Much has happened since my last posts. I have retired from my full-time ministry to concentrate on a spiritual path following the ancient ways, work on completing my next book and together with my beloved (pagan!) husband Paul, develop new tours with Journeys with Soul. The next tour will be in the second half of June 2019 to follow in the footsteps of gods, goddesses, heroes and oracles across Greece and the Mediterranean islands. See the tour section for more information or contact me by email.
One is changed for the better with international travel, and when that travel is also sacred in nature, one’s entire life shines brighter forever. I so strongly believe in the value of sacred travel that it is a part of my holy practices. This kind of self-gifting is priceless and I encourage you to give this gift to yourself. This photo is of me on the western coast of Scotland, in an ancient village, looking across the Irish Sea, having a moment that changed me.
I am leading two sacred journeys this spring and summer: Scotland May 21 to 31 and Cornwall and Southeast England June 11 to 20. I write about these two journeys together to compare and contrast what you might receive from each one, but there is so much more in each trip than this brief newsletter can describe. You choose or come on both! The flyers are right here.
There is a wildness in both Scotland and Cornwall since Roman order had little impact on either land. The people are not tame in either place; that is one reason I love both. Here, on the left, is a beautiful and typical photo of a loch in Scotland; this one is Loch Tummel, which is on our itinerary there. The landscape is gorgeous in spring in Scotland. The other photo is of the Men an Tol Neolithic stone group on a typical moor in Cornwall – sparse, barren, atmospheric. We will do ritual at this mysterious set of stones. Incidentally, each time I have visited here, we were the only people around, and since these stones cannot be seen from the road, it is normal to have a private visit.
Miracles in the Stones
Privacy is NOT something most visitors experience in Stonehenge, but we will. The photo is one I took at a sunrise visit to these amazing and mysterious stones. We will not only be private, but right in the stones, something that the public visitors can only dream about. The photo from the Scotland tour, on the right, is the inside of the intimate and amazing Rosslyn Chapel, every inch of which is carved with enigmatic symbols, and even more famous for its part in the Da Vinci Code.
Each journey explores castles, abbeys, cathedrals, ancient villages and more. The photo on the left is St Michael’s Mount off the coast of Cornwall. This mount, which is an island at high tide holds a special place in Cornish history and is on the Michael energy line, which goes through the entire country of England; literally hundreds of holy sites are on this line. The photo on the right is Stobo Castle in Scotland, a gorgeous castle, which has a new life as a state-of-the-art spa offering over 60 treatments; we will stay there.
Witches and the Wise Women Tradition
Each journey has an element of the olde craft. In Scotland we will visit the infamous Grassmarket behind the Edinburgh Castle where more innocent women were hung for witchcraft than any other place in Britain. The pub, The Last Drop, as an ironic reminder of those times, is there. In Cornwall we will have a day with Cassandra Latham, a practicing wise woman of West Penwith, caring for her villagers with sacred, ceremonial, and healing practices. Where else could you have this experience?
Contact me immediately if I can facilitate your booking.
I just returned from a magical journey through ancient, sacred Ireland. Each time I travel to Celtic lands with a group of spiritual pilgrims, I fall more deeply in love with the land and the ancestors. What struck me this time is, that whether I am looking at an abbey from the 500s, or the remains of Neolithic stone fences from 6000 years ago, I feel a familiarity… truly, some things never change. When I see a reconstruction of a family scene from 2500 BC in a museum, it seems like I have seen these people before.
On my recent trip, we visited the Céide Fields on a remote north facing coast in County Mayo in the west of Ireland. It was very recent, in the 1990s, that a farmer dug up some evidence of an ancient farming civilization in this part of the Western Isle. What was discovered was an entire culture of farming and domesticated cattle raising that had been buried under the bog for 5500 years. Here is a map of the stone fences that still lie under deep bog, which grew over the farmland after the weather turned much colder and wetter around 3500 BC.
Here is a photo of modern Irish countryside, with the very same kind of stone fences to separate the fields. Some things do not change. I am so happy to know that a relationship with the land that worked all those eons ago still works. A farmer from 5500 years ago would feel at home today on the same land 55 centuries later.
It is the same in other cultures. One could recognize similar Egyptian dress customs on ancient papyrus or on a modern fashion runway. Some things, which express a culture, do not change over time.
This helps me feel connected to my own ancestors and it helps me feel connected to everyone else on the planet, because we all have our own ancestors who share many, many similarities with us. We, truly, are all kin.
