a part of me. We’ll never really get to know each other beyond what we got, and I think that’s the part that pains me the most. Because I think we’d have so, so much to talk about now. I think we’d be each other’s favorite person. I know she’d be mine.

fiorucci angels

This is my angelic, prismatic inheritance, received from the pages of a holographic, handwritten will. It shifts, like the crystals in my bedroom windows, it refracts light, and bounces rainbows off the inside of my eyelids. It is so big, and so vast and so heavy and so, so beautiful. It is made of memory and my mother’s whispering echoing voice, and the smell of her favorite perfume and the scent of the long gone cactus blossoms she grew. It is made of starlight and dawning, and thorns and tears. It is a totally psychedelic and transdimensional dodecahedron made out of sighs and rain and brilliant diamonds that is continuously serenaded by a chorus of baby angels wearing heart shaped sunglasses. It’s hard as hell, and heartbreaking and gorgeous and miraculous, and truly – I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is fractured and it is perfect and it is my life. There is no greater gift.

cacti 2

If you’d like to read more about this journey of grieving, honoring, and remembering, here you go:

38 ON AUGUST THE 8TH

30 YEARS – SEIZURES

888

WILD BLUE YONDER

NO ROOM IN MY HEART FOR THE BLUES

FAMILY VACATION – HANK WILLIAMS’ GRAVE

STAR-CROSSED TROUBADOURS

Foxes in the Rain

Triumvirate Lemniscate

Gustav + Mama – August 8th

cacti 1

ON SELF MOTHERING

by Angeliska on May 12, 2018

Looking back now, I can’t remember exactly when or where on my healing journey I became aware of the undeniably unhappy presence of my inner child self. I do, however, remember very clearly the words that first helped that part of me really begin to heal. They were, “Do you have a stuffed animal?” I sat across from my therapist on the couch, squirming uncomfortably, and trying to evade the question. I mean, yes, I had always slept with a stuffed animal, or doll-friend, ever since I was little, and well into adulthood – but after my last cloth-friend, Swinelet (a once blue and pink pig, acquired when I was 17, now tattered, grey and nearly missing an arm and leg) had to finally be retired due to disintegration caused by an excess of love, I felt a little silly about replacing him. I was nearly thirty-six years old, after all, and surely too old to still need something to snuggle in the night. I answered that I still had a matryoshka doll shaped pillow, reminiscent of my original cuddle-buddy, the legendary angel doll, who I remember being sewn together by my aunt Melinda when I was four or five. She too eventually had to be retired, her fabric becoming translucent and beginning to shred. I always have held to a theory that when I was in the womb, I would clutch a bundle of my own umbilical cord for comfort – and ever since then, I have found it difficult to sleep peacefully without a smushy armful of something soft to hold as I drift off to slumberland.

Two of my oldest and dearest friends.
Two of my oldest and dearest friends.

Swinelet is Real. I know, because I loved him to bits. Still do, even though he's had to become retired from snuggle duty, due to the affection disintegration situation.
Swinelet is Real. I know, because I loved him to bits.

My therapist wrinkled her brow, contemplating the idea of my matryoshka pillow, and finding it insufficiently personable. It was true – I didn’t think of that pillow as having much of a soul or distinct personality in the way I had always regarded my past stuffed fabric loveys. They were alive, no doubt about it. When I was little, I’d apologize to my stuffed animals if I’d inadvertently neglected them, or if they’d tumbled to the floor in the night. I knew they had feelings, and souls. I couldn’t have explained to you exactly what it was that made them that way, but rendered my Barbies and My Little Ponies soulless, but I knew innately that they were just hunks of plastic that only moved and interacted when I made them do so. My stuffies on the other hand, I always suspected had vibrantly exciting lives and all kinds of adventures they got up to when I was asleep, at school, or just looking in the other direction. I was the kind of kid who sobbed reading The Velveteen Rabbit and The Skin Horse, and I am glad to have become the kind of adult who still does the same. So, when my therapist suggested that I go to the toy store and let my inner child pick out a stuffed animal, I made myself stop squirming, and decided to listen to her. She said, “Let your inner child pick it out. Whatever she wants, go with that. Even if it seems embarrassing or silly-looking to you as an adult.” The heart wants what it wants, right?

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At Terra Toys, there’s a magical teddy bear that blows bubbles!

That’s how I ended up by myself at the toy store, one fine bright day, self-consciously grabbing a basket, aware that I wasn’t there to shop for any nieces or nephews, but instead, solely for myself. I went to Terra Toys, a truly magical wonderland filled with all kinds of treasures for children, and a place I had loved going when I was little. I quietly told the kid part of myself that she could pick out anything she wanted, absolutely anything, and that she could take as long choosing as she needed. I then proceeded to find myself methodically examining every section of the store with great curiosity and delectation, filling my basket with marbles, glitter bracelets, plastic animals, sparklers and candy. I lingered long over the dollhouse area, with its miniature representations of all manner of household objects: tiny braided loaves of bread, and itty bitty porcelain teacups housed within intricate reproductions of Victorian parlors. I had loved looking through the glass cases at these elaborately designed worlds as a child, and found that they had lost none of their ability to captivate me all these years later. I allowed myself to ask about the finely made (and quite expensive) German Steiff stuffed animals, with their bristly fur and realistic faces, but none of them were soft enough to really snuggle down with. By the time I had made it around to the real stuffed animal area, I could feel the inner child part of me feeling a little braver about being able to ask for what she wanted, and I let her try hugging about damn near every creature they had, from red pandas and blue elephants to giant sloths and even a dragon or two. In the end, I kept coming back to a simple white owl, who felt extremely huggable. Her tag read, “I am Woodland Babe Cream Owl.” My inner child let me know immediately that her name was Owly.

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Owly became a big help to me as I started delving deep into healing the wreck of my childhood, with the long illness and subsequent death of my mother, when I was seven, a move to another town and home, and navigating a new life with my grieving, overworked and overwhelmed father. These events and others too numerous to mention here shaped the way I grew, and left me struggling as an adult to overcome unhealthy patterns in relationships that emerged as a result of the developmental trauma and emotional neglect that I experienced. When I really started being able to see the child in me who had remained frozen within for all those years, longing for attention, connection and care, and found a way to treat her with compassion and attentiveness, my understanding of myself and my situation transformed radically. I finally started learning how to tend to those emotional needs myself, instead of enlisting the care-taking of inappropriate lovers or my still overworked and overwhelmed parents. With that dedication, everything began to shift for me. Owly gave me permission to feel small and scared, and my therapist told me to let myself tuck her under my arm when I felt lonely in my house, or hold her when I needed extra support. I slept with her in my arms every night (and still do) and (mostly) unabashedly took her along to dentist appointments when I knew I’d be having a stressful procedure. The dental hygienists never batted an eye.

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Finding a way to connect with the child part of myself who had gotten so throughly lost in the chaotic mix of my childhood and adolescence taught me so much about who I really was, and all the stories that had been motivating me for years. I was an old souled kid, a serious little bookworm who tended to be fairly stoic about the traumatic changes in my life – until I would eventually reach a breaking point and erupt into hideous tantrums or piques of running away from home. In many ways, by ignoring that aspect of my being, I gave her more power. My inner child had taken over in many areas of my life, and was totally driving the bus – directly towards the kinds of people and patterns in relationships that felt familiar and safe to her (even if they were anything but.) Recognizing how much she had been suffering alone for so long made me decide to commit to helping her heal, and I started taking baby steps towards making peace with myself. The first step was that trip to the toy store. I could feel that part of myself within feeling a little mystified and curious about what would happen next with all these goodies. Was it time to play with them? Eat all the candy at once? Then what? But before I let myself do any of that, I first found a photograph of myself from when I was maybe six years old, not long before my mom died. I remember the moment that picture was snapped, but I don’t recall who took it. I was sitting on a chair in the living room of our old house, with the soft light from the sliding glass door illuminating my face. I remember whipping my tiny glasses off moments before the photo was snapped, shy about wearing them already. Because the photo is slightly out of focus, it feels in some ways like the whole world was affected by that decision in that moment, by my own defective vision. You’re blurry when I look at you, and so I must be blurry when you look at me. I’m not smiling. My eyes are huge, and my mouth is set and grim. I look like a very sad, scared and lonely little girl, which is what I was. When I look at this picture of myself, I can really see me. I remember being that little person very well. This picture may be the most vulnerable and real photograph of me ever taken.

