Sunday, October 21, 2012

New life and Marian Grottos. . .

I have been busting my gut at my fall practicum this semester, hence a sparse number of posts on Bridgetsfire!  My apologies all!  But I am here in spirit, because every day at my practicum site, a Catholic university, I pass a Marian grotto on my way to my office. . .  and I always stop to say a prayer to Mary, Bridget, and all the saints.  The grotto itself is gorgeous, and from its hillside site,  I can see off over Westmoreland County to the highest peaks of Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands.  For a place to start a new journey, the Marian grotto is about the best place to be.

Marian grottos are small caves, often with images or statues of Mary, built into hillsides and gardens.  Grottos can be small or large, contain huge statues or only a small icon, come bedecked with flowers and waterfalls or stand alone in forgotten churchyards.  I have been visiting Marian grottos for thirty years, taking sustenance from the source, the cave, the dark.  If you want to create anew, a cave is a blessed place to begin.

Grottos predate Mary the way Mary predates Christianity. . .  Apollo had a grotto at Delphi; before the Romans, Eileithyia had a grotto in Crete.  Eileithyia, the bringer of life, dates to pre-Indo European times, and by Roman times she was a fate, older than Cronos, time itself.   At her cave on Crete, votives to Eieithyia can be dated to neolithic times.  Goddess grottos thus predate time indeed.

Our connection to caves as humans even pre-dates the wonderful cave paintings of Lascaux, from a mere 17,000 years ago.  The human archaeological record centers on caves, in Africa, in Europe, in Asia.  Our ancestors buried cave bear skulls in their homes, while Lascaux shows us the wonderful creativity and expression of our ancestors. In northern Iraq, a cave still used to shelter flocks today has been excavated over and over, with the latest remains dating back 100,000 years.  In Wales and Cornwall I visited cave after cave dedicated to Celtic saints, where people today still go for healing and spiritual renewal.  Standing at a Mary Grotto, I am reaching back through pagan and Christian traditions, going back to our earliest human meanings.

In Christian times, mystics retreated to caves, and Mary showed up in her first apparition to James the Great in A.D. 39, along the banks of the Ebro river.  As everyone knows, she has been showing up ever since.  Grottos built for her invoke both traditions, the Marian tradition of apparitions and prehistoric traditions of caves and their symbols.  Build a grotto to Mary, and you invoke her; stand in a grotto and you are standing in a symbol of human home, dwelling, healing, creation.  Put the two together and you have powerful magic.

Mary herself, mother of God, is always out in our Western histories rescuing and saving people.  Having Mary on my side at a small, Catholic university, has been immensely supportive and healing for me.  I pray every day at her grotto before going to my office, and I pray again before I drive home.  May in the Middle Ages rescued accused innocents from hangings, wronged neighbors from slander, helped those in need and in distress.  I figure she continues to do so today.  I will solicit her blessing, and left her a holy medal to Bridget back when I begin my practicum.

At the beginning of my new career, I also find a grotto a peaceful place of darkness, emptiness, possibility.  Caves are interior, dark, fertile.  I am not gonna jump on the cave as womb bandwagon, but will go with cave as underground, as root.  In graduate school I find my professors and advisors are all pushing me to choose a direction, to choose a specialty, to establish a map for myself in upcoming years.  And in the grotto at school, I find myself resisting.  Here in the dark, with Mary silently watching, I have a space and time to open to all possibilities.  Growth will come, but right now my own direction is unformed, ephemeral, waiting to choose shape.  In the numinous presence of Mary and Cave, I have time and space to see what and where and who I will become.  I want to continue trying on new shapes and new talents, before I settle into choice.  In a Marian Grotto, I have support and fertility.  No wonder I find grottos sacred.

Marian grottos do not require denominational affiliation.  Pagan me has never had lightning strike me down in a grotto!  I could as easily leave a pentagram to Mary as an offering, as well as a Cornish cloutie ribbon to the grotto itself.  Whatever your religious tradition, in other words, a grotto is a place to go for space, for support, for creativity and new inspiration.  Grottos abound all over the world, so none of us are ever far from a sacred space of new.

