Episode 32 | “Imagine: For All the People” |a ritual for the pandemic

Listen to the podcast or watch the original interview with Mary Ann Handley on YouTube.

It's mid-March, 2020. The corona virus known as COVID 19 has been declared a pandemic. This post is not to provide information about the virus. I'm not qualified.  This post is to share information about the “Spanish Flu” of 1918, as told to me nearly two years ago in an interview on my show, Page 1.  

It was May, 2018. My guest was Mary Ann Handley, a retired history professor and retired state senator from Connecticut. A few days earlier, I had heard her speak at the Manchester Historical Society on the subject of the “Spanish Flu” of 1918, the third pandemic in world history. 

I was, and still am,  working on a novel that takes place during that time period. As a writer, I know that research can unearth the kind of details needed to make characters believable, plot plausible, setting vivid, and conflict compelling.  Because Page 1 is a show for writers, I framed the interview with them in mind. My idea was to explore the details from an event in history and find viable story seeds. 

One of the challenges around the flu of 1918 was that information was not as readily available as it is today. Because the news couldn't be disseminated with a tweet, preventing the spread of the virus proved impossible. We know now that people should have been self-quarantined. Instead, they gathered for parades and other large, public events.

Today, we do have more information and we have it faster than ever before. That brings its own challenge. Schools, restaurants, gyms, theaters, places of worship, and businesses large and small are closed. Many of us are self-quarantined. We worry. 

I don't have an answer. I do have a simple ritual. It's called “Imagine: For All the People.” I based the ritual on the lyrics of the song “Imagine” by John Lennon. 

Keep in mind that ritual is a visible act performed with invisible intent. My visible act is writing this blog post in which I tell you how I envision a world where “six degrees of separation” isn’t something we think of only when imagining how close we could be to someone famous.  Instead, six degrees of separation is something we realize when thinking how each of us, the “ordinaries” of the world, is connected to another “ordinary”  in another country, on another continent.

My invisible intent is wrapped up in the word “ordinary.”  You might interpret it as meaning “nothing special.” I think of ordinary coming from ordinarius, the Latin word for “rule.” I want a peaceful, healthy, climate-stable world. I imagine six others who want the same: a teacher in South Africa, a shaman in Peru, a child in Australia, a farmer in Timber Lake, South Dakota,  a soldier in Ukraine, a woman in Cornamuck, Northern Ireland.

My invisible intent is for my vision to reach those six people, and for each of them to spread the vision to six more people…and on and on.  By spreading the vision, the whole world is eventually shaped by the ruling desire of ordinary people who envision a peaceful, healthy, climate-stable world. 

Now it's your turn. 

(1) Imagine something positive about how the world will be when this pandemic is over. Write it down. Or, tell someone. One person has already told me she wants a new administration in Washington. Another, a nurse, said she wants the hygiene measures we're taking now to continue, knowing those measures will help in future flu seasons.  What do you want?

(2) Imagine six people in six different places in the world. Imagine that they share your vision of a better post-pandemic world. Imagine that they share that vision with six more people, and on, and on.

(3) Imagine that your shared vision spreads faster than Covid 19. In a time like this, when tension and uncertainty are high, it's certainly helpful to look at beautiful art, to read poetry, to listen to calming music, to walk in nature, to dance in the rhythm of your bones. It's also helpful — I think it's critical — that we add to the pool of positivity. 

Dare to Dream.  Imagine the world you want. Imagine it for all the people. If you need help getting started, use this ritual. 

I've started a thread on Facebook.com/MoonRiverRituals.  Share your vision. Who knows? One of your six people might feel the same way.   

 

 

 

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Keys: A Ritual for Weddings, First Looks, and Personal Talismans (Episode 31)

Couples getting married often use a key as a motif for their wedding. It makes sense. The mere presence of a key indicates something of value, a treasure worth protecting. That understanding is what inspired me to create a wedding ceremony ritual I call “The Key to My Heart.”

Throughout time, keys have protected physical items such as gold, silver, currency, crops. Keys have also been associated with knowledge and success, freedom and liberation, authority and power. Such associations have been around for centuries. For example, keys on a coat of arms indicate a lineage known for trust and loyalty.