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With this image of my child self, and the treats I had let her pick out at the toy store in hand, I set about building a little shrine for healing and honoring the wounded child within. You can do this yourself, if you feel moved to. I recommend finding a photo of yourself (if you can – if not, maybe try drawing one) when you were small, where you can really see your true self. Where you are allowing yourself to be real, for a moment. No fakey school picture day grimaces (unless that’s all you’ve got). Make a little space for yourself. Light some candles. I like using pink ones, for self-love. Make offerings to your child self: maybe little toys and candies, or crystals and flowers, or special rocks you found on the ground. It can be as simple or as extravagant as you feel called to offer to yourself. This is a space to sit with and honor your inner child. To let them know you care, that you’re listening, and paying attention. Ask that part of yourself, “What do you want? What is missing for you? What can I do for you? What would help you most right now?” Keep asking, and keep listening. I find that it’s much harder to be mean, neglectful or dismissive of myself when I look into the eyes of that little girl in the picture. I’ve found that often it’s easier to show gentle loving kindness, unwavering friendliness, and unconditional compassion to that child self, than it is to our adult selves. Show that little kid that you’re looking out for them, that you care deeply for them. See what happens. Do this every day if it feels like it would help. Be gentle with yourself. Be a good mama to little you.

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I was called to put this practice in to action a few years ago, when I moved into my brand new bedroom. I’d been in the same room for ten years, and had recently created a shining new space for myself, a haven for rest and rejuvenation. As the room moving date got closer and closer, I had friends asking me if I was excited about my new space. I was indeed – but I was noticing something else… A creeping sensation of anxiety and trepidation that made absolutely no sense, given the circumstances. After all – every single thing about this shift was positive, and it was all self initiated and self created. No one was forcing me into making this change! When I checked in with the part of me that was experiencing fear and really listened, I realized that it was my child self who was feeling so freaked out – and that for her, even good changes could be really scary. That part of me was used to clinging to the familiar, even it if had grown stagnant and unhealthy. I felt a temptation to scoff at myself for being uneasy – to call myself a big baby, and tell myself to suck it up, get over it, and be happy, goddamnit! But, I’d learned from countless past experiences that this method was pretty ineffective when it came to confronting and comforting my inner child. She required another approach. So I asked her what she needed, what would help her feel more peaceful. She didn’t know! She was upset and ashamed for feeling scared when she knew she should be happy. I sat quietly with that part of myself for a bit, and checked in with what I was really afraid of. Unfamiliarity, leaving behind the good parts of the past and never seeing them again, bogey men, the dark. I let that part of myself know that it made sense for her to be afraid of these things, and that it was okay. I suggested doing a blessing ritual before bed, that first night in my new room, and leaving a circle of candles (safely, sitting in bowls of water!) burning while I slept. I perceived an internal non-committal shrug, but a willingness to try it out. I chased out all the bogey men, and sanctified my new space to be a sacred sanctuary that would only allow in good energy. That night, I curled up to sleep with all the candles glimmering, and Owly in my arms – and in the morning woke to find my inner child looking around in wonderment and delight at the space I’d created for her. It was as if she was skipping around the room, exclaiming, “I love it here! It feels so good!” I’d designed my dream bedroom to be an updated grown up version of the beautiful childhood bedroom my mother had created for me – which was one of the clearest displays of love and affection she gave to me as a child, with periwinkle blue walls, and crystals in the windows making rainbows. Having to leave that bedroom when she died was heartbreaking, as was everything about my life at that time. I had never had such a pretty space to sleep in since then, until I chose to give that gift back to myself. I know very clearly that if I had chosen to ignore that distressed child part of myself and not tended to her lovingly, that the uneasy feeling could have gone on indefinitely. And, looking back – it really didn’t take an enormous amount of effort to shift it. Just a little love, and a little listening.

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Goodies my child self chose at the toy store: neon sparklers, magic rocks, solar print paper, heart shaped sunglasses, fluorescent colored pencils, a mushroom eraser/pencil sharpener, and a chameleon.

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I didn’t even end up eating most of these nostalgic candies myself (because whoa, sugar!) but my child self was delighted to receive them as offerings.

There are so many ways to lovingly reparent yourself. Regardless of gender, or gender expression, anyone can offer the unconditional love and nurturing support of mothering to one’s self. Doing this doesn’t take away from what your own mother (biological, adopted or stepmama) was able to give to you. Giving yourself love doesn’t mean that she didn’t do a good job. She did the best she could with the resources she had or didn’t have. She might have given you everything she had, and you might still find that you need more. That is okay. Give it to yourself. You can do this – you are allowed. Sometimes you have to imagine that inner child, seeing them clearly in your mind’s eye, and picture opening up your arms to them – putting them on your lap and enfolding them, saying “I love you. I am here for you. I will protect you, and I will never, ever leave you.” You have to convince that part of yourself that this is true, through consistent daily offerings of compassion. This can look like making sure you brush and floss your teeth and wash your face, or taking a nice bath and putting on your pajamas and curling up in bed with a book (and your stuffed animal!). Sometimes a big part of self-mothering is taking the kid part of us out of the driver’s seat, and strapping them into the carseat instead. They’re just babies, so they’re not allowed to drive the car – particularly not towards people and relationships who will confirm our old and familiar patterns of neglect or abuse. The loving mother part of ourselves is able to say, “No, no, no” and redirect the inner child from running straight towards the fire, or playing in the muddy puddle of unhealthy or dangerous relationships.

A big part of self-mothering for me involves the care and feeding of my inner child. I never really hung out with my parents when they were preparing meals, and consequently never learned much about how to cook for myself. Dinner times in my house growing up were more about getting something in our bellies fast, rather than teachable moments with the whole family pitching in. So making sure I eat nourishing food instead of junk or just carrots and hummus or something for dinner is a big part of that mothering that I do for myself. When I first started doing this, my child self begged for kid food – pudding and pop tarts and treats. I compromised by getting myself the healthier, hippie versions of these foods when possible, and after a while of indulging that part of myself, she stopped asking for that so much. In fact, what I’ve noticed after participating in this practice, and engaging a whole lot of other modes of healing for my childhood trauma, was that the wounded, scared child part of myself calmed down, and integrated more deeply into the rest of me. When I first realized she was there, she was kind of hiding –cowering in the corner of my soul, shaking and crying. Now, when I check in on her, she’s quietly coloring pictures or looking around at stuff contentedly. She’s a part of me that doesn’t feel as separate and isolated anymore.

‘’The fact is that the majority of so-called adults are not truly adults at all. We all get older. Anyone, with a little luck, can do that. But, psychologically speaking, this is not adulthood. True adulthood hinges on acknowledging, accepting, and taking responsibility for loving and parenting one’s own inner child. For most adults, this never happens. Instead, their inner child has been denied, neglected, disparaged, abandoned or rejected. We are told by society to “grow up,” putting childish things aside. To become adults, we’ve been taught that our inner child – representing our child-like capacity for innocence, wonder, awe, joy, sensitivity and playfulness – must be stifled, quarantined or even killed. The inner child comprises and potentiates these positive qualities. But it also holds our accumulated childhood hurts, traumas, fears and angers. “Grown-ups” are convinced they have successfully outgrown, jettisoned, and left this child – and its emotional baggage – long behind. But this is far from the truth.” Stephen A. Diamond Ph.D.

We have a lot of different parts of ourselves, different aspects of our souls, our beings, our psyches. When I talk about having an inner child, it’s not like having multiple personalities (though I suppose it could sound that way) – the inner child part of ourselves is what stays stuck, or often gets frozen at the age when our childhoods went seriously awry, and our essential needs were not being met. We may have been raised in households where we were fed, clothed, and had a roof over our heads, but we did not feel seen, safe, soothed and secure. Those four S’s and whether we did or didn’t receive them consistently have so much to do with our ability to self-regulate our emotions, reactions and responses as adults. So how can we help ourselves feel seen, safe, soothed and secure? Feeling truly seen and heard is a big part of my wounding, as I was the only child of a very sick and depressed mother who was extremely preoccupied and more often than not, left me to my own devices. Daily journaling helps me check in with myself, patiently listening and recording my innermost thoughts, feelings, dreams, fears and musings. There are times when I find myself wanting to skip ahead or gloss over what I really want to say – where I get impatient with myself like people often do with children for telling interminably long, rambling (and seemingly pointless) stories. But I’ve found that when I’m willing to stop and say to myself, “Hey, I want to know more about that. Please tell me.” I give myself permission to write about whatever’s in my heart and mind instead of feeling like I should only write what’s really “interesting”, or particularly insightful. It’s in those moments that I allow myself to be seen and heard, for myself, by myself.