We are in mid-October as I write, heading to All Hallow's, time for the spirits to come, and to plant bulbs and bring in the last of the basil.  Grottos fit this interior and darking time of the year.  Numinous support is something we all need and deserve:  find a cave, feel Mary, open to the empty dark.

A good ritual and a good puja.  This halloween, go find a Mary Cave.  Let go of knowing, and see what you create.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Pointers, storms, and soft rain. . .

I am sitting in a rare soft rain, this morning, between full moon and upcoming new, thinking about wonderful conversations this past week with friends. When a biotech engineer and a public defense attorney both call me a "seeker" within one week, I kinda found myself taken aback. A seeker? Me? I've been following the moons and worshipping as a witch for most of my life. At the same time, I have been watching some of my most loved arts programs fall apart under the stress of funding cuts and internalized oppression all summer long, and I wonder how so many of us fall into horizontal violence when times get hard.

And I think this is all related. So much of worship is listening. Listening to rain, to birds, to winds and stars, to new friends, and to inner voices. Listening to grandmothers' stories, to something called God, to angels, spirits, and to crickets singing. Listen, and find music everywhere. Listen and find holiness everywhere. The soft rain of today is a healing balm in this intense summer of heat and storm. For heaven's sakes, even fundamentalist Christians are noticing the extreme weather on this planet, and the message of torrential rain, severe drought, and massive thunderstorms.

In one of my great conversations this week I commented that my children rarely hear soft summer rain anymore, and my grandchildren may never do so. I wonder if my grandchildren will see snow. So one new friend, the biotech dude, is an intense and passionate gardener. Coordinating urban renewal gardening, he is ardent about saving, building and maintaining good soil. What is to argue? But he also referred to himself as a seeker, and talked with me about the difficult problems of inner city gardening - from kids trashing the plants, and neighbors stealing produce to sell, to county government wanting publicity shots for the news but denying funding. My friend felt that his passion annoyed his allies, and that his vision of community gardening is getting lost in petty squabbles.

 As he talked, standing on the banks of the Monogehela river in a garden built by kids at an inner city neighborhood Y, I realized I don't see him as a seeker at all. Instead, my new friend is a pointer - he has amazing skills with soil and he is pointing to a new future where neighborhoods protect and cherish soil and use it to feed so many people without food. His vision is important, sacred even. His struggles to share that vision are inherent to forging new paths - inner city gardeners may be dealing with teen vandalism for a long time.

I know other pointers, people creating new ways of living and being, in tiny minute ways, in our postindustrial, crumbling funds world. Friends at school advocate for foster kids; my neighbors build recycling programs; another friend is starting a suicide prevention hotline in rural Pennsylvania. I know artists teaching children, lawyers helping the poor, and therapists rebuilding lives. We constantly hear that there is no money, and we constantly do amazing things anyway.

Pointers need some soft rain, though. I puja Bridget, and love reading Rumi and Teresa of Avila; my soil friend loves St. Francis, though carefully separates what he reads in St. Francis from the punitive church of his youth; one of the best and most amazing counselors I know works with homeless people and teaches other therapists Mindfulness. Here is worship and spirituality/religion providing people the inner means to go out and point to new ways of being. Yet spirit/religion is never enough. Pointers have to contend with ourselves, and the horizontal violences my soil friend sees with gardening leaders arguing - and the blame game I see in churches and arts groups who have lost funding shows - how much we have learned to act out the very systems we hope to change.

I am reluctantly pulling out of my ten years of volunteering in one organization because I no longer wish to hear that special needs kids are the problem with arts funding, and I am sad to see devout Christian friends - with hearts in the right place - decide paternalistically what special needs children need instead of listening to the kids themselves. Similarly, my Catholic friend in New Jersey who works ceaselessly for LGBT rights and has an autistic son like I, is tired of public school parents endlessly blaming spending cuts on the special needs kids and their test scores. And I told my soil friend to quit blaming teens for the problems with inner city community gardening.