Keys and Cultural Traditions

Cultures all over the world have stories about keys. In Ireland, many folktales feature magical keys that can open any door, especially doors to the fairy realm. That’s where mortals are known to go in search of health, wealth, and love. 

 In Ancient Rome, grain for the community was kept in special warehouses, guarded by Portunas, the god of doors and keys. Because the grain was harvested in August, that’s when the Romans held a festival to honor Portunas. As with most festivals, it would include a ritual fire. Fire was believed to purify. People who wanted to turn their lives around, would toss their keys into the fire for good luck.  

In Ancient Greece, the gates to the Underworld were locked with a golden key to keep the souls of the dead from escaping.

That idea is echoed in the pattern we call the Greek Key. It symbolizes the labyrinth that imprisoned the part-man-part-bull monster called the Minotaur.

In some cultures in Northern Europe, when a woman got married she became responsible for the family’s property. As a sign of her power, she wore a key around her neck or on a belt, someplace where people could see it. 

In Sweden, the doors of a church were seen as the opening to eternal life, with the keys having the power to cure the sick. Church keys were formed with three circles on the top. If a child was sick, a piece of his or her clothing would be passed through the circles on the key.

Church keys were often on loan to members of the community, and not just to cure illness. If a young man were attracted to a young woman, he would thread his handkerchief through the circles on the key and then strike the woman with the handkerchief. Doing so would supposedly cause her to fall in love with him and be forever compliant. Supposedly.

Keys for All
For thousands of years, people stored their belongings in chests and boxes. In the late 1800s, it became popular to have a cabinet, or a desk, or a special drawer that could be locked. Eventually, the desire for a personal container that could be locked took shape in a girl’s little pink diary with its flimsy, but oh-so-meaningful, lock and key.   

Keys in Books and Movies

There are plenty of books and movies in which a character finds or loses or inherits a key.

In the novel Alice in Wonderland, there’s a key that opens a tiny door. In the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, a key features in the plot. In the movie The Lost Keys, a woman vows to throw a party if she can just find her keys. The WWII movie Sarah’s Key also features a key in the plot.

Keys to Cities and Castles and Home Sweet Home

In general, when we think of keys, we think about opening or closing something. We think about binding or releasing something, or someone. We think about power. 

When a city wants to honor someone, an official gives the honoree the keys to the city, a symbolic gesture of appreciation. In the old days, if a city were attacked and forced to surrender, the city gave the victor the keys to the city. It wasn’t a symbolic gesture. The key gave the victor the power over the city. 

At the Tower of London, every night for over the last 700 years, the Yeoman Warders carry out the famous “Ceremony of the Keys,” originally to protect members of the royal family and guests who might be staying at the Tower of London. The ritual is still performed, though now to protect the Crown Jewels. The Chief Yeoman Warder still carries a candle lantern and the Queen’s keys and performs his duty at precisely 21:52 hours. These days, seriously high tech security measures are also involved.
 

Before there were locks and keys, people often protected their valuables with hungry animals — dogs, snakes, even crocodiles.

That concept of a imposing animal protecting the lock and key eventually led to door knockers that feature dragons and lions. 

“Key to My Heart” Wedding Ritual
All this background about keys is to reinforce the idea that whoever holds a key, holds power. Here’s how I incorporated keys in a wedding ceremony. It was part of the family blessing. 

I begin all family blessings by telling guests about the wooden plaque hanging in my kitchen. The words, “Home is where your story begins” is what inspires me to ask my couple during the planning session about how they had been influenced by their parents and grandparents. 

During the ceremony, I share with the guests what I learned from the couple — edited, of course, and with their prior approval. 

Most of my couples have shared stories that are heartwarming, funny, tender, life-affirming.

Sometimes, the stories are heart-breaking, with tales of being rejected, abused, abandoned. A candy-coated telling would ring hollow because, in all likelihood. the guests already know the truth. At the same time, a wedding is a joyful occasion and everything about the ceremony should echo that joy. So I say, “John (or Jane) learned early in life what we all eventually learn, that the road through life has potholes.”  

When I’m writing the ceremony, this is where I go through my notes to find what Jane saw in John that she found admirable. Because, chances are good that John developed those admirable qualities because of the hardships he endured as a child. During the ceremony, I might say, “Jane admired John’s independent spirit and his loyalty to his friends.” 

