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.

Image result for liz aleshire 101 ways you can help

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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Episode 22 – Origin Story

Flowered arbor at entrance to ritual spaceOne 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.

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Samhain – Enter the Dark with a Map, a Community Fire, and Animal Guides

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.

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Creative Wedding Rituals: Pandas, Moths, Flours

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

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Fire and Water, Sun and Moon, Achievement and the Need for Rest – Episode 19

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

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Beltane, Fairies, the Hawthorn, and the Goddess Bloddeuwedd – Episode 18

The little fairies playing in the ruins.

Fairies, flowers, fertility, a Maypole, and a hawthorn tree.  They all weave their way into the Celtic festival of Beltane and other seasonal festivals so common in the Old World. On episode 18 of the Ritual Recipes podcast, I talk about the public ritual I created to celebrate Beltane here in central Connecticut where I live. It was about shadow gifts from the Beltane fairies, something we might need in order to be our authentic selves. 

I also touch on the story of Bloddeuwedd  (“bluh DIE weth”), the woman created from nine ingredients by two magicians determined to make the perfect bride for a young man who’d been cursed. I add my own two cents based on the magical meaning behind each of the ingredients. I talk about violence, punishment, and the dramatic transformation Bloddeuwedd goes through, first becoming an owl, then Goddess of the Hawthorn. You see, as that perfect bride, things went well…for a while…until she met another man and fell in love. 

But first…What is ritual?  To me, ritual is a visible act performed with invisible intent. If you’ve ever made a wish and blown out the candles on a birthday cake, you’ve performed a ritual.  It can be that simple.  It can also be more elaborate, a real community celebration.


Earlier this year, I led a public ritual to celebrate Beltane. It wasn’t feasible to erect an actual Maypole, so I designed the ritual around the magical properties of the hawthorn tree, well known as the home of the fairies. 

Hawthorn tree in bloom.

The hawthorn is a relatively small tree, known to live for a long time, some as long as 400 years. The hawthorn has a lot of foliage, making it an ideal home for birds as well as fairies.

Hawthorn (Crataegus) tree blooming in springtime.

In the spring, the hawthorn blooms with a profusion of small white flowers. The stamens have bright pink heads. Some accounts of the hawthorn describe the scent as particularly female. In the old days, a bride would carry a sprig of flowering hawthorn on her wedding day to symbolize her desire for a fruitful union.

When summer comes, each hawthorn flower produces a fruit called a “haw.”  In autumn, the haws turn bright red. They look like little apples. The tree becomes a banquet for the birds.

Since birds were known to carry messages to the Spirit World, a tree that fed them was sacred.  In addition to the “haws,” the tree also has thorns, hence the name, haw-thorn.

My Celtic ancestors likely believed that wherever you find the oak, ash and hawthorn trees together, you can be sure the fairies are nearby. In fact, fairies are said to live beneath the hawthorn itself. The tree was considered so sacred that it was a serious crime to cut one down. 

That might seem extreme until you realize that when the deceased were buried, their spirits would travel to the Underworld. From there, those spirits – now called Ancestors – would guide and protect the living back here in the mundane world. The fairies kept the connections between the worlds alive. So, it you destroyed the home of the fairies, you severed the connection to your ancestors and all hope of their guidance and protection. Not prudent, to say the least.


There’s another reason why a community would revere a hawthorn tree. In his book, The White Goddess, author Robert Graves writes that the Hawthorn is protected by a goddess, Bloddeuwedd, known as the May Queen. Bloddeuwedd was created by the magicians Math and Gwydion from nine different ingredients, most of them plants, trees, or flowers:  oak, meadowsweet, broom, cockle, bean, nettle, chestnut, primrose, and hawthorn.

A quick look into A Compendium of Herbal Magick by Paul Beyerl is illuminating. While each of the nine flowers and trees has many attributes, here are a few I found that seem to fit the creation of a perfect bride, from the viewpoint of the male magicians. (Of course, not having been a male magician, I’m just guessing.) Some of the attributes are from Beyerl, some from A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve, and others. 

Oak: for fertility and long life.  Subtext: She won’t die in childbirth.