The corporations of the world don't need to police us if we limit ourselves. Wild Woman thealogian Mary Daly calls the ways we attack and police each other "horizontal violence" and names the ways we act for elite interests "token torturing." It is a great analysis for why we so often can not work together. So naming the violence and pointing it out is just part of what Pointers have to do. Simply put, pointers have to be ready to make power relationships clear: teens don't ruin inner city gardening; special needs kids are not causing the cuts in arts and school funding; the LGBT community isn't destroying the church; single mothers on welfare are not causing budget crises; poor family farmers are not at fault for fracking.  Sure, people with little rights can harm each other; none of us, however, have the ability to create these systems that harm us all. We can not build new systems, if we constantly recreate the old.

While talking about pointing may seem a long way from worshiping St. Bridget, it really is not. While I am sipping tea in this lovely soft summer rain today, I am thinking of summer bounty and the rains I hope my grandchildren will hear. But I have appreciated the storms of this summer - strong storms here in western PA that are knocking up people's lives and driving home the point that we as a planet have changes to make. Soft rain can be our Rumi and St. Francis and ecstatic spirituality; and goddess knows we all need them. Yet hard rains are the ways we have to name the violence we have learned and enact on one another. If pointers don't name the ways we need to change, the change will be all the harder.

I believe there will be a day when inner city teens cherish gardens - and in point of fact, I stood in one of those gardens this week. So be you seeker or pointer, I wish you an August of both storm and gentle summer rain. All of our gardens on this planet need both.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Appalachian dulcimer and the world a-changing

Went to Portage, Pennsylvania, last night, to the wonderful Portage Mountain Dulcimer Day with yearly dulcimer-player Bing Futch.   With a dad hailing from a little place known as Chuckey, Tennesse, I have spent my life running up and down the blue ridge to dulcimer festivals.  And I do love them - but I am often the only nose-ringed and dreadlocked person there!!

Well, not with Bing Futch headlining.  His dreads are awesome (just cut mine); his dulcimer playing even more awesome.  We got traditional tunes, Lead Belly tunes, even Jimmy Buffet tunes. Most amazing to me was listening to Bing put his found love of Appalachian music and his exploration of his Seminole heritage together by playing mountain dulcimer/Native American flute in a gorgeous improv.  With the sun setting over the Laurel Highlands and a perfect late June evening, the moment was magical.

And the times are a-changing.  Here in Western Pennsylvania, a notoriously conservative part of the world, other multiracial families like my own tell me what I see happening - with the election of President Obama, the acceptance of multiracial peoples and multriracial exploration is changing tremendously.  I go down the street in a Black neighborhood in Pittsburgh and African American strangers no longer curse me, but compliment my dreads.  I go to rural Pennsylvania, and not only do the many seniors there greet me with smiles, the seniors are there to see a multiracial, dreadlocked dulcimer artist.  Neighborhoods that used to be all white are no longer; schools that used to be all white are no longer.  Appalachian dulcimer and Native American flute and Leadbelly all go into one performance.

I am not being hopelessly naive here.  Trayvon Martin shows that we have so far to go. Yet I am heartened to think that Appalachian dulcimer is helping change the world for the better.  There is magic in music and magic in sharing music and more magic in sharing old music in new and shining ways.  On a perfect June evening, the sunset shone and the music glowed and everyone was smiling.

The way it should be.

30 years ago I heard dulcimer artist Holly Tannen take the Si Kahn song, "Gone, Gonna Rise Again," and play it on her dulcimer.  It has remained one of my all time favorites:

I remember the year that my granddaddy died
Gone, gonna rise again
They dug his grave on the mountainside
Gone, gonna rise again
I was too young to understand the way he felt about the land
But I could read his history in his hand
Gone, gonna rise again

It's corn in the crib and apples in the bin
Ham in the smokehouse and cotton in the gin
Cows in the barn and hogs in the lot, you know, he never had a lot
But he worked like a devil for the living he got

These apple trees on the mountainside
He planted the seeds just before he died
I guess he knew that he'd never see, the red fruit hanging from the tree
But he planted the seeds for his children and me

High on the ridge above the farm
I think of my people that have gone on
Like a tree that grows in the mountain ground, the storms of life have cut them down
But the new wood springs from roots in the ground

How awesome last night, to hear new music worlds grown from the roots of all of our ancestors.