In turn, I might talk about how John appreciated Jane’s devotion to her family and how she always encouraged the children she taught. People close to the couple can read between the lines. 

What I almost always find is a shared sense of humor, a shared work ethic, and shared values. I say a few words about that, too.

Then I remind the guests that the thoughts the couple expressed about each other are “keys” to who they  are. Keys.  Like a clue or a code, something that can unravel a mystery or open a treasure. 

Then I address the couple directly and say, “Remember, no matter how well you know each other, there’s more to be discovered, more happiness to share.”  

To the guests, I say, “Long ago, keys were forged of iron, the metal continually hammered and shaped into the desired form then tempered in fire to find its strength.” 
To the couple: “May whatever troubles come your way strengthen the bond between you.”  

To the guests, “Long ago, the mere presence of a key said there was something worth guarding, preserving, protecting.  
To the couple:  “Your love is worth guarding, preserving, protecting.”  

To the guests:  “Every key was made to work only when paired with a particular lock.” 

To the groom:  “Of all the women in the world, you fell in love with Jane.”  

To the bride:  “Of all the men in the world, you fell in love with John.” 

To the guests:  “Above all, keys of old were made to last.”

This is when I invite the moms (or the dads, or a grandparent) to join me. To illustrate the next part, assume the moms come up. Also assume that all the family dynamics are good.    

Prior to the ceremony, I’ve met with the moms and I’ve given each of them a key about 3 inches long, decorated with streaming ribbons. Most of the guests won’t see the actual key but they will see the ribbons. Since a ritual is a visible act performed with invisible intent, seeing the ribbons helps the guests feel the energy of the ritual itself.   

I turn to the moms. “A few moments ago, I spoke about the humor, confidence and sense of adventure, about the honesty, kindness, and compassion that John and Jane said they learned from their families. The keys you hold represent those gifts, for it is the love and guidance that parents give their children that forge the keys to their future happiness. The keys you hold also contain the knowledge of where your child is vulnerable – the fears of a first-grader, the insecurities of a teenager, the tender spots they’ll always protect, the dreams they’ve yet to fulfill. Please give your children the key to their ultimate happiness.”

Each mom gives her child a key. (Be sure to let the photographers and videographers know in advance about this part of the ceremony!)

Sometimes, the moms simply present the keys and return to their seats. Sometimes, they share a few words of what I call “wedding wisdom.” And then they return to their seats.  

Now I talk directly to my couple and say, “You each now hold the key to a valuable treasure – nothing less than your history, your happiness, your heart.  What will you do with your key? Hide it so no one can ever use it? Hang it up for everyone to see? Toss it in a drawer? Or, perhaps something else?”  

At this point, John and Jane each contemplate their key. And then, lovingly and sometimes with serious looks, sometimes with big smiles, they exchange keys.  The invisible intent — the mutual trust — is immediately recognized by their family and guests. I then take their keys and place them on a little side table. 

Anniversary Celebration and Vow Renewal

After the wedding, I encourage the couple to celebrate their anniversary with their keys. Add a ribbon, or a charm, or a scrap of paper on which they’ve each written a wish for the year ahead.  Let each other know: you still have the key to my heart. 

Should you decide to renew your vows, incorporate the festooned key into the ceremony. Your Celebrant can incorporate items on your keys into your ongoing love story. 

First Look

If a couple likes the “Key to My Heart” ritual but, for whatever reason, don’t want to include it in the ceremony, they can always make it part of their “first look.” That’s when they see each other for the first time on their wedding day, before the ceremony begins. 

Picture the scene. The bride and groom are each holding the key that can unlock the deepest, most vulnerable parts of their heart. Their ceremony will begin in an hour. They are keenly aware that they’re about to go through a rite of passage that will change them forever. With no one with them but their photographer, they share that private “first look.” Without words, they give each other the key that says, “I trust you. Let’s unlock the future together.”   

With some advance coordinating with the florist, the keys can be attached to the bouquet. If neither is carrying a bouquet, ideally someone’s clothing will have pockets. If not, the couple can give their keys to the photographer for safekeeping until after the ceremony.  

Pre-Engagement Symbol of Intent
A key can also be used before an official engagement. You want to propose but, for any number of reasons, now isn’t the right time. Give a key.

