Celebrating Autumn Equinox: A Simple Ritual of Thanksgiving

My Autumn Equinox altar.

I feel like I could say that every holiday is my favorite one when it arrives, but this year I am especially excited about Autumn Equinox, which will be on Friday, September 22nd. It has been a long, hot, smokey summer, and the return of the autumn rains here in the northwest has me ready to cozy up on the couch with my knitting, my journal, and a good book to thoroughly enjoy the cool, showery weather. I’m already feeling the pull to turn inside myself as we enter this introspective season.

Autumn Equinox is also a time of giving thanks for what we have harvested in our lives so far this year, and I like to include a ritual of gratitude during my celebrations.

For this simple ritual, you’ll need a little bowl of some small item like dried beans, dried rose hips, rice, nuts, sunflower seeds, or a grain of some kind. You want whatever you use to be large enough to pick up piece by piece, so millet or quinoa might not be the best choice! You’ll also want a small jar or another bowl to transfer the items into.

You can do this as part of a larger ritual, or this can be your whole Autumn Equinox celebration.

Light a candle and cast a circle if you would like to. Or you could sit outside to do this ritual enjoying the sights and smells of autumn.

Take a few deep breaths and center yourself. Now, pick up one bean (or whatever you are using) and say something that you are grateful for, and transfer it to the other bowl or jar. Keep going until all your items have been transferred from one bowl to the other. You may have to get creative as you go on, depending on how many items you started out with, but it will help you remember all the things you are grateful for, even things you may not think of very often like having clean water flowing from your faucets, or the fan that kept you cool through the summer heat.

I keep this “gratitude bowl” on my Autumn Equinox altar, to help remind me of all the blessings in my life, and of all that I have harvested this year, big and small.

This year, I will also be adding a small jar of rainwater to my altar in thanksgiving for the return of the rains that have helped dampen the fires that have been burning here in the west, and have cleared the air of smoke. Blessed be the rain! Blessed be fresh air!

If you’d like, you can also do the Autumn Equinox tarot spread that I shared last year.

What seasonal changes are you seeing where you live? How do you like to honor the change in seasons from summer to fall?

May you have a blessed Autumn Equinox and a blessed fall!

Lammas Musings and Tarot Spread

It’s harvest time! Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere will be celebrating Lammas, or Lughnasadh, on August 1 or 2, depending on your preference.

Lammas is a holiday that tends to get overlooked a lot of the time, although it is one of my favorites. Like its sister holiday, Candlemas (or Imbolc), on the opposite side of the wheel, it is the beginning of a major seasonal transition. While August is often one of the hottest months here in Oregon (in fact, we are supposed to be over 100 all this week, possibly even up to 113, setting a record for the hottest temperature ever recorded here), the gradual shift to autumn is apparent in the shortening days and the autumnal slant of the light as we move toward September.

This is also a time of abundant harvest. In my area melons, peaches, blackberries, cucumbers, corn and tomatoes are ripening quickly, and I’m enjoying fresh local fruits and veggies with every meal. I am, however, a little worried about what this week’s excessive heat might do to the harvest, and will be keeping my little tomato plants well-watered this week. Thank Goddess that we had a wet winter with a lot of snow in the mountains, so we still have plenty of water available for irrigation for our farmers right now.

In our personal lives, this is a good time to take stock of our year so far and see where we are. What have we harvested so far this year? What can we be grateful for? And what might need to be sacrificed in order to keep ourselves on track towards our goals and dreams?

Sacrifice can be a scary word, and it can come with a lot of baggage in a culture that often tells women that they should sacrifice their own health, dreams, time, and comfort for the sake of others. But Lammas is the season of sacrifice, when plants are harvested and die to feed us and other animals, continuing the circle of life.