Happy Summer and Happy July to everyone!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

New Moon and Solar Eclipse: a new economy, a new beginning

Eclipses have been shaking up the charts of us Capricorns (and all you Cancers by extension) for two years there, with the last big influence for caps back in the winter.  During that two year pattern of Capricorn eclipses, I began two new businesses, started this blog, returned to three (!) graduate school programs, completed my life coaching certification, and split up with my ex co-parent.  I also found and rented an awesome house, am busy moving there, helped my daughter get into college and took an amazing part time job with an arts program I really respect.  So perhaps that gives you some idea of how important eclipses can be in your astrology chart!!

Today's eclipse is in the first degree of Gemini, and with my Gemini ascendant, it promises to be the beginning of a series of life changes in my future.  Yet with Gemini ruling travel, communication and ideas, the changes don't look as earth-shaking as those in 2010/11.  I love ideas and communcations and travel, so I am pretty open to the changes this eclipse/new moon bring:  bring it on, baby!  Shake it up!

One area I see changing in my life is in the realm of money.  Due to tax problems and money issues, my ex has not been able to support our children as usual this spring, meaning I have taken over everything from the car bill to the costs of all the kids lessons (piano, theater, voice, french horn, drawing, organ), to paying for basics like food.  I do hope at some point my ex will be able to start contributing child support, but until then, I am primary support for the bills.  And though I had been the work-from-home mommy who helped with lesson costs for many years, the move to being the pay-the-water-bill and make the rent mommy has not been the scary switch I expected.  Hardly.

Even when bills are tight, and they are, I find that feeding my kids, paying their teachers, and making the rent isn't just satisfying, it is downright joyful.  I want to feed my kids - which I tell them when they worry about my co-parent's money problems.  After all, feeding my kids, from a special Subway sandwich treat to buying good and healthy food, is central to giving life.  I wanna buy healthy food and fix them healthy meals, and I find myself loving to pay for the (admittedly more and more expensive) groceries.

The same is true for their lessons.  I have always helped with lesson costs, from back when I ran my own in-home daycare, until I opened my online store, and now today with my coaching business and etsy store and fledgling tarot business here.  Paying good piano teachers or good art teachers is also a joy.  I want artists and musicians to make decent, nay, good wages, and my paying is part of building an economy that supports real workers.  Since I pay cash, it is fun, too, to watch my kids when I pay $500 to their piano teacher, for example.  This is what I work for, and this is what they get:  a kickbutt teacher and kickbutt music lessons.  This is the economy I want for them, and they get to see it - in cash.

And as a new life coach, I am also intrigued now that I am selling, well, myself!   During my years of certification training, I gave half off to friends and family for my life coaching -  coaching with artists and with special needs issues.  When I completed my coaching certificate, however, I moved to asking for full rates for my services.  This is so different than my online store and online auctions, where I either put down a price or I put down a beginning bid, and then customers either buy or they don't!  Selling myself, it seems, invites people to bargain with me.  (Or I was conveying that, somehow!!)  In the past two weeks, however, I have talked with three potential clients, none of whom batted an eye at my fees.  I realized at some point that I am like the teachers I pay: people who care about my work will pay me with the same joy I feel when I pay teaching artists. 

I hear more and more moms telling me that they are moving to this new economy - a giving economy that values women, teachers, coaches, healers, artists.  We joyfully pay others for their services, and we expect a decent wage for our services.  The minimum wage service economy of post-industrial capitalism is being transformed into a service economy of respecting professionals creating a world of value and support. 