If you can’t give it in person (I’m thinking of our men and women in the military), mail it with a note that says simply: “Here is the key to my heart. I trust you to keep it safe.” The idea is similar to giving a promise ring, but is more creative.   

Here’s another idea. Imagine the two of you are on vacation. You realize you want to spend the rest of your life with this person. You want a ritual to celebrate your feelings.

Look for a “lovers’ bridge.” Lots of cities have them. These are the bridges adorned with padlocks placed by couples in love. Their commitment to each other is also a commitment to return to the bridge someday and relive their memories.

Engagement 
Suppose this is the right time to propose. You both know it. The other person is expecting you to ask the question. You want an element of surprise. 

Imagine the two of you are in a vineyard, the same vineyard where you had your first date. At the appropriate moment, you reach into your pocket and pull out a box. But it’s not a ring box. It’s a gift box. Inside is a key, embellished with Swarovski crystals and pearls, strung on a cord so the key can be worn as a necklace. Yes, it’s beautiful, but it’s not what was expected. Then  you retrieve another box…the ring box. Cue the smiles and tears of joy. 

Unlock the Secrets of Self-Knowledge

Did you know that when a Girl Scout advances to become a cadette, she is given a silver key. It symbolizes her ability to unlock a metaphorical door and begin a journey of self-knowledge, or realizing her self-worth.  

The fact that the key is silver is significant. Silver is the metal of the Moon, the orb of the feminine. A key can be a powerful symbol in a ritual to honor a girl’s first menses, her first moon. 

For years, I had a poster on the wall of my office that said, “All the wonders you seek are within you.” The poster is gone. The message remains, as powerful as it ever was. 

Whatever your age, if you’re ready to go on a journey of self-discovery, you will no doubt encounter metaphorical closed doors, hidden chambers, locked vaults, buried secrets. Use a key as a talisman for your inner adventure. Wear the key as a necklace. Place it beside your computer.

Tap into your inner wisdom. Take to heart the words of the 14th century poet, Rumi: “Passion and desire bind your heart. Remove the locks. Become a key, become a key.”

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Episode 30 ~ Maiden, Mother, Crone (updated)

podcast graphic episode 30

Every Maiden isn't young. Every Mother doesn't have a child. Every Crone isn't old. what distinguishes them is not age, but energy.

Beginning in 1996 and nearly every summer for the next 20 years, I spent a week with hundreds of women writers from all over the world. The gathering is the annual conference of the International Women’s Writing Guild.  They ranged in age from teens to 90s! It wasn’t uncommon for mothers to bring their daughters. One year, we had four generations from one family, though one generation was still in utero.  

For at least seven years, I designed the closing ritual for the conference. In 2008, I wanted the ritual to honor the many Maidens, Mothers, and Crones who had come to share the stories they had written and the stories they had lived. In fact, for some of the women, reading their work out loud at that conference was the first time they had shared their voices in public.

The ceremony was held in a college auditorium. Picture a raked floor with two aisles, running from the top level down to the stage. Unlike many of the DIY rituals I’ve shared on my podcast, Ritual Recipes, this conference ritual was more of a production. For one thing, I needed music. I chose the song Diety by Wendy Rule. Both the lyrics and the melody are fiercely powerful. The song includes these three lines:  I am the Maiden. I am the Mother. I am the Crone.  

To begin the ritual, I addressed the writers:  “We are not just many women gathered here this night. We are generations of women, from every corner and curve of the world. While we may not all be related by the blood of our veins, we are deeply connected by the blood of our wombs, even if we have yet to experience the flow, even if the flow has long ceased.”

The Maiden embodies the creative force.

I talked about the multiple generations present, about how the Maiden embodies the creative force. Like one of spring’s colorful perfumed flowers, her purpose is to attract. Dancing with wild abandon, she gathers the stuff of life – big dreams, bold ideas, and intense desires. But she’s impatient and doesn’t settle down long enough to bring those dreams, ideas and desires into reality. She isn’t supposed to. Her story is about beginning. We see her in the waxing Crescent Moon, the silver sliver that grows bit by bit. The Maiden is usually young…but not always. Regardless of your age, if some new relationship, or new project, or new idea is calling you, slip on your fancy shoes. Dance with the Maiden.

The Mother embodies the creative act.