Meadowsweet: for acquiring a merry heart, with extra joy and blessings to a new bride.  Subtext. Meadowsweet for a wife who won’t nag.

Broom: for good fortune and for accepting the changes that life brings. Upon further investigation, I saw subtext about broom, too. Might it have been added to ensure the bride would keep a clean house?

Cockle:  As I mention in the podcast, I didn’t find any reference to a flower or plant or tree named cockle. So I must assume the inclusion of cockle in the concoction used to create Bloddeuwedd referred to the shellfish, believed by many to be an aphrodisiac.  Makes sense.  

Bean:  for male virility.  More subtext. If Bloddeuwedd was created to be the perfect bride and one of her ingredients was to enhance male virility, does that make her a form of Viagra?

Nettle: for healing. Having someone in the family know how to heal would certainly be a benefit. Subtext: She will be able to care for him when he’s ill, wounded, and old.  

Chestnut:  for male potency.  Further reading about the chestnut associate it with humility, with finding satisfaction in little things.  Subtext: a perfect wife won’t demand a lot of his attention.

Primrose: for inner and outer beauty.  Self-explanatory.

Hawthorn: for female sexuality.  Yes, there were plenty of other attributes of the hawthorn I could have mentioned here; but, I find this one key to the story of Bloddeuwedd’s journey to becoming her authentic self.  

The magicians created Bloddeuwedd to be the bride of a young man, Llew. His mother had abandoned him and cursed him, saying he would never wed a mortal woman. (That’s a story for another time.)  The magicians wanted Llew to be happy. Hence, the creation of Bloddeuwedd who was said to possess in abundance every trait and feature a man would want in a wife.

As planned, Llew marries Bloddeuwedd. Married life seems okay … for a while…until she meets another man. As the story goes, Bloddeuwedd comes alive in a way she’s never known before. My guess is she had her first orgasm, apparently not something the magicians thought to ensure Llew could give.

As the tale unfolds, she and her lover kill Llew. The authorities come after her. The magician Gwydion overtakes her and turns her into a white owl. (Picture a white owl with a round face, sometimes called a flower-faced owl. The name Bloddeuwedd also means flower-faced.)  

Barn Owl with round “flower” face.

That chapter in Bloddeuwedd’s story could explain why some people associate owls with death.  I think a more fitting association is that of the woman who embraces the death of her old “self,” one defined by others, in favor of a new self, one who doesn’t fear being alone, one who finds wisdom in her experiences, one who realizes beauty is fleeting, one who discovers her own inner power, even if embracing that power means she will live a solitary life. Think of Sansa at the end of Game of Thrones. I won’t say any more in case you haven’t seen it yet. But I will say the stories of both Sansa and Bloddeuwedd show powerful personal transformation at great cost. Both stories are about gaining wisdom and the early concept of the virgin — the one who is whole unto herself.

I also wonder if Gwydion himself loved Bloddeuwedd, perhaps the way a parent loves a child. Maybe he sought to capture her so that he could determine her fate.  On the website druidry.org, the ancient meaning for Bloddeuwedd is said to be owl, symbol of wisdom. Did Gwydion set her apart from other birds so that only the worthy, strong, and pure of heart would recognize her gifts?  I’m simply speculating.  Did I tell you that when I was in the seventh grade, I was crowned the May Queen?  Or that the first gift my now-husband gave to me some 40 years ago was a necklace with a gold owl?  


Trees in general play a key role in Celtic mythology. In fact, their calendar is based on trees with May being the 6th month,  running from what we would calculate as approximately May 13 to June 9.  The tree that represents May is, of course, the hawthorn. 

Trees were also used to develop an alphabet, with letters formed by placing branches in certain formations. That alphabet is spelled o.g.h.a.m and is pronounced “OH-um.”  The hawthorn tree is symbolized by the 6th consonant. It’s spelled h.u.a.t.h.e (or simply u.a.t.h.) and pronounced “HOO-ah.”

The hawthorn tree, so important to the fairies and the ancestors carries the energy of cleansing and preparing, both things and thoughts. Simply being near a Hawthorn is said to invite stillness and clear the mind. Some say people feel more patient when near a hawthorn.