So what does all this have to do with Bridget?  Well, everything!  Bridget the poet, blacksmith and healer lived in a world where all were welcome to her home, where artists were valued, where healing was part of a commitment to God.  After all, I don't believe in a God that wants day care workers, nurses, teachers, massage therapists, special ed. workers, carpenters, artists, musicians, ministers or any other kind of healer living in poverty!  Nor does Bridget want that! 

Today's solar eclipse brings new ideas, and one idea that is rallying me is the idea of this new economy we are building.  I pay teachers with joy, and my clients pay me with joy.  Service equals growth and wholeness for everyone.  It is a new idea, and it is built on new forms of communication (from facebook to pinterest to meet up groups), and so it resonates with our gemini eclipse.  Puja involves worship, but puja has always been part of an economy of growth as well.  Puja involves money.

Today at the new moon/eclipse, instead of prayer or meditation, or perhaps in addition to, I invite everyone to offer some joyful money.  Pay a tithe at church; donate online; add some coins to your shrines.  Pay joyfully and help build a joyful economy, and that is yet another way to celebrate - and worship - Bridget.

Happy solar eclipse everybody!

image courtesy:

Monday, April 30, 2012

Beltaine Eve: Please support Women Religious (like Bridget)

We stand on the eve of Beltaine, today the 30th of April, and I am writing to ask for support for the most recent Catholic Church attack on religious sisters here in the United States. The Holy Father recently asked for a doctrinal investigation of US nuns, and found that though "there has been a great deal of work on . . . promoting issues on social justice and harmony," there hasn't been enough work on .... "right to life from conception. . ." and supporting "the church's view of Biblical Family life and human sexuality." (Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious).

Let's put that into English and what you get is: nuns are doing too much social justice work with the poor, and not enough work on the church's stand on abortion and homosexuality. In other words, American nuns are helping real people and not just threatening American families that don't conform to the Church Hierarchy's vision of patriarchal, nuclear families.

 Damn them nuns. They are always off doing work the Bishops don't like.

This is hardly the first time a church has questioned what women are doing.

Back in 1990 the Methodist Church flipped out when a Women's Week at a Dallas Methodist church included prayers to Sophia and use of the language Mother God. Go back to the 19th century and you have men in religious denominations telling women to go off and pray together alone, or worrying about what women did when they prayed together without men.

Go back even farther, and look at the history of the Beguines, 13th and 14th century "nuns", who rejected traditional orders, worked with the poor, coined their own money and had huge followings. The Beguines were expected to work, either in teaching or caring for the sick, to support themselves. They were mystics, and lived not in religious orders but in communes. Pope after Pope condemned them throughout the 13th century, though some groups held on until the Protestant Reformation.

Women, women, women, we just really are a problem for the churches of the world.

Yet the recent attack on Catholic nuns is just one more attack on all women in religion - whether it is pagan women, Jewish women, Hindu women or Buddhist and Muslim women. We are suspect because we take care of the poor, because we don't follow hierarchical goals of restricting families, because we support various forms of reproductive rights.

 No I am not saying we as women all agree. Heavens, no. However, we agree more than we often realize, and I say that as a woman on the border of religions who has pro-life and pro-choice friends in three of the world's major religions. I have fundamentalist tea-party friends and cloistered friends and Orthodox friends and friends with hijabs. And every single one of my friends works with children, speaks out for women's economic and social equality, for women's rights to explore God and deity and the holy without men on high limiting us in anyway.

 I know lots of Catholic nuns. I know nuns who teach, who care for the ill, who fight for justice all over the world, often standing up to guns and authorities. Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times points out that nuns were the first feminists. (Read his awesome editorial here.)

And let's remember, Saint Bridget, the saint I puja and follow, was a nun. A nun who welcomed all to her door. has a marvelous petition to support the nuns in America. Sign it here. And get out there and speak out for the nuns of our country, for the women who are doing the work that I would argue the church should be doing. American nuns are our sisters.