Another way to practice self-mothering is to use the kind, compassionate voice of the inner mother to combat the harsh, needling messages from our inner critic. I learned this lesson one lazy morning when I was cooking scrambled eggs, jamming out to the radio in my underwear. Suddenly I got a text message that informed me that I was supposed to be somewhere else at that moment – in fact, I was supposed to be dressed in elaborate full costume and telling fortunes at an event about thirty minutes prior. I had screwed up the times, and thought I had hours until I needed to be getting ready! In a heated flurry of panic, I hustled myself together, got into the car, and started racing to the venue. My heart was pounding, I was sweating profusely, and I became aware that I’d been listening to an internal monologue from my harsh inner critic ever since the moment I received that text, which was informing me in no uncertain terms that I was irresponsible, a failure, a total fuck-up, that no one would ever want to hire me again, that I had ruined a perfectly good opportunity, asking how could I be such an idiot? Oh man – it was awful! The more I listened to that internal tirade, the worse I felt, and I instinctively knew that if I kept that up all the way to the gig, I’d be even more of a wreck by the time I arrived, and maybe not even able to do my job well. So I made I conscious decision to switch the radio station in my mind to the loving mama channel. This voice was much gentler, saying “Hey honey, try to calm down, okay? Breathe. So, you messed up. That’s okay. Everybody messes up sometimes, and today it’s just your turn. All you can do is do the best you can, take responsibility, and try to make up for it. You are still lovable, you are still valuable. You matter. It’s going to be okay.” Whew! What a difference that made! By choosing to talk to myself in a more loving way, I was able to calm my racing heart, and be ready to spring into action and (relative) professionalism by the time I arrived at the event. I did a good job, and it all turned out well in the end. I still think of that day during times when I’m being unnecessarily cruel to myself. Listening to that mean inner critic never helps – it never, ever makes things better. Now that I know how to access that sweet and compassionate inner mother within me, I can choose to listen to her voice instead – which always, always helps me feel calmer, more centered, more trusting, more loved. You can do this for yourself too. It takes some practice, some awareness, some dedication, but I recommend starting with even the tiniest of baby steps towards self-compassion. Even those can make such an enormous difference.

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Owly these days…

SONGSPELL #1 - Sing a loving lullaby to little you. “You Were Born to Be Loved” by Lucinda Williams is a real good one – and that little me really needs to be reminded of sometimes. It doesn’t matter if you “can’t sing”. We can all sing. It doesn’t have to be “good” – just heartfelt. I’m singing this with raspy nodules on my vocal cords (when I’m actually not supposed to be singing at all) & traffic going by & my dogs barking & this is the first time I’ve ever recorded myself singing & shared it ever. Why? Because I believe in the healing power of radical vulnerability & the power of songspells. So, more to come. You can try it too! Let me know if you do! I love you. You were born to be loved.

You weren’t born to be abandoned
You weren’t born to be forsaken
You were born to be loved
You were born to be loved

You weren’t born to be mistreated
And you weren’t born to misguided
You were born to be loved
You were born to be loved

You weren’t born to be a slave
You weren’t born to be disgraced
You were born to be loved
Mmm hmm, you were born to be loved

You weren’t born to be abused
You weren’t born to lose
You were born to be loved
You were born to be loved

You weren’t born to suffer
And you weren’t born for nothing
You were born to be loved
Mmm hmm, you were born to be loved

LUCINDA WILLIAMS

“Your origin story doesn’t get to change; your childhood was what it was. But your story is still being written. As we gear up for Mother’s Day please remember that regardless of your gender, it’s your job to Mother yourself through this life. May you be a kind, warm, strong, reliable, and loving Mother to yourself today and always.”
JESSICA LANYADOO

Here are more of my writings on the subject of mothering, being unmothered, and Mother’s Day:

MATRESCENCE
FLEDGLING HEART
MOTHER’S DAY

IMBOLC – Brighid’s Blessing

by Angeliska on February 1, 2018

Every year on Imbolc, I honor the sacred wheel’s turning by doing some ritual spring cleaning: I like to clear out my tarot trailer, tidy my house, wipe down my hearth and altars with sweet oils. I sweep the cobwebs from the nooks and crannies, dust the bottles of herbs, resins and powders, and process the accrued bits of magical flotsam and jetsam that always seem to pile up on every surface. I make a bonfire for Brigid, and let many things go into it: old wishes, dead spells, and bits of witchery that have served their purpose, and are ready to become ash and air. Imbolc marks the quickening, the first hints of turning from the old season into the new – the very moment when the first hints of spring seem finally possible. Imbolc means “in the belly”, something quietly growing, maybe not quite showing, but every day building strength, getting ready to emerge in the physical world. This is the time of new lambs, of new life, reclaiming eros energy from the dead world, the frozen barrenness of deathly winter. The buds have not yet appeared on the bare branches, and the world has not yet turned florid with bright blossoms, and yet, here and there, if you look closely, you might detect the first signs that the maiden is returning from the underworld. Tiny succulents are peeping out from the soil in their planter on my porch, and yesterday, a little wood violet bloomed, the sole flower in my garden, for now. In the velvety soft gray mornings, I wake to the excited gossiping of the songbirds, who have been returning to the leafless sycamores in my backyard. I hear them talking amongst themselves about the return of springtime, about warmer days, and balmy evenings, about the eventual re-emergence of the fireflies, and caterpillars, about the tender buds and berries, the fresh new shoots, bright green tendrils emerging, sweet sap rising. The hag of winter’s face is slowly turning, back behind her tattered veil, her white shawl of snow, to reveal the strong young face of the maiden, of Brighid. The Cailleach returns to her home under the hills, and is reborn anew, as a bright and warm goddess, Breo-saighit, fiery elf arrow, a sacred well, a red fox, a meadow of snow-drops. The wind is in the trees, and spring comes!

Brigid's Cross Imbolc
Light all your candles, tend your hearth-fires. Leave pieces of cloth outside for Brigid to bless as she passes by, and these will protect your throat from unwellness.

My mother named me for Brighid, consecrated me to her before I was born. I have always been her daughter. My name was meant to be Bridget Angela, but at the last minute, after I had emerged and my birth certificate was being made, my mother frantically yelled out from her weak and wounded post-natal swoon that it needed to be switched, that my name was Angela Bridget. Her vehemence got the nurse’s attention, and here I am – though I’ve never really gone by Angela, and I never liked the name Bridget for years either. I thought it was too cutesy, bringing up images of a red-haired girl with a bob and curls, a freckled button nose, and a cheerful attitude. I had none of those things. Bridget the midget, Gidget who fidgets. I wasn’t into it. I didn’t yet know who the real Bridget was, or that I belonged to her. As a young girl, I wanted to be Brigitte instead, also not yet knowing about Maman Brigitte, Baron Samedi’s wife, the loa of the cemeteries. I grew up in graveyards, always around so much death – and I found comfort in the company of the dead. There is so much that I didn’t understand as a child, with no one I felt I could talk to about these things. Young witches can be formidable, livewires of power they don’t know how to wield. I was changing the weather, bringing the thunderstorms at will – and was both terrified and elated at what I was capable of. When I realized last year that Oya, orisha of hurricanes, storms and sacred change was syncretized with Maman Brigitte in Vodou, and St. Bridget, it hit me with the force of massive typhoon that my relationship with this power, with this goddess, began long before I was born. It wasn’t something that I discovered. It just always was – waiting for me, somewhat patiently, until I remembered. When I see the synchronicities lining up, it shows me that I’m on the right path – and they have been there for me all along, those shining breadcrumbs, beckoning me to follow, to keep walking forward, deeper into her mysteries.

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Bright Imbolc altar. Come in, Brighid! Come in, spring! Come in, light! Be welcome, fierce maiden! Welcome Brighid, keeper of the fire, forge, hearth and heart.