The hawthorn also symbolizes hope. Early Christian stories suggest the thorns of the hawthorn were used on the head of Christ at his crucifixion.  My guess is that different communities embrace different stories. Perhaps it was that Christian story that inspired the Pilgrims, back in 1602, to sail on a ship named Mayflower. Or maybe it was because they knew they’d need to have patience for the long voyage.

I wasn’t on the Mayflower, at least not that I remember, but I’m sure the stars were an important tool in navigation. Legend says that the Welsh Goddess Olwen, known as the White Goddess of the Hawthorn Tree, once walked through the empty universe trailing white hawthorn petals. The petals became the Milky Way.  That’ just one of many beautiful star stories.


For this year’s Beltane ritual, needed four fairies, one for each of the four directions. Fortunately, there were four girls at the ritual, preteens and young teens. With their mothers’ permission, I gave each girl a basket of ribbons. The ribbons in each basket were about 18 inches long, all one color.

The Fairy of the East represented air. Her ribbons were yellow.

The Fairy of the South represented fire. Her ribbons were red.

The Fairy of the West represented water. Her ribbons were blue.

The Fairy of the North represented earth. Her ribbons were green.

I talked about how Fairies live under the hawthorn tree and how they had come to our ritual to give each participant three gifts, each gift symbolized by the color of the ribbon.

I asked each Fairy to describe the gift embodied in her ribbon. Prior to the ritual, I had typed this information on individual cards. All each Fairy had to do now was read from the card.

The East Fairy, with yellow ribbons representing air said: To think and speak with clarity, by fairy magick it shall be!

The South Fairy, with red ribbons representing fire said:  For courage bright, for energy, by fairy magick it shall be!

The West Fairy, with blue ribbons representing water said: For compassion, forgiveness and mystery, by fairy magick it shall be!

The North Fairy, with green ribbons representing earth said: For growth and for prosperity, by fairy magick it shall be!

Three gifts. Four fairies.  I’ll get back to that in a moment.

I held the ritual at Meg’s Inspirations, a local gift shop and spiritual boutique in Manchester CT, where I live. I told everyone that if we were holding the ritual next to a hawthorn tree, we would imbue our ribbons with our intent, our honest intent, and spear each ribbon on one of the thorns – because the thorns are blessed with fairy magick. Instead, I improvised with an umbrella stand filled with long, skinny branches, some from a local crafts store, some from the nature center near my home. These branches did not have thorns.

Each person picked ribbons from three fairies. We talked about the gifts we’d chosen and how we would use them in our lives. 

Then I asked everyone to think of the ribbon they did not  pick. I suggested that the gift not chosen – the shadow gift – might well be the gift most needed. I said to them:

Go now to your fourth fairy and receive your shadow ribbon.  Think about it carefully. If you’re ready to explore the magick offered by that fairy’s gift, then hang the ribbon on the hawthorn tree.  

On the night of the ritual, I didn’t tell the story of Bloddeuwedd. But I do invite you now to remember the struggle and the power of being your authentic self.  

We spent time sharing our thoughts about our shadow ribbon. We speculated about the gift we might find in the shadow. Most of us speculated silently. Some things are too private, too raw, to share. That’s okay. The transformation of a ritual doesn’t always happen in the moment.


In her book, Voice of the Trees, a companion book to an oracle deck, author and illustrator Mickie Mueller shares ways to work with the messages the trees have for us. When she writes about the hawthorn, she notes that the Celtic name, huathe, “HOO-ah,” means “terror.” The oracle card for the hawthorn warns of obstacles along the path, or tension of some kind.  Mueller says you don’t apply force when encountering the obstacle. It will eventually yield a gift, but wisdom is needed first.  (Think of Bloddeuwedd!)  Of course, I don’t think it’s a good idea to apply force when dealing with any plant that has thorns.


The Fairies of Beltane are coming!

I’ve been leading seasonal rituals at Meg’s for over 10 years. A month or so before the ritual, Meg enthusiastically announces “The Fairies of Beltane are coming!” We always get a good turnout. That’s because everyone knows that if they come to the ritual, they get to take home one of the fairies. So every year, I make new fairies.