 Here on Beltaine Eve, let's stand with them, with Bridget, with women of all religions who are changing the world.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wanting, Laws of Attraction, and Desire

Ok, I'm plugging away in two graduate programs (counseling and ABA), and I've finished my Life Coach certification (yay!) and started my life coaching business teaching social skills to pre-teens, teens, and young adults with special needs. I spend hard hours each day planning local presentations, writing articles and press releases, meeting with my first clients, and still homeschooling my kids and feeding the dogs. Yea, phew! However, behind all the work is a vision, and I continue to have Bridget on my ass about getting out there with the spirituality of ABA. Her vision and my vision are relentless!

I am learning how to build my own business website as fast as I can, along with enewsletters, ebooks, online marketing and website monetizations (anyone want online tarot readings here??) I take two steps forward, and one back, every day it seems! Friends send me information on manifestation, the Law of Attraction, instant healing and how to use spiritual practice to build personal and monetary success. The Law of Attraction reminds me of good old spell casting! One of my favorite spells goes along familiar lines: "I call to me the power of (state your desire), and I release from myself any blocks to receiving (name the desire again)." It is a great spell, by the way, and should work well with manifesting.

One of the interesting things my friends tell me about manifesting is the importance of NOT stating or thinking: "I want." Want, so the theory goes, points to the lack of something. Thus I want money translates into universe speak to "I have no money," and then the universe responds to that lack by sending more wanting, and so you don't get money. It is an interesting point, and I've spent the last month or so trying to erase the word "want" from my vocabulary. I am using the words of intention instead, i.e "I intend to have 3 new clients by the end of March," (that worked), and "I intend to publish a new blog post every week." (worked as well!)

Between the intentions and the spell casting, my life is super busy ("I release from myself any block from getting an A this semester. . ." and "I call to me the power of a new house. . ."). Between spell casting and intentions and manifesting, I've gotten a wonderful new home for me and my kids, straight A's (so far) for the semester, great recommendations from clients, three upcoming speaking engagements, my life coach certification, a business plan that several business coaches have all approved, and a bunch of new friendships.

But I really miss the word want.

I do want, despite the manifesting, the spell casting, the laws of attraction. I want more. I want a diet coke. I want a retirement account. I want my children to get all the education they need. I want national health care. I want to end global warming.

And some of these things I lack (retirement, national health care, a diet coke), and some are more than just personal lack. I want nationalized healthcare beyond my own lack of health insurance - I want a society that provides for all people like every other industrial nation on earth.

Which brings me to desire. In current American speak, "I want" implies desire. As in "I want you." As in "I want hot sex." As in "I want public transportation for all." Desire is a sexy word, and can imply sex, but it is also more than sex. I desire political change as much as I desire good sex. (Hey, both are important!) Desire has become this word we rarely use, and want has mostly come to replace it. Yet even setting aside the laws of attraction, wanting has a lack implied to it, as in the noun form of the word. Want can mean poverty, loss. To be in want is to be without something important, necessary. Thus I want nationalized health care is apt, in that we in the States don't have either nationalized or adequate health care anywhere. We are all in want.

But I want to embrace desire. Because my desire for nationalized health care is beyond the lacking and the state of want. I desire nationalized health care as a deep wellspring of my being. I believe in providing for all and nationalized health care is part of that wellspring of me. I desire hot sex the same way, and I desire education for my children, and I desire just retirement for all, and I desire time and energy with my friends and loved ones and I desire new roses in the spring. Desire is more than want, more than lack, more than sex but certainly part of our innate sexualness.

Audre Lorde, that marvelous Black lesbian feminist poet and activist, wrote of the politics of the erotic. She wrote about the incredible political wellspring that the erotic can be, that in embracing our sexuality and erotic selves we come close to being whole, true, empowered, aware, political. Lorde named the erotic one of our inherent resources. She wrote of desire as a source of great strength and power. (Read her amazing essay here)

And I remember my own sermon, for my ordination back 24 years ago (eek!). I preached that evening on wanting. I spoke about the way we are taught to want in our culture: we want a diet coke. we want a new car. we want a new ipod. Wanting becomes commercialized. I spoke 24 years ago on wanting as a means to find our deepest longings, which inevitably leads to political change. We want clean air. We want clean water. We want safe schools. We want good jobs.