Goddesses are real. Not just in history books, or as ancient myths, or archetypes, beautiful images, sculptures carved in stone and worshipped long ago, but as real as you and I, and in fact, within us all. It seems so obvious to say it, but part of me didn’t really truly understand that until fairly recently. I appreciated the idea of the Goddess as an abstract, as an idea or a concept, rather than as a concrete reality, a truth I know and feel in my bones every day. They are with us, guiding our movements, our lives. This knowledge has inspired me to dedicate my life to serving the goddess, to honoring her, in her various forms – not as a given, or in theory, but in practice, as a devoted disciple, as priestess, as daughter. When the Goddess calls to you, you must heed her. I realize now that I belong to certain goddess-forms, and always have. The Goddess Brighid is one of them – healer woman, fire spirit, who guides the hands of the poets, the blacksmith and silversmiths, shepherdess, rainbow mantled, dew-laden, fairy woman. She has many names, and many faces:

“Brighid-Muirghin-no-tuinne, Brighid-Conception-of-the-Waves; 
Brighid-Sluagh (or Sloigh), Brighid of the Immortal Host; 
Brighid-nan-Sitheachseang, Bridget of the Slim Fairy Folk; 
Brighid-Binne-Bheul-thuchdnan-trusganan-naine,
Song-sweet (lit. melodious mouth’d)
Brighid of the Tribe of the Green Mantles.
She is also called Brighid of the Harp,
Brighid of the Sorrowful,
Brighid of Prophecy,
Brighid of Pure Love,
St. Bríde of the Isles,
Bríde of Joy,
and other names.”

– from Fiona MacLeod (aka. William Sharp) in his book “Winged Destiny” 

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Brighid of the Mantle, encompass us,
Lady of the Lambs, protect us,
Keeper of the Hearth, kindle us.
Beneath your mantle, gather us,
And restore us to memory.

Mother of our mothers,
Foremothers strong,
Guide our hands in yours,
Remind us how
To kindle the hearth,
To keep it bright,
To preserve the flame.
Your hands upon ours,
Our hands within yours,
To kindle the light,
Both day and night.

The Mantle of Brighid about us,
The Memory of Brighid within us,
The Protection of Brighid keeping us
From harm, from ignorance,

from heartlessness,
This day and night,
From dawn till dark,
From dark till dawn.

– Blessing for Hearth-Keepers
by Caitlin Matthews

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Brighid of the mantles,
Brighid of the peats,
Brighid of the braided hair,
Brighid of the augury.

Brighid of the shining feet,
Brighid of the quietness,
Brighid of the shining palms,
Brighid of the cattle.

Brighid friend of women,
Brighid of the peats,
Brighid women’s midwife,
Brighid, woman of grace.

– an excerpt from Brighid of the Mantles,
Sloinntea rachd Na Brighid, translated by Caitlin Matthews,
transcribed by Brenda Francis

Brigid Imbolc Altar
Mar a chaireadh Muire,
Caim Bhride’s Mhuire,
Car an tula’s car an lair,
‘S car an ardraich uile.

As Mary would build it.
The encompassment of Bride and of Mary,
Guarding the hearth, guarding the floor,
Guarding the household all.

Cleaning for Imbolc
Out with the old, in with the new! Even withered blooms still have their corpsey beauty. Soon to be ashes of roses in Imbolc bonfires.

I wrote this last year, as I was walking through a deep dark time of loss and hurt, that transformed me utterly. Now that I’m on the other side of it, I can see undeniably how necessary those changes were, and how much stronger and more whole I am today, after it all.

I lit a bonfire for Imbolc.
I made my invocations to Brighid,
made offerings to her of aged honey mead.
I burnt my finger on a hot coal,
the sizzle of singed flesh and bubbling copal.
I cut my other finger to the quick
on a jagged piece of cavern stalagmite,
the hidden crystals inside glittering, painted red.
Blood offerings, life-force, soul-water.
I sacrificed two sacred paper deer to the flames,
one a leaping doe shadow puppet Pandora made,
that danced on a bedsheet screen in my backyard.
The other, a handmade papier mache doe piñata
made for me by Francesca and Annie
to celebrate my thirtieth birthday.
They stuffed the deer with frankincense and myrrh,
golden holy virgin medals, fine chocolates,
flowers of Jericho, little girl barrettes,
and other treasures I can no longer remember.
They wanted me to burn it that night, but it was
so beautiful, with a plaintive expression painted in tempera,
that I had to let it live for eight more years, a hollow effigy,
crumpled in the corner of the defunct shower, waiting.
Ghosts of sisters’ love, memories, circles broken and unbroken.

I am burning holy mite-eaten macaw feathers and prayers
for my loved ones, for all of the people who come to me
for tarot reading and healing, for myself, that I may continue to.
I am burning several smudges of cedar and sage and so many memories.
I am burning clumps of old wax and a huge bundle of lavender.
I am burning pieces of wood from the building of my house
cut and stacked and left behind by my last, past love.
I am burning three plum colored candles
for the fates in a deer antler candelabra.

It is winter now, but this is the day I mark to
trust that spring is coming, that the sap will rise.
It is cold and grey, and the sunlight is a pallid gold,
uncertain and watery, but the fire warms me.
I feel fierce and determined and deep down sad.
I feel like a warrior woman exhausted after battle
sitting on a bloody treestump to unhook her armor.
I feel a fire burning at my core,
a root fire that tells me I will survive,
and that my deep down anger will eventually
give way to passion.
I feel certain that
if anyone walked through my gate right now,
I would fuck them to death.
So my gate is locked with iron.
Iron nails crossed.
Bright blood berries,
the cedar waxwings get drunk on them
when they ferment in the spring.
I make my solitary prayers
and ask for her help in this,
that I may come through wiser,
so that I may better serve her.
I am bold, and I am braver.
My bones are tired,
but I’ll get stronger.
It is Imbolc,
and I am burning.

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This was my first fire of the New Year, for a full moon ritual with four solid corners holding it down and raising it up. This was so necessary for me – to be in nature, with the elements called in, gazing into the embers, drawing down the moon with strong witches. To honor the holy days. “The original meaning of the word holy is “set apart”. In holy day time/space, we surrender our engagement with the outer world, go to be restored and renewed. In all cultures, to enter the tenemos (enclosed sacred space) is to be released from chronological time, to enter the timeless realm of the sacred. In ritual and ceremony, we and the world are healed and strengthened.” – Sherri Rose-Walker

I have been feeling like a big mammajamma bear that just wants to go hide in her dream lodge cave and sleep until springtime. I keep reminding myself that it will be spring here soon enough, and feeling so grateful that I live in a climate where our current version of winter is considered somewhat extreme. For a winterborn being, I get worse and worse at enduring the winter season and better and better at enjoying the summertime every year. Perhaps I’ll like it better when I can invest in proper heating for my home. Dinky inefficient space heaters are the pits! Still, I’m grateful to have them, too – and don’t have to chop my wood or huddle around a cookfire.

This video made my heart feel hopeful and reminds me of what is real and true: God/dess is nature. Lifeforce energy and deathforce energy are a constant circle – a loop of becoming and unbecoming. We are all interconnected. Don’t forget your own divinity and place in all of this: you are every bit as sacred as the crane swooping over the water, as the droplet of water sliding off their wing, as the mite tickling their underfeathers, as the wee beetle sliding off the leaf. You are the seed slipping from the pinecone, you are the ripening berry, you are the rotting log, you are the moss and the fungus – and you are GLORIOUS! Life is a precious gift, and so is death. What a thing it is to be incarnate! I used to not think so. I am glad I remembered. 


Spring in the Belly of Winter – IMBOLC: A CROSS-QUARTER STATION OF THE SUN

from Blue Moon Astrology – I love this post from Elaine Kalantarian about Imbolc, Brighid and the astrology and history of this holiday. Very informative, if you’d like to know more!

Brighid’s Blessings upon your hearth and heart,
and a merry Imbolc to you all!