About six weeks before each Beltane ritual, I pull out my craft supplies.  First, I paint wooden balls and cones for the multicultural heads and bodies. Then I add artificial flowers, beads, scraps of leather, feathers, glitter, whatever calls to me in the moment.

Three years ago, I recruited my husband to help me paint the wooden heads and bodies. He had such a good time he helped me paint fairies again the following year. This year was different. The Alzheimer’s Disease is advancing. Instead of painting, he lined up the finished fairies on the dining room table so I could take photos.

My husband helped me paint Beltane fairies.

People who have attended several of my Beltane rituals tell me they have their fairies on a desk, a shelf, a dresser, a dashboard. I have one on the windowsill above the kitchen sink. I see her every day, many times. When I do, I’m reminded of how I gather each May with friends, some I’ve known for many years, some I’ve just met. I’ve celebrated Beltane in a welcoming gift shop, on the beach, in a basement, and in a clearing in the woods. I’ve filled baskets with flowers and planted flowers around a sacred garden. I’ve brought a potluck offering to a Beltane feast, and danced the Maypole with dozens of friends.  It’s been years since I’ve done some of those activities. Seeing my little Beltane fairy brings back all the memories, especially the memories of painting fairies with my husband.    


 A few weeks later, I led another seasonal ritual, this time to celebrate the Summer Solstice, a time often referred to as Midsummer. In many parts of Europe, what we think of as a Maypole was also part of Midsummer festivities.

Flowers are a key element of both Beltane and Midsummer. In her book, Midsummer: Magical Celebrations of the Summer Solstice, author Anna Franklin talks about the long-held custom in Britain of placing flowers on the largest stone on a farm. Then and now, stones symbolize the realm of the ancestors.

I’m reminded of “worry stones,” the pocket-sized stones with a thumb-sized indentation just right for rubbing. I don’t doubt the physical act of rubbing the stone can help ease a troubled mind. Next time, while you’re rubbing the stone, ask your ancestors, the known and the unknown, to help you. The addition of adding that intent creates a ritual.  It can be as simple as that. I’ll tell you about the Summer Solstice ritual on the next episode.

Until then, how about you? Are you ready to connect with the cycles of nature? Honor the spirit of the ancestors? Discover the patterns of your life? Establish your own family traditions? Be transformed? Are you ready to do something to add positive energy to the world., I hope so. The world needs what you have to give.

How do you use rituals? Did anything about the story of Bloddeuweth resonate with you?  Send an email to:  zita@moonriverrituals.com or connect with me on Instagram (ZitaChristian) or Facebook (MoonRiverRituals). 

Thanks for being here.

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Episode 17: Spring Equinox – Ready to Break the Bonds of Winter?

Use a simple paper chain for a ritual to break the bonds of winter.

The Vernal Equinox arrived last week. The Sun has entered the sign of Aries. Spring is here.

Depending on where you live, it might still feel like winter. That’s how it is was here, until today. Soon, with a fierce determination to live, yellow daffodils and purple crocus will force their way through soil that has been frozen solid for months. They have broken the bonds of winter. How will you break those bonds?

Here in New England, winter can blanket or bury us with snow. So when Spring arrives, we may still be bundled in boots and gloves and bed-head hats. Even so, in some ancestral, cellular way, we know that winter has lost its grip. To acknowledge the change of seasons, I created a ritual called “Breading the Bonds of Winter.” 

This is a ritual for adults. You need to make a paper chain, the kind kids make in grade school.  I use strips of plain white paper, 12 inches long, 2 inches wide, and ordinary tape.

A few years ago, I performed this ritual at Meg’s Inspirations, a spiritual boutique here in Manchester. I expected 18, maybe 20, people. We sat on chairs in a circle. The paper chain had to be long enough to loosely stretch from the first person to the last. That meant about 200 links (I estimated 10 links per person). There wouldn’t be time to make a chain that long during the ritual. So I made the chain in advance. I assembled it in 4 sections and packed each section into a giant, drawstring trash bag so the paper links wouldn’t get squashed. When I got to the boutique, I taped the sections together to make one, long chain.

