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 1and 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
One summer evening back in 2005, I had driven to New Hampshire to meet with a small group of friends to study astrology and Goddess spirituality. As we did twice a month, on or near the New and then the Full Moon, we would spend several hours at the kitchen table, notebooks open, pens in hand, learning about the stars and planets and signs of the zodiac.
Then we would leave everything on the table and head outside. We were in the woods, well off the beaten track. The couple at whose home we gathered had built a sizable circle behind the house. To enter the circle, we walked down a path lined with lanterns on shepherd’s hooks. At the end of the path, we crossed under an arch covered in a profusion of white flowers or a tangle of bare branches, depending on the season.
The Wheel of the Year turns, plunging us deeper into the dark half of the year. It’s Halloween. Samhain. The ground is fertile for growing fears. Between the worlds of the living and the dead, the border blurs. Connecting with the spirit world is easier than at other times of the year. Anyone traveling those worlds needs a guide to cross the threshold. Animal totems are always helpful.
Last night, I lead a Samhain ritual at Meg’s Inspirations, a local gift shop and spiritual boutique here in Manchester, CT. I’ve been leading seasonal rituals at Meg’s for many years. One year, we created an ancestor altar. Another year, we explored various means of divination.
Last year, I created a ritual around animals as spirit guides. My original plan was to draw an animal oracle card and explore connections between the animal’s message and what we knew, or wanted to know, about an ancestor. But three days earlier, 11 people were massacred at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. So I invited those at the ritual to create a blessing for the dead based on the animal that had chosen them. Here are a few of those blessings:
May the bear guide them through the darkest nights.
May the dog protect all they hold sacred.
May the eagle bring them courage to see through adversity.
Selecting the members of the wedding party can be so stressful, some couples don’t choose anyone. No maid of honor. No best man. After serving more than 150 couples as their wedding officiant, I’ve seen what this kind of stress can do. Friendships dissolve. Family tensions grow. A bridesmaid who thought she should be the maid-of-honor finds a way to draw attention to herself during the ceremony.
According to The Knot, the average size of a wedding party is ten. That usually means five on each side. That number might be higher if couples had no restrictions; but, most couples do have restrictions.
If you’re the one getting married, you know how agonizing it can be to choose the members of your wedding party. If you have extended an invitation and been turned down, you know how disappointing that can be. For either scenario, contributing issues can be money, distance, health, time, trying to meet family expectations, trying to avoid family drama.
To honor those special guests who are not in the wedding party, couples are often advised to make them ushers or have then pass out programs. Please! Don’t honor a guest with a boring task! Give him or her a meaningful role in the ceremony. How? Through a ritual. Continue reading →
Jars of artificial fireflies on the banks of the Summer Solstice river
This year’s Summer Solstice has come and gone. But our entry into the dark half of the year has just begun.
My European ancestors divided the year into two seasons, summer and winter. The Summer Solstice was known as Midsummer. People felt joy that the Sun had warmed the earth so they could plant and now their crops were growing. If all went well, the harvest season would be bountiful.
At the same time, they felt anxiety. From now on, each day would be shorter than the one before. Would there still be enough light to grow food? Or would they starve? Would there be enough heat to say warm? Or would they freeze? Once winter took hold of the land, would it ever leave? It’s no wonder the ancients held celebrations to honor the sun, and to plead for its return.
This year, as I’ve done for more than ten years, I led a Solstice ritual at Meg’s Inspirations, a gift shop and spiritual boutique in Manchester, Connecticut. This year, I explored the energy of the Cancer-Capricorn polarity. Continue reading →