A Rosy Full Wolf Moon Unfurls: Year of the Earth Dog

by Angeliska on January 1, 2018

It’s the dawn of a New Year in a few hours, and instead of loading up the caravan and heading for the hills like I normally do on this day, I’m curled up in front of a space heater in my living room, sifting through the last grains of sand that made up 2017, as it slips through the glass. An arctic cold front is currently blowing down through Texas, making the idea of honoring our tradition of camping out in Lone Grove for New Years somewhat untenable, hardy as we usually are. It’s strange to shift a pattern, to do something differently – to trust that it’s okay to go with the flow, and work with what is. This year, I’m getting a little bit better at letting things go, at holding loosely to the reins of control instead of gripping tight, at moving like water with the current instead of beating myself against the rocks. So, instead of pushing myself into the wind and cold, I’m hunkered down, writing, and trying to be gentle with myself. Maybe it’s this full Wolf Moon in Cancer rising, or the closing of the year, but I’m grateful that the weather has conspired to let me be easy with myself, because I feel a little shaky, a strange anxiety under what has mostly been a blanket of deep peace. I’m sitting with it, letting it be – observing where the roots lead, and breathing into the fearful places. My neighbors were setting off fireworks last night, enormous explosions that had my dogs on edge. I feel extra sensitive lately, picking up on outside energy, especially the distress of beings I feel very connected to. One of the big things that happened for me this year, was the addition of a third dog into our pack, which has been a wild experience – especially considering that I was never a dog person until the past ten years or so. Prior to that, I would have always described myself as a cat person, and if you had told me then that one day I would not only have a dog, but three large dogs, I would have thought you were full of poppycock. I never would have imagined that having three dogs would feel like the just the right amount of canine companionship. It’s definitely hard to get lonely when surrounded by this much unconditional love and affection, and – I learn so much from these creatures every day. They are my teachers. So, I’m thrilled that 2018 will be the Year of the Dog, and an Earth Dog to boot. That energy feels healing and balancing after the past few Fire years, which were so turbulent and intense, especially considering they were ruled by Monkey and Rooster. Being an earth sign myself, and a dog spirit, it feels like a relief to have some grounding, solid energy for this coming year. While the Lunar new year doesn’t really roll in until the second new moon after the Winter Solstice, I like to welcome in this new energy early, at the turning of the Gregorian calendar, and make a space for its wisdom in my life.

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My wild sweet Snow Pea. From the first moment I saw this dog in a dream, I knew we were meant to help and teach each other. The saga of how he came to be my dog is long and involved, but last year, all I wanted for Christmas and my birthday was Snowy. I would lay awake and worry about him, and wish on the moon and stars that he could come live with me. And one day, he did. I look at him all the time in wonder and think about how my heart’s wish was granted, and how amazing it is that this magical creature is my dog.

Earth Dogs are true and loyal, honest to a fault, and teach us to cultivate personal integrity in our character, in our words, and our actions. This is a time to show up, with both feet wildly one the ground. Your presence is everything. This is an action year, where having real skin in the game and making things happen will count so much more than just dreaming or empty talk. Saturn going into Capricorn will help us get serious about what will actually be required of us to really manifest what we say we want. It’s time to fight for the rights of the underdogs, sniff out corruption, and shine a light on the truth. I feel that dogs are the best teachers of what true friendship means – that steady, abiding light of simple, uncomplicated love that shines from their bright eyes, and is felt in the snuffle of a wet nose, and the brush of a wagging tail. I want to love like my dogs do, to have their lust for life, to stay in the moment as they do, seemingly releasing their troubles, frustrations, anxieties and angers so much more easily than we humans do.

Two concepts have made themselves more known to me recently, and I want to take this year (and hopefully many more to come) to explore them in greater depth. Both speak to a sense of true friendship, with ourselves, with our loved ones, and with the world. The first is maitri, which I’ve been reading about in a little book of essays by Pema Chodron, called Practicing Peace. Maitri is a sense of “unconditional friendliness towards your perfect and imperfect self”. I’d heard the word maitre before, but I guess I didn’t really know what it meant, because when I read that, my jaw dropped. What a wild idea! It just really struck me – how overwhelming the concept of unconditional love can seem, for whatever reason. Something about unconditional friendliness just seems more manageable to me. This past year, that’s the feeling towards myself I’ve been striving for – to be friendly with myself, especially when I feel like I’m at my worst. Because that’s when I need it the most. It feels doable in way that “falling deeply in love with myself” doesn’t on some days. I can manage that friendliness, that patience with myself when I’m feeling impatient and acting like a pill, that tolerance for all my many flaws. When I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I try to give myself a friendly gesture, a smile, if it feels natural, or sometimes a playful, silly face – a reminder to not take myself so damn seriously all the time!

I think about the way my dogs behave towards me, even when I’m unwashed, running behind on their breakfasts, grumpy or in a bad mood. Even when I’m like that, they still seem to think I’m the best person in the world. They accept me as I am, and they forgive me for not being perfect. And I feel the same way about them – even when they pee on the floor, chase the cat, escape the yard, or um, bite me. All of those things have happened this week, and honestly, it’s been really trying. But I don’t take any of it as a personal affront, because none of it is about me, or my dogs trying willfully to make my life more stressful. They are beasts expressing their nature, and it’s my job to learn better how to protect them and interact with them in a way that keeps us all well and happy. It feels miraculous to notice how my heart stays open to them completely, even when we’re struggling. They teach me so much about what loving unconditionally (and being loved that way) really means. And they have been such healers for me.

That being said, my wolfpack has really been giving me a run for my money lately, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually – and it’s a lot to manage! I’m working to create better structure for us, and to be a strong pack leader for them. I have three dogs, and three cats! It’s a lot. A lot to take on, & a lot to be responsible for. They give me so much love and joy in return, it’s definitely worth everything I put in energetically, financially and timewise – but some days are easier than others. Today was a tough one. We’ve had a few kerfuffles & dust-ups the past few days over resource guarding, and I’ve gotten caught in the middle a few times. I’m working hard with a great trainer to be a strong pack leader and help everyone adjust to the new pack dynamic, and it’s very challenging. I have to be so strong, & so consistent – and always vigilant. Every day is different. I’m sharing this, because behind all the adorable animal photos, there’s another side I feel people don’t talk about often: the fact that these are ANIMALS. They’re not human, even if we dress them in funny clothes and babytalk to them. They are not too far away from being wild beasts, and if you want to have them in your life, you have a real responsibility to understand how they work and make a real dedicated effort to learn and speak their language – rather than expecting them to learn yours. Take the time, spend the money, study up – whatever you have to do: but train your damn dog! Be strong for them, so they’ll feel safe & happy. I’m trying, every day – and my only hope is that I can be half as good as my dogs think I am.

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Sonnet XVII

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Pablo Neruda

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Rose medicine is good for when you feel unsure, so remember to put her petals in your tea, or bath. I’ve been carrying big rose quartz orbs in my pockets, and holding them when I sleep.

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Our earth altar on New Year’s day of last year

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Winter garlands

The other concept I’ve been working with is Anam Cara, which is also the title of the book I’m reading about that very subject, by Irish poet John O’Donohue. Anam Cara means “soul friend” in Gaelic.

A person to whom you could reveal the hidden intimacies of your life. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an Anam Cara, your friendship cut across all convention and categories. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the friend of your soul. You are joined in an ancient and eternal union with humanity that cuts across all barriers of time, convention, philosophy and definition. When you are blessed with an Anam Cara, the Irish believe, you have arrived at that most sacred place: Home.

– John O’Donohue, from Anam Cara, A Book of Celtic Wisdom

“According to O’Donohue, the Irish term anam cara originates in Irish monasticism, where it was applied to a monk’s teacher, companion, or spiritual guide. Edward C. Sellner traces its origin to the early Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers: ‘This capacity for friendship and ability to read other people’s hearts became the basis of the desert elders’ effectiveness as spiritual guides.’” I think about the work that I do with people, and who I want to be in the world, this path that I am walking, and this word really encapsulates it for me. I want to nurture and cultivate the relationships that feel like this in my life, and in my own heart.