I wanted people to write on the chain. Now, if you’re visualizing this, you’re probably wondering how are people going to hold a floppy paper chain on their laps and write on one of the links. They don’t!  They write on white labels. I use the 1×4 inch address labels. They come 20 to a sheet. In advance, I had cut up several sheet of labels, keeping the paper backing for each label intact.  As people arrived, each one received several blank labels.

Starting at one end of the room, I gave the first person the first link. She passed the chain to the person sitting next to her. On and on, the chain snaked its way around the circle. As we each held part of the chain, we talked about the hardships of winter, about whatever had burdened, confined or constricted us. For some it was poor heath. For one it was the loss of her job. For one, it was having to replace a furnace. For one, it was the death of a pet; for another, the death of a family member. Then we wrote our burdens on our labels and stuck them to the links.  

For me, ritual is a visible act performed with invisible intent. The intent in this ritual is to release the worry, the disappointment, the loss, the pain, the sorrow that bound us through the winter. The visible act was give form to the burden by writing it down, and then to physically break it.

We stood up. Meg lowered the lights. While local musician Doug Yager played a hand drum and chimes, we passed the chain clockwise, the direction that builds energy. When the energy reached a peak, we each gripped the length of chain in front of us, silently read the message on the links…and ripped it apart! We kept ripping the links, making sure we broke all those that carried a written burden. Yes, it created a mess. Yes, it was worth it!  Not only were our burdens symbolically broken, but they were broken with the help of everyone in the circle. There were a few fist pumps, a shout or two, and a few tears.

This is a solitary version of the ritual.While this ritual is particularly powerful when performed with a group, it’s also powerful as a ritual you can do for yourself.  In a group, the energy builds quickly. If you’re doing the ritual alone, be sure to give yourself time to think about what you want to break. If you’re doing the ritual alone, you can write directly on each link before you tape the ends together. In the ideal world, write on the first link on the night of a new moon. Write on links for the next two weeks and break the chain on the night of the full moon.

Rituals for Spring

When we view the seasons like spokes on a wheel, we realize that there is no beginning, no end. When astrological symbols are applied, we can make a story that correlates the change of seasons with the turning of the wheel. We make spring the arbitrary starting point. Why? Because spring is about the resurrection of the earth, the celebration of life after death.

Colored eggs for an Ostara ritual by Zita Christian

This is when Ostara, the Goddess of Spring wakes up. She’s a fertility goddess.  Everywhere she walks, trees bud and flowers bloom.  She is Spring at its most tender.  Her symbols are bunnies, chicks, eggs, birds’ nests, sprays of bright forsythia and soft pussy willow, patches of purple crocus, bouquets of pink tulips and yellow daffodils.  She is the Goddess Oestre, from whom we get the word estrogen and the word Easter.  

Here’s an interesting side note.  Up until the year 46 BCE, the calendar year began on March 25. There were 10 months. September, from the word meaning seven, was the 7th month.  October, from the word meaning eight, was the 8th month. November for nine. December for ten. What happened in 46 BCE? That’s when Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar to replace the Roman calendar. Among other things, the Julian calendar added the months January and February to the beginning and pushed the other months down the list.

Astrologically, spring arrives when the Sun moves from the 29th degree of Pisces to zero degrees of Aries. Aries is symbolized by the ram with its big, curled horns, head down, ready to charge ahead, so eager for action and adventure. When the Sun is in Aries, he is physically powerful, testosterone-heavy. He can melt snow and thaw rivers. With all that testosterone, the Sun in Aries is eager to wake up the Goddess Ostara. She lives in the Earth, in the plants and the trees. She’s been sleeping.  

A Spring Ritual for Children   

The Goddess of Spring will soon wake up!

Hold that image of a sleeping Goddess while I tell you about a spring ritual for children. I saw this performed years ago when a friend, Laura Wildman-Hanlon, led a Spring Equinox ritual that included a group of little children.

We had all gathered on the town green of a small, farming community in western Massachusetts. She gave each child a foot-long section cut from a slender branch of a tree. (Yes, there was plenty of adult supervision!)  While the adults sang, played drums, rattles, and tambourines, the children walked to each tree and tapped on the trunk, shouting with unbridled joy, “Wake up, tree! Wake up! Spring is here!”