Sensual, sexual, fertile and strong, she’s the one who weaves the ideas, dreams, and desires, then gives birth to something tangible. She feeds and protects. The energy of the Mother is often seen in her child. But the child doesn’t have to be human. The Mother’s devotion could be to an idea, a project, a cause, or a story. She is the Lady of the Dance. Her story is about fulfillment. We see her in the Full Moon. The Mother is usually of child-bearing years…but not always. Regardless of your age, if you’ve birthed a creation of any sort, give it time and tender loving care. Find a rocking chair. Feel the rhythm. Nurture with the Mother.

The Crone embodies creative transformation.

She sees far beyond the last note of the dance. What was, is no longer. The Wise Woman, she recognizes that death is only a change and that beyond death is life in a new form. She leads those going on that new path, and comforts those left behind. Her stories are about endings. We see her dark outline, an empty womb, in the waning Crescent Moon, what singer/songwriter Wendy Rule calls “the old moon held by her daughter.” The Crone is usually old…but not always. Regardless of your age, if you know, sense, or feel that it’s time to move on with a project, a job, a relationship, do it. Be bold. Cut the cord. Feel the grief. Walk away. It helps to remember that the Crone herself transforms…into the Maiden.

The Crone transforms into the Maiden.

At this point in the ritual, I cued the song “Diety.” As the music played, a procession of 27 women slowly, solemnly entered from the back of the packed auditorium. 

Each woman carried a white candle (battery operated). On her wrist she wore a white scrunchie fringed with dozens of long, satin ribbons. Nine women wore white and carried candles with white ribbons — for the Maiden. Nine women wore red and carried candles with red ribbons  — for the Mother. And nine women wore black and carried candles with black ribbons — for the Crone.  

Once all 27 women reached the stage, they formed 3 lines, Maidens in the front, the Mothers behind them, and the Crones behind the Mothers. As you picture this, just know that the Maidens weren’t all young and the Crones weren’t all old

One by one, each Maiden spoke about how she embodied the energy of the Goddess she represented. Then the Maidens stepped to the back and the Mothers moved to the front. They spoke, moved to the back, and the Crones stepped forward and spoke.  All 27 women spoke. What they said had all been coordinated in the weeks prior. Here are six examples, along with each writer’s website.

From Jan Phillips:  I honor the story of the Maiden. I honor the seeds within me and scatter them as I go.  <janphillips.com>

From Judy Adourian:  I honor the story of the Mother. I remember to nourish and nurture myself.  <writeyes.com>

From Susan Tiberghien:  As a Crone, I summon wisdom into our lives. I summon Sophia.  <susantiberghien.com>

From Judith Searle:  I honor the story of the Maiden. I represent unlimited potential.   <judithsearle.com>

From Marsha McGregor:  I honor the story of the Mother. I offer warmth and light to tender shoots. <marshamcgregor.com>

From Paula Chaffee Scardamalia:  I honor the story of the Crone. I know what it means to lose and let go. I have the power to cut the threads of that which is finished. <diviningthemuse.com>

In the auditorium that night were Maidens in their nineties and Crones in their teens. You could be feeling any one of the three energies right now. Remember, age doesn’t matter. What does is that you acknowledge the energy and work with it. 

DIY Rituals

Of course, you can explore your own Maiden, Mother, Crone energies without an elaborate ritual. Set aside time. Create sacred space. Enter that space and reflect. What are you attracting? What are you nurturing? What are you releasing? Then write. Or draw. Or sing. Or drum. Or dance. As you do, say out loud: “I am the Maiden. I am the Mother. I am the Crone.” You’ll discover layers of meaning only your heart can know.

Though props aren’t necessary, I appreciate them and use them when I can. In particular, I like the energy of stones. All around my office I have semiprecious stones in forms both raw and polished. 

If you want to align your energies with the Maiden, white quartz is easy to find and usually economical. 

For the Mother, use red garnets. Bead shops often have strands of garnets for reasonable prices. 

For the Crone, use jet or black obsidian.  With all of these, you don’t need to use big stones. Chips work fine, too. 

Whatever you do, don’t get hung up on the idea that you have to have to spend a lot of money to create this ritual. Use a white-yogurt-covered raisin for the maiden, a dried cherry for the mother, a regular raisin for the crone.