I used to view all my close friendships as chosen family, my brothers and sisters. My concept has shifted in the last few years, somewhat. Those that I considered my spiritual family are still beloved, though time and distance has separated many of us. I also have started wanting to view all beings on earth as my brothers and sisters, and not drawing such a heavy circle of exclusivity around ideas like “us and them”, as I feel that all of our problems come from this division. In additions to that, I started defining true friendship a little differently, and exploring what it really means. I feel like I still have much to learn on the subject, and I hope to spend the rest of my life learning what it is to be a good friend, and to have true friendships. I learned that someone can be your family, and you can love them like a part of you, forever – and that sometimes it’s not possible, for various reasons, for you to be good friends to each other. Because I didn’t grow up with siblings, I didn’t really understand that you can totally just not get along with your brothers and sisters. You can have a deep affinity for each other, an abiding forever kind of love for them, and still not really be capable of maintaining a healthy friendship. This revelation came with an enormous sense of failure for me – because all these years, I’ve doggedly refused to ever give up on making so many of my relationships work – even when it was clear that I was only holding on so tightly because I was terrified of what letting go might mean. When you’ve experienced a lot of loss in your life, letting go can feel like a death. It is like that, in some ways. Growing up, I never had a lot of friends. I was quiet, deeply traumatized, poor and weird looking. I sat alone at most lunch tables, and my good friends usually lived far away from me, until middle school. Around that time, I started finding my people, and in many ways, they saved my life. So no wonder I would cling to them like the gold they are. As I’ve grown less afraid of being alone, and worked on healing the deep wounds in me that had shaped and defined my interpersonal relationships for so long, I noticed those dynamics shifting and changing. I am getting better at holding stronger boundaries for myself, better at receiving love, and more devoted to cultivating a sense of reciprocity in my relationships. I’ve always sought to emulate a dog’s sense of loyalty, and I tend to be a very loyal and protective friend. But I’ve learned something about that loyalty in the past year – which is that in repeatedly returning to the sides of people whose own personal pain made it impossible for them to treat me better, I was being disloyal to myself. I was like a dog that’s been kicked in the ribs too many times, but kept coming back. Until one day, I just couldn’t anymore. What an idea – to be loyal to your own friendship with yourself! Which for me, meant to know when to walk away and stop trying to make things work. It’s still a really hard lesson for me, and one that I have to sit with and breathe through often daily. I’m working on letting go, letting some things be unfixable, no solutions, no answers, no perfect words that will untangle the tight knots. They might loosen themselves with time, or they might not. The only person I can change in any situation is myself, so that’s what I’m working on. I try to stay in my own lane, and take responsibility for what’s mine, for my own pain – and heal myself, so that I don’t create more suffering. I want to keep an open heart. To detach with love, creating some space, while still sending love to those I can no longer sit with. This is hard work. But it makes me more available to myself, and more available to the friends and loves in my life that do feel healthy and supportive. And that has to be enough.

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Here I am on the first day of last year, donning a coronet of icicles and sparkly twigs and an attitude of fierce determination to keep my spirits up, to do the work I came here to do, and to do my part to dismantle the motherfucking patriarchy with witchery, wisdom, and an excess of glitter.

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Allyson, a summer queen in the winter garden. This lady has taught me so much about true loyalty and friendship. Her sweet steadfast heart is a blessing in my life.

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The lovers ringing it in with the first chess game of the year.

primrose pups
My sweet beasts, my healers, protectors, best friends, number one heroes.

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Laughing dogs in a primrose meadow, on a warmer day than this one. I look at these and am reminded that it will be spring again!

I had to step away from my writing yesterday, so now I’m here in 2018, and it’s colder today than it’s been in a long time. It snowed last night as we rung in the new year, here in Texas – for the second time this winter! It’s a rare and wonderful thing, especially considering that this time last year we were camping in short sleeves, basking in the warm sunshine. I know 2017 was just goddamn brutal for everybody, in so many ways – but I think it was also incredibly galvanizing. Many of us have been walking through the fire, and have been tempered in the flames. This past year was one of the hardest, most transformative, and probably most important years of my life to date. It started off with a series of endings, which took many, many months to heal from. Going through a major Pluto transit is no joke. It’s some heavy lifting. Pluto brings big endings, and I had to say goodbye to so many essential chapters of my life, and people I had loved for so long. I spent the first few months of last year plagued with intense sorrow, paralyzing anxiety, and horrible nightmares. I’d wake every morning to a flock of black-winged harpies taunting me with images and thoughts I didn’t want to see or think about – all the demons of the underworld and my unmaking flaying me alive every night while I slept. From the midst of all the rubble, crowfeathers, bad dreams and fear shits, I somehow emerged – raw bones and ragged edges, hairy legs and all. I gathered up all the lost parts of myself, and somehow came out on the other side, bruised up, but whole – and wholly myself, maybe more than ever before. 2017 was a year of major growth, and major healing. I’ve learned that those things often come with a healthy serving of pain and heavy work served up on the side, and I definitely had to work my way through before I was able to see the good stuff. It took a lot of trust. Looking back on the year that was, what I learned, and how I grew – I want to feel proud of myself, and most days, I do. But today, on the first day of the new year, I just feel bone deep weary, exhausted, and a little sad. Grey days and cold weather will often do that to me, as will the endings of things, and uncertain beginnings. I hold a flat round stone that I picked up a year ago today, when I was making some big promises to myself. I hold it in my hand and try to bring in the knowledge and the peace of coming full circle, of coming so far. This year was the culmination of big healing work, and it changed me in ways I am probably only just beginning to understand. There are quite a few things about my life as it is now that I never could’ve conceived of ten years ago, when I sit and think about it – and I love that, how unexpected our lives are, and how much we can change. I’ve been marveling lately at how much life can change in the space of one year. It seems like an obvious thing, I suppose, but recently I’ve been having a lot of revelations regarding things that seem very obvious, but are now somehow seen in a totally different, newly wondrous light. I hope to keep that sense of wonder and revelation close to my heart in the year to come, and I wish that for you, as well. Things can change. It’s not always so bad. There are glimmers of hope shining in the wreckage. We are stronger than we know.

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Even a light dusting of snow is a novelty and a strange wonder for us down here in Texas. I love seeing how excited every gets trying to catch snowflakes on their tongues and making tiny snowmen.

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Though the full Wolf Moon in Cancer (which is now rising as I write this) tends to be something of a doozy for me, on the whole, I am allowing myself to be serene. For the past week, I’ve been so exhausted, and then when I finally do go to sleep, my heart starts racing and pounding with a strange restlessness. It feels like a message to go deeper, to ground down, to do the things I know help me find calm. I go to my cushion in the mornings, and stay put. I’ve been able to hold my seat in meditation in a way that was never really possible before, and that feels good. Just staying still in my body, even if my mind is still trying to plan and solve, parse and edit and understand. I’m more comfortable in my skin than I ever have been before, and stronger in my body, because I’ve been doing another thing I never thought I would be able to commit to: working out consistently! This has been a year of intense spiritual growth, with some unexpected paths opening up, teachers emerging from the mist, bringing newfound trust and ancient wisdom. I wish for peace and presence in this bright new year – coming into it with sober and clear eyes. I wish to keep learning how to be gentle with myself, and with others. My wish is that we all keep letting in sweetness, and letting go of the bitter. Let’s keep going towards what feels good, unfurling petals, finding the warmth, and turning our rosy faces towards the dawn, okay? Let you fierce, feral hearts howl when they need to – and run wild when necessary. We can only be domesticated so much before we lose our souls. Don’t forget – we too, are animals. We too were once wild things. I want to be imbued with a dog’s relentless optimism this year! To keep believing good things can happen, even when the times are bad. My dogs seem to have simple wishes: for full bellies, clean water to drink, lots of cuddles, and lots of playtime outside in nature. What more could we ask for, really? I wish those things for us, too – and in addition to all of that, may you be blessed and protected in this new year, may your heart feel full, may your friendships sustain you, and may you always keep your tail keep wagging, no matter what.

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Happy New Year from me and my wolf pack! We love you.

More to read from New Year’s Eves of yore:

THE WHEEL TURNS: A PORTAL OPENS INTO A STRANGE NEW YEAR
OWL WELCOME
AULD LANG SYNE
YEAR OF THE HORSE
NEW YEAR’S EVE FOXFIRES AT THE CHANGING TREE
FUCK THE PLAN 2012
AN EPICALLY EPIC AND FAIRLY TARDY YEAR IN REVIEW – OR, HOLY SHIT: 2011!
A Bright Blue Wish
New Year’s Redux
Stargazer Honey
Blue Moon
Lone Grove New Year
Pink Moons
The New Year
Lucky Stars and Garters
La Nouvelle Année

Winter’s Embrace

by Angeliska on December 21, 2017

Our Winter Solstice bonfire: a massive tower of flames burning 30-40 feet high. The tangle of mossy oak branches stood taller than me. The incredible heat and blaze was so intense after beginning our Solstice ritual in the cold and darkness - to better ho
Photo by Clint Redden

Today, the sun stands still – the scintillating convergence of the Winter Solstice is upon us, and at the darkest moment in our winter, the light begins to return to us. That light, the little candle flame inside us needs to be protected – so keep it close, let it build, and shelter it carefully against strong winds, because in these times, if your light goes out, it can be hard to get it going again. A year ago, I gathered with close friends in the country for a ritual to honor the solstice that ended with the lighting of the gargantuan bonfire pictured above. It was one of the most incredible fires I’d ever seen – looming above us nearly forty feet high. The tangle of mossy oak branches stood taller than me! That fire was started with a single spark, one lit candle burning in our hearts, passed from hand to hand around the circle, alighting a massive conflagration that towers to the heavens, the soaring flames illuminating the treetops. A cascade of shimmering embers, fire fairies flit around our heads like haloes and wink out into the cold night air. The incredible heat and blaze was so intense after beginning our Solstice ritual in the cold and darkness – to better honor and value the return of the light! We rang bells, howled and danced around it, calling in that light, soaking up that brilliant warmth. Opening our hearts to that magic.