It was in the 1st or 2nd Century BC when the bard, Amergin, made the Irish land fall in love with him. He sang to the land from his approaching boat and the beautiful green island became his. This was the beginning of the Celts’ relationship with what has become their dearest homeland. What can we learn from this poet and how can we create such a romance with the land we inhabit?
All those years ago, before the approach of the people we have come to know as the Celts, Ireland was inhabited by another race, the Tuatha De Danann. The people of Amergin, the Celts, were prepared to fight for this island with the Tuatha De Danann and terms of engagement were set. As agreed, the Celts retreated from the island beyond the magical “ninth wave” so the Tuatha De Danann could prepare for battle, but instead they raised an impenetrable fog to thwart the Celts. At this point, Amergin stood on the prow of the boat and instead of beseeching the people to keep to their agreement, he sang to the land. This invocation has come to be known as The Song of Amergin. It has many versions, and here is one:
I am a stag: of seven tines,
I am a flood: across a plain,
I am a wind: on a deep lake,
I am a tear: the Sun lets fall,
I am a hawk: above the cliff,
I am a thorn: beneath the nail,
I am a wonder: among flowers,
I am a wizard: who but I
Sets the cool head aflame with smoke?
The land of Ireland fell in love with the song and the bard and parted the mist to let the sailors approach. The Celts took the island with little force. The Tuatha De Danann retreated into the land, becoming part of her, and living underground from that time to the present. The Celts came ashore, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Using the wisdom of Amergin, what invocation could you make to your land…your backyard…where you hike…to make the land fall in love with you and open to you in deep relationship? Would you speak of all the ways you feel at one with your land already? Would you make promises? Would you make invitations? Would you cast a vision of great intimacy? Would you, as Amergin did, speak about all the versions of yourself that could bless the land? Work magic with your plot of earth and see what dedication and love you can create together.
Oh, and the Tuatha De Dannan? They live on, still making aggravating magic to annoy humans as the Wee Folk, the Leprechauns of Ireland.
St. Patrick has been called a “Christian druid, a man of both faith and magic,” by author Thomas Cahill. In his book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, we see Patricius, a Romanized Briton of the 5th century, who was kidnapped at 15 and enslaved by the early Irish. He ended up bringing peace and order to the wild western island in a time when Europe was devolving into chaos after the fall of Rome. St. Patrick’s Breastplate shows us how to live each day within our own highest Truth.
I am preparing to lead a tour group to ancient sites in beautiful Ireland, so I am doing my customary research prior to leaving. (Incidentally, there are a couple of spots still open on this tour.) St. Patrick’s ministry is a wonderful melding of early Christianity with the local beliefs and customs of early Ireland. In a time when “Christian” was quite synonymous with “Roman” in most of the world, the Christianity that Patrick taught was non-hierarchical, non-rule bound, and characterized by love and a personal relationship with Jesus that was so palpable that it seemed magical. At the edge of civilized Europe, Patrick’s spiritual world-view took on an earthy and intimate feeling, which was very different from Christianity in any other place.
A prayer of St. Patrick that has come down to us as his Breastplate, shows the simple power of a daily affirmative statement to organize our perception and our life. The illustration below is one of several stanzas of this prayer. It is called the Lorica of St Patrick. A lorica is a protective shell or a piece of Roman armor… a breastplate. All analogies point to the ideas of the poem/ prayer as being strengthening and protective. Here is my favorite stanza:
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven,
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightening,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.
How would you like to arise? What would you call to you each day? Does “I arise with the glory of divine life in me,” sound right to you? What about: “I arise with my purpose clear before me”? Or, “I arise in the heart-filling love of my family”? What would your breastplate say to move you into your day with joy and divine power? In this month of great light, ponder the greatest statements that could guide your day. Create your own breastplate and speak it into each morning.
July Ritual of Freedom
A new book by Peter Knight is my treasured purchase from my recent pilgrimage to Scotland and England. Stolen Images: Pagan Symbolism and Christianity is an exhaustive exploration of symbols from all world religions and how they migrate from one pantheon and spiritual world view to another, emphasizing symbols from ancient pagan religions and how they show up in Christianity.
Here is the cover of the book and a photo of the author that I took last summer at the entrance to West Kennet Long Barrow on the night of a full moon. This beautifully produced book is in soft cover with more than 600 color illustrations.