That’s an easy ritual to replicate. If you don’t want to use sticks, tell the children to tap on the trees with their hands.  But first, give their actions context. Tell them the story of spring. Tell them how the princess of spring is called the Goddess Ostara, or simply the  Maiden. Tell them how she has been sleeping underground in a cozy bed of tree roots, curled up in a fiddlehead frond, snuggled among the plant seeds and flower bulbs waiting to stretch and pop up into the sunlight. Tell them Spring is the time to hop around like bunnies, to sing like birds, to show off like flowers and dance like faeries.

Forest of Maple Sap buckets on trees in spring

Of course, the trees already know it’s spring. Their sap is rising. Here in New England, maple trees are tapped and buckets placed just-so to collect the sap that will be boiled and bottled and poured on pancakes.

I recently listened to episode 27 of the podcast, 5 Minute Feng Shui, Host Katie Weber talks about the element of wood, its association with growth and change, with helping us get unstuck and persevere. She talks about the “sheer force of will” we can see when a simple blade of grass pushes its way through cement. …I love that podcast for many reasons. In this episode, Katie painted a vivid image of the force of spring.

Going barefoot, or “earthing,” is good for you!

Want an easy way to connect with that force? Take off your shoes.  

I’m reminded of the day my grandson and I went for a walk. He was about four, maybe five.  I live near a nature center. We were walking along a trail and came to a grassy area. My grandson took off his shoes, plopped himself on the grass and stretched out on his back, arms out wide. I said, “Logan, what are you doing?” He responded, “I taking time to enjoy Mother Nature.”  Well, I couldn’t argue with that. So I lay right down next to him.  

In an article written by Arjun Walia, published in 2017 in Collective Evolution, Dr. James Oschman, a biologist from the University of Pittsburgh, talks about the reports that indicate walking barefoot on the Earth “enhances health and provides feelings of well-being.” Dr. Oschman is an expert in the field of energy medicine. He gives a scientific explanation for what my mother, my grandmother, and countless generations before them knew. Going barefoot, or “earthing” as it’s now called, is good for you!

The benefits of negative ions, antioxidants, and electrons that destroy free-radical aside, what do you feel when I say the title of Neil Simon’s romantic comedy, Barefoot in the Park?  I think freedom. Fun. Or, as the Beach Boys would say, “Good Vibrations.”

Plant Seeds to Celebrate Spring

Here’s another simple Spring ritual. The visible action is to plant seeds. The invisible intent is to imbue the seed with some quality you want to grow in yourself.

If you have the space and the light, you can plant physical seeds for flowers or vegetables. Be sure you know the parameters of the planting season where you live. 

Closeup of female hands planting seeds into small pots. Home gardening.

Or, you can plant symbolic seeds.  Find a pretty pot. Make sure it’s clean. Fill it with fresh potting soil. If you want to grow your finances, use a red pot, or wrap your pot with red foil. Spend some time visualizing not only how your life will change as your income grows but also envision the work you will do to cultivate that growth. Red is the color of desire, will power, and sweat equity. Then plant a bright, shiny new penny into the pot. 

Or, you can plant metaphysical seeds. Maybe you want to grow wisdom, or patience, or confidence. This has been a hard winter for me and my family. I’m planting resilience. No pot. No soil. I’m using one of those little, rubber balls, the kind you’re supposed to squeeze when you feel stress. The visible act is squeezing the ball and watching how it absorbs the shock and always bounces back. The invisible intent is that I can be as flexible and resilient as that ball. This ritual is one that needs to be repeated often.    

Know What You Leave Behind

Vector wintry landscape with night sky and light moon

As one season begins, another ends. The arrival of spring means the departure of winter.  In the excitement of welcoming the new, we don’t always think about what we must leave behind.  We should.  The song of spring birds breaks months of silence. The heat of the sun breaks the cold. Just as dawn brings a new day, it breaks the dark of night.  There is peace in silence, tranquility in the cold, beauty in the dark. Whenever you move forward, always be mindful of what you leave behind.


I hope you can use these rituals. Please don’t think you can do them on one day only. Spring is a season. You can celebrate it any time.

Of course, you can live your life without ritual. You can flip the pages on a calendar or watch the date change on your cell phone. You can feel like a hamster running inside a wheel and, a year later, wonder where the time went and why everything feels the same. 