I’ve been thinking about fire, lately: it’s not the element I feel most connected with, or have been very comfortable exploring. But I’ve been learning about its power, and how much we need it. Fire is sacred creativity, the vibrant spirit, an alchemical force. It keeps us warm, cooks our food, and is necessary in so many of our creative processes. I’ve been thinking about all our elements, and how essential they are for our survival, our balance. And I’ve been thinking about how when we are living out of balance, they react with a fury, often destroying what we’ve built up, tearing down buildings, incinerating forests, drowning the roads, and obliterating the structures that once seemed so permanent and fixed, ripped asunder in the blinking of an eye. I’ve been thinking about the terrible forest fires in California that are changing the face of the land and turning so many homes to ashes. The earthquakes and mudslides, avalanches. Tornados and windstorms. The hurricanes, floods and torrential rains that have been subsuming our cities. We need our water, the blessing of the mother, her tears – the earth, her body – the air, her breath – fire, her spirit. When out of balance, her gifts become terrifying. And yet, perhaps they are still gifts, in some way. Change is happening, and our old ways of being are falling away. We can resist it, but we’ll just exhaust ourselves. Like trying to swim upriver – you can fight the current, but after awhile, when you’ve completely exhausted yourself, the water will take you where it wants you to go anyway, whether you like it or not.

Power like this can be sustaining and nourishing, or consuming and destructive. Staying present, in clear integrity with our higher selves, with open eyes is the only way to retain or regain any sense of balance. I feel that this is also true of sexuality – Eros energy, our creative, generative spark. That passion can keep us warm, support and nourish us, stimulate and inspire our magic and creativity, and open our hearts. Or it can become, like any of the other essential elements, consuming and destructive.

On the Winter Solstice last year, I completed a vow of celibacy that I had initiated on the Summer Solstice. It was only half a year, and yet in those six months, I learned so much about myself, my sexuality, and my approach to love and relationships. But the real work and growth began in the year after I made that vow to myself and took it full circle. From the end of last December until now, I have experienced such radical change and internal growth, that has transformed nearly every area of my life. It feels very vulnerable, and a little scary to write about this here, and yet, I feel moved to share some of my experience, in hopes that it might be helpful to someone who finds it here.

I took a vow of celibacy because I wanted to find a way to channel and focus that erotic energy into my creative pursuits, namely my writing – and because I was in the process of doing some deep healing work on my relationships, and the wounding that I discovered was the origin for many of the unhealthy patterns I had developed around sex, love, and romance. I’m not going to delve into excruciating detail elaborating all the ways, for so many years, that I managed to keep beating my head against the same walls, and finding myself entangled in the same traps and pitfalls, because it would take forever, and really is just too embarrassing to enumerate. What I do want to share is how I discovered that it was possible to break these patterns, and with a lot of self-love and patience, feel like I have finally made some big headway in changing that way of being, and shifting into a new stage of growth. It can happen – but it does take work. Thankfully, there’s really nothing better than doing that human work on this earth. It’s why we came here – to learn, to grow, and to love.

This is the first time in my life where I have felt completely content with my current romantic status – which is, utterly and entirely, wholeheartedly and gratefully single. I think my heart had learned, ever since I was very young, to be in a constant state of longing, of wistfulness and wishing – regardless of whether I was in a relationship or merely burning a fervent torch for one elusive lover or another. It’s a hollow feeling, longing. And one I no longer wish to carry or resonate with. What is it, to be whole – to feel at home and happy with yourself, to be with yourself consummately – and to have that feel like more than enough. I’m discovering that feeling, and delighting deeply in my solitude, in my own company – with no more room for the tugging ache of loneliness in my heart or at my table. Sometimes it’s much lonelier when someone else is right there – so close, and yet so far away. I am right here, and I’m glad to be finally fully embracing these lessons in ways I had never before been able to really grasp. It look a lot of painful twists and turns to arrive at the threshold of this place, and I’m still learning the path. I’ve been thinking about a concept that I believe is from Rumi (as many wise truths are), that the goal is not falling in love – it is to BE love. That’s what I’m after. Starting with learning to be immensely compassionate to myself, even with all my many flaws and failings, all my gifts and shinings. I’m here to embrace my own sweet heart, that I shunned and neglected, ignored and spurned in favor of others, for so, so long. Coming back home, to my own sacred temple, long abandoned, now restored: my heart, my heart, my heart.

But how did I get from there to here? I spent years – years and years and years looking for love in all wrong places. Searching the world over with a hungry heart, hunting for someone to love me, to nourish me, to provide me with comfort and safety and stability. A baby bird looking desperately for unconditional love and validation, for proof that maybe I wasn’t the most awful, pathetic, unlovable creature in the world. Scanning constantly for security, for that person who could be the ONE who would save me, love me, stay with me forever and never leave, never die, never abandon me. And, yet – that loss and longing is all I knew of love. That was my polarity, a familiar home base. I craved love like fire, like water, like a drug. The thing is: that kind of love is actually essential to our survival when we’re little. Human children don’t tend to stand much of chance of survival without their parents, or if their parents (for whatever reason) aren’t invested (via that intense bonding that creates and sustains unconditional love and care. It’s not just a desire – it is actually a need. And I felt that I might die from the lack of it. If it hadn’t been for my amazing father, I very well might have. He has always offered me that unconditional love and care, but after my mom died, he was very overwhelmed trying to provide for us, and dealing with his own grief and broken heart. It was a hard time for us. I was alone a lot, and that loneliness became home for me. It was a place I knew.

From a very, very young age, I developed an unconscious plan for survival: my number one modus operandi became a quest to find the person who would offer me the unconditional love and care I lost when my mother became sick and died – and that in some ways, for various reasons, I never really had enough of before that. I was a practical child, an old soul who figured out the equation early on, and used my kid-logic to deduce that the next best source of unconditional love if you’ve lost your mom, according to all the fairy tales I devoured was, of course – TRUE LOVE! Prince Charming, on his glorious steed, ready to sweep me off my feet and adore me forever. Problem solved. I would be their priority, their everything! And I would finally be safe. As you can imagine, once I hit puberty, this led me to some deeply passionate obsessions with movie stars and later, to many (what I realize now) were seriously messed up interactions with unsavory, predatory people who zeroed in on me like wolves to a lost lamb. I was so desperate for love and affection, and so naive about what love and sex were all about, that I repeatedly ended up in situations where I was taken advantage of because I thought that if someone was paying attention to me, that meant that they loved me. Unfortunately, this continued more or less constantly until I reached near-adulthood. I eventually did wise-up a little bit, but I was still this totally precocious big-eyed starveling who threw myself into relationships and entanglements like my life depended on it – because on a deep, internal level, I believed that it did.

I did have some really wonderful relationships in all of that mess, with a few lovely, kind-hearted people who treated me right, or tried to. Usually though, I ended up feeling stifled and stuck with the people who were actually capable of loving me, and tended to eschew people who were too sweet, not cold or unavailable enough. I’d tell myself that I didn’t feel that magic spark with them – but truly, I was mistaking the sensation of being activated, that push-you/pull-me intense longing for chemistry. They aren’t actually the same thing at all. I’m learning that, and learning so much about my attachment patterns – about which, if any of this is resonating for you, you might really want to delve into studying your own attachment patterns in relationships. Understanding this piece has unlocked so much awareness for me around the loops and stuck places I found myself trapped in for so long.

Taking a step back from all of those patterns and getting some space for myself to establish a new perspective was another goal I had in taking a vow of celibacy. It really had less to do with having sex or not, and more to do with examining what happened for me when I engaged in that kind of intimacy with another person, and my own hidden motivations in finding connection. I want to make something very clear about this: I am extremely sex positive, and believe firmly that everyone’s relationship to their sexuality is entirely their own. What works for one person may or very well may not work for another. All I can share is what has worked for me, and what I’ve learned for myself.