Now I am thinking of Lorde and my own sermon, the laws of attraction, manifestation, spell casting. I support prayers and spells and puja, and I am manifesting, attracting from the universe, and working with universal laws everyday - for school, for my kids, for Bridget. And I've started looking carefully at my use of the word "want."

And no matter what I attract, what I spell cast for, what I pray for, I still live as an embodied woman, alive with desire. Hey everyone, go puja, go pray, go manifest. We are living in amazing and changing times, and I want to encourage all of us to get out and manifest, spell cast, pray. But I wanna make sure we none of us give up desiring. Desire is at the heart of so much of our power, so much of creation, so much of change.

Surely desire is inherent to attraction anyway. Go desire something, someone, some change. Just desire. We can build some laws of desiring, on the journey of our soulpaths, on our walk with deity. So go desire. Desire with all your heart and being. Who knows the power and energy we will find, in our own simple, heartfelt desire.

: )

Bridget bless, everyone.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What to do when a deity rides your ass!

Sorry for the crass blog title, but for the last week Bridget herself has been on my case - usually around 4:30 a.m., and sending me Her message for my life. I am in my semester homework cycle - ahead, but barely, and starting my coaching business in earnest, and driving my teen all over Ohio to music schools so she can audition for college. In other words, Bridget I am busy! I need my sleep! Can you not just hold off?

I've had other deities visit me; Lugh showed up a year ago or so. I had offered my usual Lughnassad bread and beer for his holiness, watched the fireflies come out as you do on an August 1st night, and never thought much about it. Suddenly on my porch I had Lugh himself sitting down, taking his beer, and quietly hanging out with me. I wrote about my experience with Lugh over on Celtic Nation, and was met with some skepticism. True, I am not a huge Lugh follower. I think much of the skepticism came from the boys, all saying - covertly - what would Lugh wanna do drinking beer with silly little Bridget worshipper you? No one at Celtic Nation had ever doubted my relationship with Bridget or Aengus.

Anyway, Lugh has hung about and been a quiet and calm presence this past tumultuous year and a half - 4 school programs (two down, and two to go) plus starting the business, returning to part time work and the usual of rearing two kids with autism spectrum disorders. I think Lugh has been lovely in lending me energy. He is still about, and shows up for beer or a quiet break from his life. If you don't believe me, oh well.

Bridget showing up is no surprise. She too has been in my life since my visit to the Orkney Isles when she was the world all around. Bridget leads me in my mothering, in my poetry, my blacksmithing, and now my work as a healer. I mean, I do what Bridget does. Of course she is my deity!

Her appearance last week, however, was neither warm nor nurturing. At 4:30 a.m. she would flood my dreams and then my waking pre-dawn self with blogpost ideas for my business website, with story ideas, with magazine articles that need writing, with ebooks to write. Writing writing writing. Bridget has a message and she is using me to get it out there and she doesn't care about my sleep.

After three days of her early morning wake-up calls, I finally got up and re-vamped my business website completely, added new categories and pages, and most importantly, talked about the spirituality of rearing special needs children. The minute I wrote that post, offered coaching for parents of special needs kids, and planned some upcoming parenting workshops for spirituality and prayer, she eased off and let me get some sleep.

So whadda ya do when a deity rides you like this? Well, the simple answer is do what you are called to do! Lugh says hang out and have a beer, and who am I to argue? (Lugh may hang about 'cause I am so happy to give him mine!) Bridget wakes you at 4 a.m. and says write a blogpost, just do it. It woulda been better if I had gotten up that first a.m. and written every idea down right then. Sure more ideas came, but after three days of re-writing - and early wake-ups - I finally got the words down that Bridget wanted, and her insisting presence moved on.

Deities come and speak to us. Angels send us messages. Spirits lead us to classes and teachers and friendships we need. Saints send us poetry. When a deity rides your metaphorical butt, the best thing to do is ride your muse, follow your inspiration, heed the call from within.