Or you can connect with the cycles of nature, honor the spirit of the ancestors, discover the patterns of your life, do something to add positive energy to the world. The world needs what you have to give. 

Stuffed toy lambs in a basket

Are you ready to live a relevant life? Add ritual. And, please, tell at least one person about the podcast Ritual Recipes. Thanks.

Posted in Celtic, Goddess, Nature Based, Ritual Recipes Podcast, Seasonal | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Episode 16: A Valentine’s Day Ritual for One

Pets give unconditional love.

A few weeks ago, we celebrated Valentine’s Day. Am I late? No. What I have to say is about the timeless expression of love and about Valentine’s Day rituals for one…because February 14, 2020 will be here before you know it.

My local gift shop, grocery store, pharmacy, and post office all sell greeting cards. Annual holidays transform the rotating racks according to the seasonal emblems – witches, turkeys, evergreen trees, hearts, and shamrocks. For Valentine’s Day there were offerings for a person’s husband, wife, son, son-in-law, grandson, daughter, daughter-in-law, granddaughter, brother, sister, mother, father, and the list goes on. Why the variety? Because the greeting card industry knows that people feel good when they give an expression of love.

Back in the 1950s when I was in grade-school, my mom would bring me and my two younger sisters to the local drug store where she’d let each of us pick out a box of Valentine’s Day cards. The cards were small—about two inches high, a single layer of paper. Each came with a little envelope. Each box might contain 10 or 15 or 20 cards, so depending on how many classmates we had, we might need to buy two boxes. My mother taught us that if we didn’t have enough cards to give one to every classmate, we weren’t to give any cards.

Fast forward to today. I have a lot of friends who are single. Some are divorced, some widowed, some single by choice, some living “in the wait.” Even though I read and write romance novels, I don’t believe a person has to be in a loving, committed relationship to have a good life. That said, I do believe every single one of us needs to give love and be open to receiving love from others. How long the loving energy flows back-and-forth in any relationship will vary. To keep the energy flowing, I’ve designed a few safe and simple rituals.

But first, I want to tell you about something I learned on a recent episode of NPRs “On Being” podcast. The host, Krista Tippett, was interviewing Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist and professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They were talking about love and kindness, about how important it is for young children to see those qualities in the classroom, especially when children see love and kindness used to honor their differences.

Davidson said humans are born with an innate propensity for kindness but that kindness must be nurtured in order to be expressed. He talked about empathy as a prerequisite for kindness, and about the emotional and physical responses children have to acts of kindness, compassion, and generosity. I immediately thought of the vital role played by teachers in kindergarten and preschool.

Tippett and Davidson talked about the quality of resilience – how fast we recover from adversity – and how resilience is a key factor in predicting mortality. They talked about love as the next frontier for science. Now that’s fertile ground!

I was thinking about all this in connection with Valentine’s Day because Davidson also talked about how important emotions are in helping adults make some very important decisions, like partnering with someone, like getting married. I can see links with empathy and kindness and generosity …and ritual. I wondered, how we, as adults, work with those links to create rituals based on acts of kindness? And, will doing so open the heart to give and receive love?

For me, ritual is a visible act performed with invisible intent. Simply put, can a ritual designed around an act of kindness bring love into our lives? While I can’t make guarantees –because people are different and have their own definitions of love – I do see the potential.

Think of it this way. Each of us has a gift we can give: Time, money, things, energy. How much we have of each will vary. What’s important is to recognize that these gifts have an endless return on investment.

Hallmark cards and Lifetime movies are made around the ideas of the passing of time, of contributing money to a worthy cause, of donating items to charity, of adding sweat equity to a community project. We hear stories of the driver at the fast-food window who pays the tab for the stranger behind her. We see the television commercials about the lottery winner who leaves a mega tip for the server in the roadside diner. These acts of kindness demonstrate the truth that it feels good to give. What might an act of kindness look like when combined with ritual?