Sadly, it is true that we can’t have it all. To make positive changes in our lives, we will have to sacrifice something to make room for it, whether that is a limiting belief, a way of interacting with others, an attitude, an activity that we may enjoy, or perhaps one that we simply use to procrastinate. I’ve been learning this lesson lately as I work to limit the time I spend watching Netflix so that I have time to read, paint, journal, and do other activities that really fill me up instead of just zoning out in front of the TV (I still get to do that occasionally though—balance!). I can’t watch a lot of TV and read lots of books and create lots of art, there just isn’t enough time in the day. I had to decide which of these things I was willing to sacrifice. But giving up our habits is never easy or comfortable.

This Lammas tarot spread explores these themes of harvest and sacrifice as we move through this transitional season toward Autumn Equinox.

Question: What do I need to know during this next turn of the wheel? (From Lammas until Autumn Equinox)

  1. Overall Theme
  2. Key Opportunity
  3. Key Challenge
  4. What is my most important harvest at this time?
  5. What might I need to sacrifice in order to ensure a full harvest?
  6. What action(s) can I take to share my abundance with others?

It has not been the easiest year, and I am feeling that, too. If you feel like you haven’t harvested anything, that none of your hopes and dreams for the year seem to be manifesting, try not to give in to a sense of despair. The cards you draw will show you that something is being harvested right now. It may not be something huge, it may be simply that you have made a small change, like drinking more water, that is benefiting your health. Or perhaps you’ve taken up journaling again, and as a result are starting to listen to your inner voice.

I feel like the Wheel of the Year often gets associated with working on big, lofty goals and dreams, and that is wonderful, but that isn’t appropriate for all of us at all times. Some of us may be making small, but important, changes to improve our lives. Celebrate those little harvests, too. I got just as excited about the first tiny tomato that ripened on my plants as I will about the large tomatoes that I will soon be harvesting. In fact, when they all start ripening at once it can actually get a little overwhelming as I try to figure out what to do with them all! So celebrate your small victories and your tiny tomato harvests, because they matter, too.

Also, if you are looking for something delicious to make to celebrate Lammas, I made this Cheese, Herb & Garlic Quick Bread last year, and it was so delicious. I highly recommend it!

Blessed Lammas to you all!

A Summer Solstice Tarot Spread

Cards pictured are from Monstarot Tarot Deck, the Gaian Tarot, and Tarot of the Crone. Goddess figures from Brigid’s Grove, and the sun prayer beads are available in my Etsy shop.

Summer Solstice kind of sneaked up on me this year—I can hardly believe it is tomorrow! This year the Solstice falls on different dates, though, depending on your timezone, so for some of you it will be on the 21st.

It is definitely starting to feel like summer here. The high today is supposed to be near 100. At the Grower’s Market this weekend cherries and blueberries were available, as well as lots of lettuces and greens, and a few early cucumbers. My absolute favorite part of summer is enjoying the succession of fresh, local fruits and vegetables. The tomato plants I am growing  are full of flowers and green tomatoes. They’ll enjoy this heat we’re having, even if I don’t!

At this peak of the sun’s energy, we celebrate creativity and the fruit it bears. We celebrate the creative, fertile power of the earth that feeds us, and our own creative energy that brings joy to ourselves and others.

As the sun grows stronger, my thoughts have also been turning to questions about power—how we access it, how we use it, how we fail to claim it, or give it away to others. I am writing here of our own personal power, the power to direct and make choices in our own lives, not “power-over,” i.e. trying to control others, that is the more common association with power in our culture.

This spread for the Summer Solstice looks at these themes of creativity and power, helping us to call on the energy of the sun, even as it begins to wane again, to help us access our own inner power and to light our creative fires.

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

  1. Overall Theme
  2. Key Opportunity
  3. Key Challenge
  4. What will fuel my creative fire during this time?
  5. In what area of my life do I most need to claim my own power?
  6. What action(s) can I take to stand firm in my own power and live according to my own values?

I’d love to hear how your reading goes. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about the spread.

May you have a blessed Summer Solstice and a blessed summer season!

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!