When I was in New Orleans recently, I overheard a voluptuous lady walking by in the French Quarter talking into her cellphone say, “Estoy teniendo tremendo sexo con todo el mundo”, which means, “I’m having tremendous sex with the entire world!” I loved hearing that, especially as I was sitting on a stoop, making out with a very wonderful person at the time. It was a beautiful moment, where the air felt infused with sensuality and magic. I know there are many people out there who thrive by having many partners and exploring their erotic energy with a lot of freedom and playfulness. I respect that so much, and often, I wish it could be that way for me. For a long time, it was. And then things really needed to change. Because I was allowing myself to be in unhealthy situations, and I was getting hurt. I was connecting with people for the wrong reasons – and I wasn’t being especially conscious or present in my choices. The definition of an addiction, as I see it – is when we’re seeking a physical solution for a spiritual problem, and when we’re doing something that we know isn’t good for us – but we don’t seem to be able to stop ourselves from doing it anyway. I saw my six month vow of celibacy as a period of sobriety, during which I was still having great sex with myself (because let’s be real, I’d probably have ended up homicidal or definitely broken my vow, otherwise!) I wanted to be able to come back to physical connection with others from a place that was centered, and compassionate to both myself and them. You see, I’d made a lot of bargains for good sex in the past. I tricked myself into believing that in order to receive that good physical loving, I had to put up with a lot of bullshit from my partners, in their treatment of me. I came to believe that no one else was going to be into the way my body looked naked, or find me attractive or desirable. We find incredible ways to lie to ourselves, and then trap ourselves in feedback loops, get hooked into partnerships that aren’t sustainable or even particularly enjoyable.

It’s like this: when you’re starving, you’ll eat almost anything, right? If you go into a convenience store when you’re really hungry, almost any crap in there seems like it might be delicious. But there’s no really nourishment in a bag of Cheetos, and it doesn’t tend to last very long anyway. When you stop by the gas station with a nice full belly, you’ll find yourself realizing that there’s really nothing in there you want to eat, nothing you want to put in your body. A lot of the relationships we end up in when we’re operating from a place of inner hunger are the equivalent of junk food: addictive, extremely flavorful and delicious in the moment, but ultimately – they just end up making us sick. Learning how to feed my own heart and tend my own inner fire helped me have much more discernment around who I choose to share myself with than I ever had before. Sex on the first date was just a matter of course for me, and I would leap into situations with people without knowing them very well. I used to have basically little to no restraint, when I would actually meet someone I was attracted to – which is a rare enough occurrence, that thankfully I didn’t get have too many opportunities to create havoc for myself. It was much worse when I was way younger – and had no idea what I was really even attracted to. I have a lot to unpack about that time in my life, and what those experiences were really about. I’m working on trying to understand it, and heal it.

As Saturn moves into Capricorn this month, we’re being given a message about truly taking responsibility in the way we move through the world, and realizing how our actions effect other people. This is a good time to examine your boundaries, and your own personal rules about sex and relationships. A sense of soberness and a more serious approach may be replacing some of the unabashed hedonism of our past exploits. It’s a good time to perhaps be more judicious in our interactions, particularly because we’re really talking about consent, about boundaries, and about desire. This is a powerful time to have these conversations together – about what we’re really doing when we’re sharing the experience of sex and intimacy with another person. We’re finally having the conversations about how often we’ve had sex in the past we really didn’t want – or felt pressured into. When just doing it was easier, (or felt easier at the time) than saying no, or extricating ourselves out of these situations. In creating strong boundaries for ourselves and our partners, and making space for clear communication about what we want, and what we don’t, we are shifting the paradigm. There’s a lot of power in reclaiming that energy for ourselves, and in healing the wounds around our sexuality, and the ways that it may have been abused, exploited, coerced, or mis-used.

Our world is changing so much, and so quickly. I see so many of these changes being for the better – especially as we shift into a new way of relating. I think about the fact that for ages, if you wanted to get to know someone, and especially if you wanted to have sex with them, you had to get married. In this era, we have the freedom to take things slower, to really get to know someone. It’s been said that you really don’t know someone until you’ve spent four seasons with them, and I think that’s true. What would it be like to not make any big decisions about a relationship until you’d taken that time? When we start getting high on love drugs, which is what happens when we start doing stuff that releases oxytocin and vasopressin, like having sex, it makes us a little crazy. And it makes us bond with whoever we’re doing that stuff with. Which can be awesome. Or catastrophic. Because sometimes those bonds are not really appropriate – for various reasons. It’s very, very difficult, from even just a biological standpoint, for casual sex to stay casual for very long. So, as much fun as that can be (and often was, for me in the past) I’ve chosen now, after everything I learned from just hanging out with myself for awhile, that casual sex doesn’t work for me. I’m too sensitive, and too serious, and I just really don’t want to share myself in that way with someone who may not really care about me, or care to get to know me. And vice versa.

Sex is a ceremony, a mingling of our essential energies. It is sacred, if you approach it from that place. I’m interested in exploring, in getting really curious about a lover, and experiencing the same from them. I realize now that when I was coming from a place of need, and needing my partner to fulfill a space of lack in me, I didn’t allow much room to just discover them, and to be curious about really getting to know them as they were. I was just expecting them to uphold a certain way of being to make me feel safer, and then would get upset when they would turn out to be someone different from who I really wanted. It turns out, there’s something to be said for really taking your time! I’ve been relishing that, and also relishing saying no – something that was so hard for me to do, for so long. It gets easier and easier, and it is very empowering, to have that choice for myself, about what feels right for me – to get a clear sense of what works, and what doesn’t, without making a lot of concessions. I’ve been dating, for the first time in my life – a little bit, here and there. It’s pretty fascinating, honestly. And a little odd to be in a place where I’m not looking for casual sex, or a hookup – but also not convinced that I’m interested in getting into a serious, committed relationship again. Being partnered takes a lot of work, and it really is an enormous responsibility. It’s not something I ever want to take lightly again. Until I meet someone that really feels right, I’ll keep channeling eros energy into my creativity, into my writing. Sometimes, I fall into the fearful belief that I can’t be focused and productive if I have a lover in my life. I get afraid that if I meet someone I really connect with, I’ll lose myself again. I imagine scenarios where we get so high on from lovemaking that I’ll want to do nothing else but roll around in bed and then make blueberry pancakes and spend all day feeding them to each other and then rolling around some more. Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad? Everything in moderation, right? It feels good to wait and see, and not to settle in the meantime for something that feels like a compromise. Compromise really means that one person gets what they want, while the other one doesn’t – and it’s interesting to me how often we’re told that we need to compromise in our relationships. I’m interested in collaboration – where we can both figure out how to mutually get what we want! It feels good to hang out in this space of not-loneliness. I still crave touch, of course – and sometimes that skin-hunger can be a little distracting! We need touch, as humans. But there are ways to receive it that feel healthy, and allow me to stay focused. I know I’ll touch and be touched again when the time is right, and when the stars align to put the person or people into my path who will teach me the next round of lessons: this time on true intimacy, on receiving love, on trust. I think that will probably be a little terrifying, or maybe a lot – and I’m excited to get out of my comfort zone of being alone and discover what real connection feels like.

As the sun is returning – the warmth is flooding through the earth’s body, and I feel it too. I went dormant for a long time, last year. Trauma can do that, sending the body into freeze mode. I shut down a bit, buried my spark deep beneath the earth, like a precious seed. But all this time, it’s been gestating, growing invisible roots, deep and strong. The ice over the water is breaking, and I’m cracking open like a pomegranate.
My sexuality is mine, and I am my own best thing. I preserve my sacred inner fire, honoring it for the precious thing that it is, and build it, stoke it so that it will keep me warm on cold nights. For now, it is for me, and me alone. My choice to share it will be based on mutual understanding, instead all the old reasons. How exciting it is to approach love now with this discernment, and to enter winter’s embrace with a bright flame in my heart, a beacon, calling in the new ways, the new loves, the new lessons. May your Winter Solstice be full of warm embraces, and may we all learn more this year, and throughout our lives in these bodies, about how to love, and to be loved.

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My writings from Winter Solstices of yore:

NORNS OF WINTER – SOLSTICE WISHES

SOLSTICE SISTERS

PERCHTA

POMEGRANATE STAR RITUAL FOR THE WINTER SOLSTICE

COLD WINTER MOON, SOLSTICE BLUE

WINTER SOLSTICE – BRIGHT STARS + FIRELIGHT

WINTER SOLSTICE – BLOOD MOON

Winter Solstice – Messe de Minuit

Winter Solstice – Dark Season