Are you a member of a moon circle? If so, designate someone to represent the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. The Maiden lights a white candle. Each woman in the circle  talks about what maiden energy means to her. The Maiden gives everyone a white yogurt raisin. Repeat with the Mother lighting a red candle and giving out dried cherries, the Crone lighting a black candle and giving out raisins. 

You’ll want to allow at least ten minutes for everyone to write, even if only to jot down a few insights to be explored later.   

What can you expect?  You might find that a young person in your family or circle of friends speaks with the wisdom of a crone. A grown woman might dye her hair pink to express the flirty feminine energy she suddenly feels. And the gray-haired “old lady” might take in a foster child.   

What else can you expect?  Do you remember the click-your-heels scene at the end of “The Wizard of Oz?” That’s when Glenda the Good Witch teaches Dorothy how to use ritual to get back to Kansas. Everyone can learn how to access that power. No, I’m not talking about the Hollywood version. I’m talking about your inner power  to see your world from a different perspective, to discover your own ruby slippers, and ruby boots, and ruby stilettos. 

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The Blessing Box Ritual for a New Home / Interfaith Weddings, Chuppahs, Archangels, Astrology, and the Four Royal Stars of Persia – Episode 29

 

A Jewish bride and a Catholic groom.  As their officiant, what could I say in their wedding ceremony that would honor both spiritual paths — not only for the couple, but for their families?  In episode #29 of Ritual Recipes, I talk about interfaith wedding ceremonies, the four Royal Stars of Persia, archangels, and the elements of earth, air, fire and water. I also offer The Blessing Box ritual for a new “home.” 

 The need for ritual is as old as time. They reflect a person’s beliefs which, in turn, helps us find our tribe. So, it’s no surprise that rituals are performed in most, if not all, religions. 

A sudden downpour threatened this chuppa

Over the years, I’ve created wedding ceremonies for couples who come from two different religions or spiritual paths, or have forged their own path, or follow no path. Still, the couple might want spiritual elements to make the ceremony both meaningful and comfortable for their parents. That was the case in a wedding of a Jewish bride and a Catholic groom.

The bride’s family wanted her to be married under a chuppah. The groom had no issue with the chuppah. Neither did his family. But the bride’s mother was a thoughtful woman, sensitive to their feelings of the groom’s family. She asked if I could somehow honor both religions.  

Here’s a modified version of what I wrote for their ceremony:

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Game of Thrones and the Wedding Ritual of Circling – Episode 27

Full Moon / Photo by Andy Watkins of Unsplash

He calls her  “Moon of my Life.” She calls him her “Sun and Stars.”

He is Khal Drogo, the testosterone heavy, alpha male leader of the Dothraki warrior tribe. Very Mars. He’s proud, fearless, and ruthless, at least in the beginning. 

She is Daenerys Targaryen, his estrogen aplenty wife given to him in exchange for an army.  She’s beautiful. Very Venus. She’s also innocent, compassionate, and submissive, at least in the beginning.  

These characters are from Game of Thrones, a television series on HBO based on the medieval fantasy novels by George R.R. Martin. I watched Season 1 and  was struck by the symbolism in the names Drogo and Daenerys had for each other… and in what I saw as a connection to the wedding ritual of “circling.”

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Messages from the Trees – a ritual for the Winter Solstice – Episode 28

Don't make a New Year's resolution. Listen to what the trees have to tell you. And follow their advice!

It’s January. Like the two-headed Roman God Janus, for whom the month is named, this is the time when we look back to the year just passed and forward to the year just begun.  

Two weeks ago, I led a Winter Solstice ritual at Meg’s Inspirations, a gift shop and spiritual boutique in Manchester, CT, where I live. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice marks the longest night of the year. Festivities celebrate the promise that the Sun is on his way back to us. Though the ground here is frozen, and the season of snow, sleet and ice is picking up speed, this is a time of hope. The sun, whether you spell is Sun or Son, has been “reborn.” 

Let me set the scene for the ritual. There were 14 women, seated in a semi-circle in front of two, long banquet tables placed end to end. The tables were draped in red and white cloth. Thanks to Meg and her husband, Ed, we had at least 30 Yule logs, some cut to lay horizontally, some cut as pillars, some with white tea lights, some with red, green, or white tapers. The logs stretched across both tables, along with garlands of artificial winter greens and an abundant, aromatic layer of pine, cedar, and holly that Meg had cut just that morning. Along with the Yule logs, I had an assortment of tabletop trees, and hundreds of white fairy lights and crystal snow. …We dimmed the overhead lights and imagined we had entered a magical forest. 

