A Tarot Spread for Beltane

Beltane (May 1) is almost upon us, and the lush, vibrant energy of deep spring is in the air here in southwestern Oregon. I have been especially captivated by the dogwoods this year, both the lovely white and pink ornamentals growing in yards, as well as our native Pacific Dogwoods that stand out on wooded hillsides, their flowers glowing white in a sea of fresh green leaves.

Almost all of our trees have leaves on them now, although some are still small, fresh, and tender. With all the rain we have had, the grasses are thick and lush, painting the mountains a vibrant green.

Yesterday, I saw a Starling feeding its young, and it won’t be long before there are juvenile Black-Capped Chickadees, Lesser Goldfinches, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Downy Woodpeckers begging for food from their harried parents at my feeders.

Every time I go for a drive it seems that the hillsides are covered in a new variety of flowers. This week the hills were covered in a blanket of pink Rosy Plectritis flowers, with a scrubby, gray-green species of Ceanothus covered in white blossoms among them.

A hill covered in Rosy Plectritis and Ceanothus.

Rosy Plectritis, up close.

May Day (or Beltane) is a time of riotous beauty as flowers bloom all around us. It is lusty, lush, and abundant. However, few things are producing seeds and fruits at this time, the energy is instead the energy of potential, and it still requires nurturing to ensure a full harvest. Right now, we simply celebrate the return of life, the return of fertility, and the potential of future fruitfulness and harvests to come.

I have created this tarot spread for Beltane to honor the energy of this season, and to help us find vibrancy and a zest for life in our own lives.

Question: What do I need to know during this next turn of the wheel? (From Beltane until Summer Solstice)

  1. Overall Theme
  2. Key Opportunity
  3. Key Challenge
  4. What do I need to nurture in my life during this time?
  5. What should I move away from that keeps me from celebrating and enjoying my life?
  6. What should I move towards to more fully participate in the simple joys and pleasures of life?

I’d love to hear how your reading goes.

May you have a blessed Beltane!

Discovering the Benefits of Praying with Prayer Beads

One of my handmade rosaries (available in my Etsy shop).

I had an interesting experience last week. I haven’t been using my prayer beads as regularly as usual over the past few weeks, but I always have a rosary or two beside my bed. As I climbed into bed one night last week, I felt the urge to pick up my rosary and pray, even though I really wasn’t feeling very spiritual that evening. But as soon as I picked up my beads and started repeating the familiar prayers, I felt…calm. Centered. Connected to Goddess. It was like all of the prayers I had prayed with my beads were still contained within them, a sort of magic that transported me into a space of connection with and devotion to Goddess, just by picking up the beads and repeating the prayers I have prayed so many times before.

This wasn’t a flashing lights and trumpets kind of experience, it was a quiet and gentle, but it was still profound. First, it showed me the benefit of regular spiritual practice. Our spiritual practice isn’t going to be filled with sparkles and fairy dust every day, but some days it will. And when we are in a difficult or dark place, turning to those practices we have done so many times before can help us find our connection to the Divine again, can help us find the spark of light in the darkness. There is a kind of muscle memory in our practices that helps imprint the good experiences we have had while doing them in the past, and sometimes just by going through the motions, we can move ourselves back into the experience of those positive moments again.

I have had a similar experiences while knitting or cross stitching. It seems that when we are doing something repetitive and engaging our hands in the process, our minds retain information and experiences more easily. I actually had an organic chemistry professor in college who encouraged us to knit or crochet in class because he thought we retained the information better than when we were furiously trying to take notes. Often when I’m working on a needlework project, and pick it up again, I’ll have vivid memories of what I was watching or listening to the last time I worked on it.

In a bit of wonderful synchronicity, the radio show “To the Best of Our Knowledge” did a whole episode yesterday on handwork, and how doing things like knitting and drawing can help us become calm and better retain information. I also found this study showing the physical benefits of repetitive prayers and mantras.

I think the reason I love working with prayer beads so much is that it combines both repetitive prayer and the tactile sensation of moving beads through our hands—a two-for-one combo of practices that are known to help us move into a calm, centered, meditative state. It’s no wonder that using prayer beads is a popular practice in so many religions.

Some days praying with my beads is just routine. Some days my mind wanders and I have trouble focusing. But by repeating the practice, I realize now that I’m creating a bit of magic for myself that can help me through the difficult times in my life. I’m creating a connection to Goddess that is there for me when I most need it. Sometimes just picking up my beads and holding them makes me feel better.

What spiritual practices do you use, and how have they helped you through the challenges in your life? I’d love to know!

No, We Aren’t Spiritual Failures

The spiral necklace that I wear every day, to remind me that life is a journey.

I’ve been struggling with my spiritual practice ever since hurting my back and then being sick for three weeks with a cold. I got out of the habit of my daily morning practice, and out of the habit of reading, meditating, praying, or journaling in the evenings, and it has been hard to get back to it since I started feeling better. It is easy to start feeling like a spiritual failure.

So many of us find most of our spiritual community online. We follow spiritual people that we admire on Facebook and Instagram, and many of them only share positive posts showing their lovely treks in the woods, their morning spent journaling over their coffee, their altar glowing with candles for their evening rituals. It is encouraging to see these kind of posts, and I try to keep my posts positive, too, but this isn’t the whole story for me, and I’m guessing that it isn’t the whole story for anyone else, either.