A Tarot Spread for Spring Equinox

Tomorrow, March 20th, the wheel turns again to spring. Some of you may be feeling the fullness of spring already, while I know others are still snowed in. Here we can’t seem to shake endless gray, rainy days, but the flowers are blooming, the bright green grass is springing up, and tree buds are beginning to open.

I have been dealing with lower back spasms for almost a week now, and today I also seem to be coming down with a cold. I don’t get sick or injured very often, so to be both at the same time is a bit mystifying, and also seriously annoying! I had one day this week where I felt better and was able to get out for a visit to the river and a brief walk, but apparently I overdid it, because my back has been painful again ever since. Not being able to get outside or to exercise is making me crazy!

I haven’t gotten to do any of the spring cleaning I had planned to do, or the spring life detox I had been planning. I wish I could say I’ve been using all this downtime wisely by reading great books and meditating a lot, but I’m afraid I’ve mostly been lying on the couch with a heating pad or an ice pack, watching Netflix, and feeling sorry for myself. In my defense, I have tried to read, but it is hard to focus when you are in pain. I have definitely gained greater empathy for those who suffer from chronic pain through this ordeal.

So, I don’t know how much celebrating I’m going to get to do for the Equinox tomorrow, but I will at least do a simple ritual and my tarot reading for the next turn of the wheel. Here is the spread that I will be using:

Question: What do I need to know during this next turn of the wheel?

  1. Overall Theme
  2. Key Opportunity
  3. Key Challenge
  4. What is beginning to bloom in my life?
  5. How can I best support the growth of my projects/ideas/visions?
  6. How can I honor the Maiden within me? What does She most need from me?

If you did the Winter Solstice and Candlemas spreads, you might want to refer back to the cards you drew for the questions “What dream or vision am I nurturing in the dark?” and “What seed is beginning to send out roots within me?”. How do those cards relate to the cards you have drawn for questions 4 and 5 of this spread? Are you seeing the movement of a dream, project, or vision from the dreaming phase during the dark of deep winter, to the blooming phase now in spring? Also, in our culture it is easy to relate dreams and projects to work, or to the way we make a living. Remember that we have dreams and projects in all areas of our lives—relationships, health, spirituality, creativity, our homes, etc., so you don’t have to limit your interpretation only to work issues.

Well, that’s about all the sitting upright my back can handle for now. I think I’ll be doing some Reiki and crystal healing for my back and the impending cold today. Maybe I can head off the cold!

I hope you all have a wonderful Spring Equinox!

Candlemas Day and a Couple of Inspiring Videos

I hope everyone had a wonderful Candlemas/Imbolc! Candlemas Day was absolutely gorgeous here. We had sun and clouds with temperatures in the low 60s—our warmest day since autumn! I wandered around one of my favorite parks, exploring small pools full of shells left behind by the receding river, and feeling my heart leap with joy every time I looked up at the beautiful blue sky. After almost a week of fog, having sun on Candlemas was such a blessing!

candlemaswalk

Exploring pools down by the Applegate River. Sorry that this is so washed out! I was so blinded by the sun that I didn’t get a good picture.

In the evening I celebrated with a ritual and did my Candlemas tarot reading. I didn’t take a picture of my spread since it was too dark to get a decent shot, but it was a positive and encouraging reading. I did, however, get Death as my “overall theme” card for this turn of the wheel. Gulp! Looks like I may be experiencing some major transformation between now and Spring Equinox. Change isn’t easy, especially for this Taurus, but I also know that it really is time to let some things die so I can move forward in a new way.

The daffodil bulbs in my yard are growing by inches every week, and several of them already have buds. Yesterday, on my way to the river I saw a hazelnut tree with catkins unfurled and clouds of yellow pollen being blown away with the wind. At the river, I found that some willow flowers are opening, one of the my favorite signs of early spring (their flowers are those downy catkins often referred to as “pussy willows”).

willowflowers

Willow flowers beginning to open.