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Episode 26 – Be Generous with Your Jellybeans

Small gestures can convey abundance.

Sometimes, the smallest gesture can convey a feeling of abundance. That’s a lesson I learned from my daughter when she was a teenager working at a candy counter. … Abundance. That’s what this episode, #26, is all about.

When my daughter, Laurie Neronha, was in high school, she worked part-time at the candy counter in a fancy department store in Hartford. She didn’t drive yet so I had provided transportation. I arrived early one day. So I watched as she helped several customers, thinking maybe I could give her a few customer service pointers later.  

Each customer one ordered a pound of gourmet jelly beans. Laurie was not the only employee on the candy counter.  An older woman worked there as well. She seemed pleasant enough and, from what I overheard, had been with the store quite a few years.  I watched her scoop jelly beans, too.

It didn’t take long to see that Laurie and the other woman had each developed a different technique.  The difference explained why some customers would politely decline the other woman’s offer of help and wait in line for Laurie.

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Episode 25 – Why Carry a Bouquet?

The bouquet is not just about the flowers.

A pregnant bride in her early thirties didn’t want to carry a bouquet and asked me if she had to. I assured her there was no requirement that she carry flowers. I also explained why she might want to reconsider her decision.  I wrote about that wedding several years ago and drew on the story for part of Episode 25 of the Ritual Recipes podcast. 

To carry a wedding bouquet isn’t just about the fashion or the flowers or the photo op.  

In this wedding, both the bride and the groom had big jobs in the financial world and would be traveling overseas on business the following week. Any kind of travel can be hazardous to a woman who’s pregnant. International travel while pregnant can be even more of a challenge. Just in case a problem arose while they were out of the country, they wanted to be married. 

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Episode 24 – Funeral and Memorial Rituals

In the previous episode, #23, I talked about my late-friend Mechi Garza, a Choctaw-Cherokee Medicine woman.  One of the things Mechi taught me was that there is a difference between being cured and being healed. Being cured is about the body. Being healed is about the spirit.  

Thanks to the International Women’s Writing Guild, Mechi and I had hundreds of mutual friends. Liz Aleshire was one of them. … I want to tell you about a life-changing event that happened in the months before she died.  

In August of 2008, I gathered with five other mutual friends — all women, all writers. One of us, Judy, had a home on Cape Cod big enough to accommodate all of us for the weekend. We were there, laptops in tow, to work on Liz’s manuscript.  The book was to be a tribute to her son, Nathan. He had died thirteen years earlier of bone cancer. He was sixteen.

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The book’s title?  101 Ways You Can Help: How To Offer Comfort And Support To Those Who Are Grieving

Liz was a journalist and multi-published writer of nonfiction and children’s books, some under the name Liz Greenbacker. She knew what it took to write a book, especially under a tight deadline.  Reluctantly, she had called Sourcebooks in mid-June to ask for a one-month extension since the June 30 deadline wasn’t realistic. Her editor, Shana Drehs, extended the contract. ….. But Liz didn’t tell Shana how bad things really were. 

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Episode 23 – The Making of a Medicine Woman – Attending My First Public Ritual

Years ago, I wrote about this experience.  I've drawn on that blog post to create this episode of the podcast. The event remains key to my understanding of the power of ritual.  ~ Rest in peace, Grandmother Mechi.

Mechi Garza's installation as a Choctaw-Cherokee Medicine Woman

Little Elk, schooled in the healing ways of the Pueblo, she was his destiny.  He knew from a childhood vision that before he died he was to anoint a Medicine Woman, but she wouldn't be Pueblo.  She'd be Cherokee.

To Lothar, she was the woman he had loved centuries ago, the woman he sought again in this life.  Night after night, he woke her from her sleep, instructing her to transcribe the knowledge of his world, a place dismissed by many as the stuff of myth and imagination.  It took five years of such nightly sessions. She filled countless notebooks he called “The Manuals.” He said the knowledge could save this world from the same fate as his, Atlantis.  Lothar taught her Kolaemni, a method of healing using therapeutic touch. The word itself means “connecting with the light.”

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