And be ready to follow again, 'cause once you start puja to one Saint or Deity, be aware, more will always follow.

Here's to your sleep! Follow your spiritual path! Some days, sleep is not as important as the work we are called to do!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Happy Imbolc Y'all!

Ok everybody, Happy St. Bridget's Day. Time to honor my puja to Bridget with a post!

I have spent the winter starting my own coaching business, working with special needs teens and young adults, and happily already have two clients. Yes I need more. I also needed a website (done!), marketing plan (done and evolving daily!), a business plan (done!), legal stuff (some done, some left to do), and a new phone (done!) Lots of hard work and hard planning. The coaching part is the easiest!

During this time of building and visioning, I have been following a mated woodpecker pair in my woods. Pileated woodpeckers abound here in SW Pennsylvania, loving the woods and streams of the Laurel Highlands. These are huge woodpeckers, too, 16 to 19 inches high, with a lovely red streak on their heads, and a call rather like a laughing hyena. I love them!

I see the woodpeckers most in the summer; they love the mulberries in my backyard, and flit from the woods in the hollow up to my yard, grab a berry, and fly back. They are huge, like crows with red, flying back and forth all day long on a June day. This winter, however, they have been hanging closer to my house, gathering daily in scrub woods at the back of my yard, and chittering together all day. I have been blessed to watch my pileated pair dancing in the trees! I called my local zoo to ask what pileated woodpecker dancing means, and they said that they had no idea. Ok.

So of course, with dancing woodpeckers in my yards, my augury spirit was called forth. What can dancing woodpeckers mean as a call from the universe or from Bridget?

There are numerous Pileated stories in First Nation myths: Pileated woodpeckers brought flutes and music to the Lakota; an Annishinabe tale credits the Pileated with helping a warrior defeat a giant, and the warrior put the giant's blood on the woodpecker's head in thanks. Woodpeckers beat out rhythm on trees, and are connected to drummers, music, and the heartbeat of the mother.

Woodpeckers are also hard headed. Their skull is reinforced with extra bone so they pound away at trees and find bugs, grubs and ants for food. Woodpecker bills are both tremendously strong and long enough to find insects. Woodpeckers don't sing to announce their presence, they pound instead.

For Cherokee teachings, woodpeckers are associated with discernment, learning to find truth, and knowing when to speak (pound on trees) or stay silent and still. Elder RedArrow calls Woodpecker the teacher of personal truth, persistence, hard work and honor. Woodpeckers have the ability to discern truth from lies, and to find hidden secrets with their excavations of trees for their nests.

While I spend this winter watching the pileated pair in my yard, I am holding hard to their message of persistence and hard work. I am building a new career that is flexible for my family, and hard work and following inner truth is something I am determined will pay off! Woodpecker, then, is leading me in hard work. As Elder RedArrow says: "Woodpecker is telling us that even if something seems difficult to do, not to give up. To do what works, even if it is unconventional. To set your own pace, your own rhythm."

My own rhythm is something I clearly appreciate! When I first read that woodpecker represents drumming, I was not sure how to understand this teaching. I don't like drumming; I like - no love - to dance to drumming! And I see myself as dancer and weaver and not drummer and musician. (Not that gazillions of musicians aren't part of my life!)

Yet Woodpecker augury for me this St. Bridget's day is a message of persistence. Of not giving up. Of hanging in there and following my own inner drummer. I am building so much these days, building a new life and new vision of my world, and every time I am tired and walk into my back yard, Pileated Woodpecker is there, calling me on, dancing in trees, laughing and calling me and pounding on for truth.

This Imbolc, I am listening to Woodpecker. And Woodpecker is telling me to listen to myself.

May you find this sacred day special and prophetic; may you find your inner voice in the fires to sacred Bridget; may you follow your path.

Happy Imbolc.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Oh, the Places You'll Go at Burning Man!

I have been behind blogging again! And I am working on a post for augury as I write. But in the meantime some awesome inspiration from Dr. Seuss, via Burning Man!