Worldwide Spiritual Symbols
The idea that the cross and the halo, for example, were sacred symbols in religions before Christianity is not new. Similarly, we have heard that the Christian sites for abbeys and cathedrals are on land that has been deemed sacred forever and that most, if not all, of these magnificent buildings are built over the original holy well from antiquity, with cathedral coming after smaller churches, coming after temples built on the exact same site. Peter Knight, however goes into hundreds of symbols that were brought forward from the old religions: doves, labyrinths, the holy trinity, God’s extended hand, to name just a few. Additionally, the Madonna and child, lions, and lambs make sense when we think about older religions contributing symbols to Christianity, but he shows how countless other symbols including eggs, spiders, pelicans, dandelions, and geometric shapes are all a part of our sacred psyche from antiquity, brought forth into Christianity. The images here are of the moon goddesses, Venus of Laussel from 15,00BC and the Virgin Mary standing on a crescent moon from the 1500s.
Don’t Blame the Christians
It is not only the Christian religion that has stolen images from its predecessors. Peter shows how this works in other wisdom traditions as well. But is this a bad thing? It is a very old sales technique to say, “Oh, yes, I know how important that is [whatever it is} to you and we have one a lot like it, only better.” Conversely, it also makes sense to demonize some precious symbols of old religions so that conversion to the new religion takes solid root. Peter shows how this was done with serpents, dragons, and apples, among other symbols, as Christianity took hold.
Why is This Important for You?
In his book Peter writes, “Symbols…could be described as visual shorthand, acting as a conduit to unite our outer sensory and inner subconscious worlds.” Symbols grow us – spiritually. If you have a shape, an animal, or an object that is your reminder of the sacred, use it. Deepen with it. Find ways to have it in your environment. Contemplate it and let it work you. Have it on your home altar or find a way to wear it. Love it and let it be a part of your spiritual practice. All real religion is personal; let yours be personally powerful, as well, with the images that you, too borrow from others.
...Summer Solstice Ritual
Beltane, or May Day, is known in the neo-pagan community as the wild and sensuous holiday of fire leaping and trysts in the woods. It is that, with a maiden playing the Queen of the May and a young fellow playing the Stag Lord. They chase through fiery revelries and ritually make love for the benefit of the harvest, or, at least that is what we believe was celebrated in antiquity; now it is a huge street party in cities such as Edinburgh, Scotland. However, the underlying meaning of this holiday is so needed in our world right now.
Uniting of the Queen of the May and the Stag Lord
The ritual chase and coupling of the May Queen and the Horned God symbolize the great coming together of the masculine and feminine energies for creation, with the added fuel of great desire. What marvelous good could be accomplished in our world with the clarity, courage, decisiveness, and the “going forth” energy of the divine masculine, together with the perseverance, stability, nurturing, and patience of the divine feminine.
We each have both those energies within us and we each have all those combined attributes, and more. The key to powerful creation is to unleash all those attributes along with a deep desire to facilitate the manifestation of something new. The creative urge is really all around us at this time of year…the longing of the pollen to reach the pistil, the passion of the seed to burst and send up a shoot, the battle of the stags to win the doe, the desire of the soil to support the new plant. Over and over there are examples of the desire to go forth and the desire to nurture. We, too, have those longings within us…to form a new creation and to support it to the fulfillment of its purpose, whether it is a child, a project, an invention, or something else. The Beltane message is, “Unleash your desire for the great good of the world; it is needed NOW.”
Balancing the Masculine and Feminine Energies
Beltane celebrates the perfect balance of the masculine and feminine energies. The Stag Lord pursues the Queen of the May, but she wants the coupling as much as he does and for the same purpose. In a modern reenactment of the ancient sacred marriage the May Queen says:
I am the womb of creation. Within me the new life of earth grows each
year. Come to me. I honor you, my Lord, and shall create new life with you.
The Forest God replies:
I am the seed of the next generation. Come to me. I honor you, my Goddess, and shall create new life with you.
With their sacred union consummated, new plant life, animals, and people are assured for the next cycle of life.
Our world is in need of this balance for our next generations. At this time there seems to be a predominance of masculine energy in our political scene, in our police forces, and in schools. Take a look at the attributes of a masculine dominator world view and a balanced partnership world view:
Masculine Dominator Balanced Partnership
Win/ lose Win/win
One-sided benefit Mutual benefit
Negative conditioning Positive conditioning
Taking orders Team work
Beltane offers us a balanced partnership in the creation of our world. Each time we let go of the dominator world view in our business life and families and take the balanced partnership route we are working to create a world that works for the next generations. This is the Beltane energy that is needed NOW.