Life gets messy. We get sick, or our family members or friends get sick, and our practice languishes. Or you may struggle with anxiety or depression like I do, which can sometimes hit us out of nowhere and leave our spiritual lives as well as our everyday lives in shambles. Dirty dishes pile up, beds don’t get made, our altars get dusty. Yet we see these other people online who seem to have it together every day with perfect homes, perfect children, perfect spiritual lives, and we start to feel like we’re doing sometime wrong, failing in some way. That we aren’t trying hard enough, or maybe we’re on the wrong path, or maybe we’re just not cut out for living a spiritual life.

However, over the years I’ve come to realize the ups-and-downs of our spiritual lives are just normal. I’ve gone months, even years, without a regular spiritual practice, feeling adrift and unsure about my path. But I always get back to it eventually, and as I’ve practiced more regularly over the years, as I’ve gotten more clear about my path and more dedicated to it, I experience fewer periods of uncertainty, and they don’t last as long as they used to. But they still happen, and that is okay. I am not a spiritual failure.

I think this is why the spiral is one of my favorite symbols. To me it represents our journey, both our journey in this lifetime, as well as over many lifetimes. Sometimes we are moving towards the center, feeling tuned in and connected to Goddess/the Divine. Other times we are on the outer edge of the spiral, feeling like we are moving backwards, away from Goddess, away from our spiritual center. But it is all part of the journey, the moving inward, and the spiraling outward, and wherever we are on the path is simply where we are on the path, we don’t have to judge it. We are not spiritual failures.

Our spiritual practices are important, and they are definitely worth working our way back into, even during those times when we don’t feel like it (I have a whole other post planned soon about that!), but sometimes, we just aren’t going to do them. Sometimes, we are going to feel disconnected from the Divine. Sometimes, we aren’t going to have any inspiring photos to post to Facebook or Instagram. Sometimes we are going to doubt ourselves, and doubt that we are on the right path. But we still aren’t spiritual failures.

Spiritual growth comes from the struggle to get back to our practices, to find our center again, to reestablish our connection with Goddess, even if it takes months, or years. Maybe sometimes all we need to do is just yearn for that connection, even if we aren’t taking any active steps to get back to it. I hope that is true, because some days yearning is all I have. And some days I don’t even have that. Yet, I’m still not a spiritual failure.

I write this for myself as much as for anyone else. I don’t have the answers, really. I just know that I periodically spiral away from my spiritual practice, and I miss it, and I spiral back towards it again.

Maybe there are some people who find a spiritual practice, a spiritual path, and stick with it perfectly without any issues, but that hasn’t been my experience, or the experience of most people who I know. And if it hasn’t been your experience, either, don’t worry: you aren’t a spiritual failure.

You’re just a human on a journey to reconnect with the Divine. You’ll find your way back again, and so will I. There is no way for us to fail at this, because there is no final destination, no perfect way to be. It is a continuous journey, whether we’re moving forward or backward, or standing still. We can’t get it wrong.

Blessed be the journey!

A Simple Healing Ceremony & a Beautiful Gift

It has been a while since I’ve had the energy to write. I have had a really bad cold for the last two weeks. I know generally a cold sounds like no big deal, and usually they aren’t, but this one has been awful, and I’m still somewhat congested and coughing, although it gets a little better every day. I’m starting to feel semi-human again, one day at a time, and to get some energy back.

I have gradually been able to get back to visiting my favorite parks and natural areas over the past week. Yesterday was a gorgeous, sunny day (we are finally having a few days of sun!!!) and I went out to my favorite park by the Applegate River.

As I sat on the bank, I was inspired to do a simple healing ritual, to help heal this cold and some lingering back pain, as well as to heal some fears and worries. I drew the Womanrunes healing rune (a sun image) in the dirt in front of me. Then I picked up a stone, and imagined pouring my illness, my pain, my worries and fears into the stone. When I felt complete, I threw it as far as I could into the river, and visualized the river carrying all my troubles away.* I then poured water from my water bottle over the rune I had drawn as an offering to the spirits of the land, the river, and to Goddess. It was a simple, impromptu ceremony, but it made me feel connected to the land, to Goddess, and to my magical self, which I have not been feeling much lately.

After my little ceremony, I took a brief walk, and I had the sudden urge to veer off the path to see if there were any shade-loving wildflowers growing in a patch of trees nearby. A few steps off of the path, I looked down and noticed what I thought at first was a cool-looking fallen branch, but when I reached to pick it up I realized it was a deer antler! It has been one of my dreams to find a shed antler (and some shed snakeskin—I’ll have to keep looking for that!), and I almost couldn’t believe it was real when I picked it up. I’ll admit to looking like a nut talking out loud to myself and saying things like, “Holy crap, I don’t believe it!” and “This is SO COOL! Wow!” It is a beautiful antler in perfect condition. I love looking at the scrapes and scratches along the tips and imagining its owner scratching his antlers on a tree, or butting heads with another buck. What a beautiful gift, I am so grateful for it!

The beautiful antler I found.

The antler now has pride of place on my altar, and I also have the sudden urge to learn more about Elen of the Ways, the antlered Goddess. Her name has been coming to me recently, and after finding the antler, I feel like I need to start learning more about her.

I hope that you are enjoying spring wherever you are! I am so grateful to finally be able to get out and enjoy the sunshine, the wildflowers, and the fresh new leaves that are appearing on the trees right now.

Spring blessings to you all!

*This stone healing ritual was inspired by the article “A Ritual to Banish Fear” by Susan Perry, found in SageWoman magazine, Volume II, Issue #7, Fall 1988. I love the simplicity of it, and often use it to banish fear and worry when I visit the river.