Nature has been putting on quite the inspiring show, but I also found inspiration of a more social and political kind from these two videos this past week:

Are you feeling you own energy awaken as the days lengthen and you start to see the very first signs of spring? I know I am, and it feels great!

Bright early spring blessings to you all!

Candlemas Musings and a Tarot Spread

candlemas17

My Candlemas altar. The image of Brigid is from Joanna Powell Colbert, which she graciously gave to us to color and use on our altars in a Candlemas class I took from her several years ago. My parents brought me the silver Brigid’s cross pendant from Ireland last year.

I have to admit, life has been challenging lately. I imagine many of you are feeling the same way. I feel like I’m being bombarded by horrible news on a daily basis, but I can’t seem to look away. I’m trying to balance staying informed with staying sane, but it isn’t easy. Things feel heavy and overwhelming, but there are also hopeful moments like the Women’s March, and the way people are being activated to get involved.

I’ve been doing what I can to cope with it all. I’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors, walking or just sitting in the sun (when we are lucky enough to have some!).

I’ve been starting most of my mornings at my altar, followed by half an hour or so of yoga (I have been enjoying the Revolution series by Yoga with Adriene). That gets my day off to a good start, as long as I manage NOT to check Facebook or the news afterwards while I eat breakfast.

I’ve been reading a lot of women’s spirituality books. I just finished When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone, which I found at a used bookstore a couple of weeks ago. Why had I not read this book before? It is so good.

I’ve been watching Parks and Recreation on Netflix when I need a mindless break from it all. I’m not usually much of a sitcom/comedy person, but I like the characters and it always makes me laugh.

I have been struggling to get myself to make art, although I know it would help.

And so it goes, one day at a time.

Now, Candlemas is almost upon us, and it is one of my favorite holy days. The days are noticeably longer now. Here bulbs are sprouting, buds are ever-so-slightly swelling, and hazelnut catkins are opening, releasing their pollen to fertilize their tiny magenta flowers, the first flowers of the year. There is a sense of hope in the air. Spring is on its way, life and growth are returning to the world. Even for those of you who are still deep in winter, the increasing light promises that the snow will melt and spring will arrive.

I love the themes of Candlemas: cleansing and purification, illumination and inspiration, rebirth, initiation and dedication, creativity.

This is the time of year to asks ourselves what needs cleansed in our lives. Do we want to do a thorough spring cleaning between now and the Spring Equinox? Or maybe just clean out a certain part of our homes—a closet that really needs attention, our kitchen cupboards, our clothes, or our bookcases. Do we want to cleanse an activity like checking the news or Facebook (I’m looking at myself here!), cut sugar out of our diet, or commit to drinking a detox tea each day?

It is also a time for initiations and dedications. Are we ready to commit ourselves to a course of spiritual study, to working with a particular Goddess for the year, to reading a certain number of spiritual books, or to practicing regular prayer or devotions? What part of our spiritual path or practice is calling us to deeper commitment and devotion?

As the light grows, as new life begins to emerge all around us, what do we feel inspired to do? Is it time to get to work on an idea for a project or creative practice that has been simmering deep inside during the winter months? I know it is definitely time for me to get myself back to my art table, if only to play in my art journal and enjoy myself. Because this time of year is also the time of the Maiden, who is young, light, free, playful and full of life. Let’s shake off some of the winter darkness and have some fun!

Here is a tarot spread you can use on Candlemas to answer some of these questions and find your own inspiration for the next turn of the wheel:

tarotlayout

Question: What do I need to know during this next turn of the wheel?

  1. Overall Theme
  2. Key Opportunity
  3. Key Challenge
  4. What seed is beginning to send out roots within me? (This could be an idea for a project, a dream, a new beginning.)
  5. Where in my life can I be more playful and creative?
  6. How can I more fully devote myself to my spiritual path?

Candlemas blessings to you! May you find a spark of light to guide you when things seem dark. May we all be blessed with hope and love as life returns to the earth. Blessed be.