How would you describe what you experience in the spaces you inhabit? What words would you use to describe the spaces, themselves? Would you use words like homey, efficient, cluttered, beautiful, tidy, or adequate to describe your home, your bedroom, or your office? How would you feel about experiencing the spaces you inhabit if the first words that came to your mind to describe them were sacred, holy, and spiritually nurturing? It is possible to court the felt sense of the divine Presence and deepen your spiritual experience in all of the places you spend your time.
Enhancing the Sacredness of Personal Space
When you take on a project of enhancing your connection to Spirit by adding to, taking away, or shifting the décor in a room, you begin with the same question you would use for any spiritual practice of change: “What do I want to experience?” The answer might be “peace or love or Oneness.” The answer might be “connection to a time or place or season or person.” The answer might be “to remind myself of my creativity,” or it could simply be “to feel my connection with holiness.”
Remembrance of the Sacred
Starting out, you might make, find, or buy a physical representation of a deity or angel and add it to the décor of any room in your home. You may bring together other universal symbols of the sacred, such as circles, stars, crosses, candles, bread, flames or goblets and put these with your holy image. Other symbols and colors of personal, sacred meaning can be added to the mix, such as photos, sayings, and any other precious things. Put these items together in a pleasing arrangement to create an altar. You can create altars on any flat surface, in any nook or corner in your home or yard. The idea is to put spiritually meaningful objects and symbols in your living space so that they will continually remind you of your Source or another spiritual message that you want to communicate to yourself.
Enhancing the Sacredness of Your Space While Traveling
You can make a hotel room feel more like a holy site with the addition of a travel altar. Every hotel room has a desk or nightstand where a small altar may be created. When you are packing for a trip, business or pleasure, think about what you want to experience on your trip and take some sacred objects that will remind you of your desire. Add a candle and you have a travel altar. Although many hotels do not allow an open flame, I find that an unlit candle holds the power of illumination just as well as a lit one. This is a photo of my travel altar on a window ledge in Ireland. It has the green man, who felt right at home in Ireland, a bit of my mother’s ashes, which found their way into the chamber of Newgrange among other places, and the snake dancer from Crete, who travels on all airplanes with me.
Making Public Space Sacred
The idea of acknowledging the fact that unseen support nurtures human endeavors transcends religions. Knowing that solutions and answers, courage and perseverance come to us from the realm of the formless to serve us in the realm of time, space, and form are notions that most people could agree upon. Creating sacred space for group work can be very powerful even if you refer to it as “establishing a receptive environment” or “helping our space become ready to support learning.” As a business leader, teacher, or group facilitator of any kind, you can use the principles of acknowledging sacred space to deepen the work that your group accomplishes.
Have fun and satisfaction making all your spaces sacred.
Recently there was a post on social media about a priest who died for a few minutes and experienced God as a loving female presence. It reminded me that most non-traditional spiritual seekers I know, try to let go of the gender issue when approaching the Supreme Being or Source Energy or Love/Intelligence or Great Spirit or Author of the Universe. All these descriptors indicate the potential problem…if we have trouble naming the All Originating Principle of the Universe, how can we get close and intimate with… ah… It?
Enter Gods, Goddesses, and Archetypes
I think the ancient pantheons had it right. If you have a deity in charge of some specific area of earthly life, a seeker can contact that one in charge of their issue, and have some certainty that they are working with a specialist. I see all the gods and goddesses of antiquity as remembrances of the ultimate, sacred One, with a pathway into Infinity and, also, a pathway into my heart. They are easier for me to work with than trying to connect with the Ultimate Unformed Substance and I like to use the personal pronouns, he, she, him, and her so much better than It.
Divine Help in the Garden or Elsewhere
At this time of year, my roses are just beginning to send up their beautiful, shiny, infant red leaves. It is the perfect time to invite the great god Pan into my garden to bless the new growth. I also invite Demeter to add her loving energy to the growth and health of all my flowers and shrubs. This year I am having a Garden Wake-up Party. We will sing the garden awake and honor the gods and goddesses of the plant kingdom. The result will be breathtaking, as it is each year. You too can invite any deity or archetype to assist you with any endeavor. Seekers have done it for thousands of years, so there must be something to it.
Inviting a Deity to Inhabit You
With some practice you can actually ask a god or goddess to inhabit you and live through you. There is a story of a trial in ancient Greece in which a priestess of Aphrodite was accused of impersonating the goddess, a very serious offense. The lawyer, Hyperides, knew that logic could not win the case for himself and his client. In an unconventional defense, he asked his client to disrobe in the witness box; the strategy worked. The jurors became absolutely entranced and declared that the true presence of Aphrodite was the only possible explanation for such beauty. So, how about you? Could you use Athena, for example, in creating a business plan which benefited everyone? Would the skill of Hera heal a rift in your marriage? Could Poseidon help in a sailing expedition, or in teaching a child to swim? Or would your love life improve with Aphrodite expressing through you? All the gods and goddesses of ancient pantheons brought their followers to great depth and faith. They are here for us, too.
The Goddess Brigid is a powerful deity of European and Celtic lineage, spanning eons of time before and during the Christian Era. Her influence moved westward across the continent of Europe until her worship centered itself in Ireland and has stayed. About 400 years after the birth of Christ, a nun took the name of the goddess and many of the miraculous stories attributed to the Goddess Brigid became the stories of St. Brigit. This is the time of year when we remember and revere this powerful goddess, also known as the Bright One
Brigid is a “Triple Goddess.” First, she is worshiped as the goddess of poetry, inspiration, and new beginnings. Secondly, she is a fire goddess of the forge and her wisdom enables smiths to mold dense metal into useful shapes. In this aspect she is a goddess of transformation and also oversees such alchemical changes as the creation of beer. Finally, she is a healer and blesses and protects home life. She helps women and animals in birth; she indwells the hearth of a home and she helps with all trades.
She rests during the winter and makes her appearance on the land just before spring breaks, thus the story of the ground hog is really a story of the goddess. When the little ground hog peeks out of his burrow close to springtime, to find he has no shadow, it is because the long shadow of the smiling goddess looking down on him blocks out the early spring sun.
Here are 5 practices that can be done this time of year with special awareness of dear Brigid’s blessing on your life and work.
Get Your Car Serviced
As the goddess of smith craft, Brigid, the modern goddess who used to watch over the production of horseshoes, would most certainly bless our current modes of transportation. Create a ritual for your car before you take it in for its oil change. Perhaps smudge it in and out with sacred sage smoke or simply light a candle within and ask Brigid for protection and guidance. Realize that the auto workers are realizing their life purpose by working on your car. Remember, anything can become sacred practice.
Memorize a Poem
Reciting memorized poems is almost a lost art, but a very traditional way of honoring Brigid. Memorize one of your favorites or create a sacred chant for yourself to recite as you exercise. What is ideal is to create a chant that is so catchy that it begins to sing itself in your mind. Here are some silly and sweet words to the tune of Heigh Ho from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves:
I know; I know
That Brigid loves me so.
She heals the past and holds me fast.
I know; I know.
This is the season that our ancestors blessed the seeds they were going to plant when spring thawed the land. It is also the perfect time for us to become specific about our intentions for the year. You can even write your goals on a big seed, like a fava bean, or on a bulb and plant them. Know that the same energy that grows the bean stalk or the iris grows your intentions and goals. Ask Brigid to bless your fertile dreams as you plant.
Bless the Tools of Your Trade
This was the time of year that our ancestors repaired the farm equipment, oiled it, and made it ready for planting season. It is, therefore, the perfect time for us to ask Brigid’s blessing on the tools of our trade, whether they be computers and telephones, or spades and wheelbarrows. Assemble the tools of your trade with some water that you have left on an open windowsill overnight for Brigid to bless. Carefully, sprinkle the water over your work items and ask Brigid to bless your tools, to inspire you to great work this year, and to make your path to success straight and well lit.
Accomplish Spring Cleaning
Our ancestors believed that Brigid walked on the land around February 1st. They extinguished their home fire on the night of February 1st and opened a door to let Brigid in to bless the home. They especially looked for a disturbance in the hearth ashes to signify that Brigid had truly been there. The house was then cleaned and a new fire lit to begin the new season. In many places at this time of year there is at least one nice, sunny day to open the doors and windows and let in some fresh air. What an inspiration to do a little spring cleaning, with Brigid’s help.
Thoughts on spiritual wisdom, pagan inspiration, ancient celebrations, travel to sacred sites, and why we are here together on Earth