Young woman reading to older man

Suppose you volunteer at a nursing home. Once a week, you spend a few hours polishing one woman’s fingernails, reading to another, looking at family photos with another. These are visible acts. Now imagine that as you meet with each resident, you use your finger to trace a heart on the other person’s hand. As you do, you say, “May you feel loved.” Repeat the words and trace another heart when you leave. In that brief moment, focus your thoughts on the person whose hand you’re touching. You’ve turned an act of kindness, beautiful in itself, into a ritual, a ritual to bring love. Before you leave, draw a heart on your own hand and say, “I am loved.”

Suppose you’re making breakfast for your child who is getting ready for school. He has a big test that day. You know he’s feeling some anxiety. You want him to help him. A safe and simple way is to draw on the magical properties of basil. The herb is thought to bring courage to both the cook and to all who eat the food.

Dad in the kitchen making breakfast for his son

The mechanics are simple. Add fresh basil to scrambled eggs. Tuck a leaf of basil into a cheese sandwich. Spread some pesto on a cracker. Sprinkle dried basil on a cup of hot bone broth. However you give your son the basil, do so with a hearty “Carpe Diem!” the famous seize-the-day message from the movie, Dead Poets Society. Sure, you could use your best Robin Williams’ imitation and simple recite the quote. And that would be an act of kindness. Add the basil and the invisible intent to give your child courage and you have a ritual, a ritual of love. Be sure to have a bite of basil for yourself. As you eat it, say, “I have the courage to pursue my goals.”

Now let’s imagine you’re weeding out your closet or rummaging through a drawer of old jewelry. You make a pile of items and donate them to the local hospital thrift shop. That’s an act of kindness and generosity. Now suppose that before you bring those items to the thrift shop, you place each piece of jewelry in a little box tied with a ribbon, or in a pretty drawstring bag, along with a note. “I wore these earrings the day I got my dream job (or met my future husband) (or sold my first book) (or sang in public for the first time). May these earrings help make your dreams come true, too.”

Woman holds boxed earrings

Yes, depending on how many items you plan to donate, it will take some time to write all those notes and find suitable containers. Imagine how the recipient will feel. Grateful? Encouraged? Inspired? Chances are, you’ll never know the new owner of each treasure. So I’ll just remind you that destiny is a wide road. Your ritual of generosity could change a stranger’s life for the better. That’s a pretty powerful idea. So, when you drop off your donations, say to yourself, “I enjoy sharing what I have with others.”

Finally, anyone who has ever had a pet knows the feeling of unconditional love. But not everyone can open his or her home to a pet. What you can do is volunteer at your local animal shelter. They’re always looking for people to help comfort and socialize the animals who wind up there. To volunteer is an act of kindness.

Now imagine you’re sitting with an older cat whose owner died. You’ve been told that the cat is listless, has no appetite, and appears lonely and depressed. As you stroke the cat’s fur, envision the cat’s new home. Softly describe it, everything from the quiet cottage that smells like cookies, to the soft cushion on the sun-drenched window seat, to the widow who still cooks for two.

Or, imagine you’re playing with an eager mutt rescued from a devastating storm hundreds of miles away. Each time you toss a stick and the dog races to retrieve it, you say, “Go fetch the young family that’s looking for a dog just like you!” 

You see, if your heart longs for quiet companionship, or for the joyful energy of a new family, envision it for someone else first. Sometimes that’s easier than creating a clear vision of what you want.  As you repeat the ritual for other dogs and cats and they show their gratitude in ways that only they can, say to yourself, “I want companionship, too. I want a cozy home, too. I want love, too.” 

These are simple examples of ways acts of kindness and generosity can inspire rituals that open your heart to love. I hope these ideas inspire rituals of your own. And I hope you tell me about them. Email zita@moonriverrituals.com.  I’m going to assume that if you do tell me about your rituals, that’s it’s okay for me to talk about them on the Ritual Recipes podcast.

Of course, you can live your life without ritual. You can flip the pages on a calendar or watch the date change on your cell phone. You can feel like a hamster running inside a wheel, and when Valentine’s Day comes around next year, you’ll wonder where the time went and why nothing has changed. Or you can perform safe and simple rituals of kindness and generosity and know that you made a difference in someone else’s world. You can lead a relevant life, and share it with others.

Posted in Friendship, Life in General, Ritual Recipes Podcast, Seasonal, Valentine's Day | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment