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Ostara by Helena Nelson Reed | SpiritMAMA Blog

Happy Ostara

We started following the traditional wheel of the year many years ago after a rather harrowing Christmas season. The stress of it all made me question why I was actually doing it. We weren’t Christian after all and back then that seemed pretty black and white. We weren’t pagan either. We had no religious leanings.

I just ran across an article actually, stating that British Columbia is one of the least religious places in the whole world! Needless to say, almost all of our friends are secular.

So I decided then, that we could celebrate the Winter Solstice instead, because I could get behind celebrating snowboarding, sleigh-rides, icicles and general winter-y fun. Also upon further digging I found out that a lot of Christmas traditions were actually pre-Christian pagan traditions. The tree, the mistletoe, the yule log, the holly. I was so glad to be able to keep my beloved Christmas tree tradition (renamed Solstice Tree). We can talk more on this next winter hey? Suffice it to say, Halloween, Spring-time and Easter are the same.

We Germans to this day call April ostermonat, and ôstarmânoth is found as early as Eginhart (temp. Car. Mag.). The great Christian festival, which usually falls in April or the end of March, bears in the oldest of OHG remains the name ôstarâ … it is mostly found in the plural, because two days … were kept at Easter. This Ostarâ, like the [Anglo-Saxon] Eástre, must in heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the Christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries. ~Jacob Grimm

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The Wizard of Oz | SpiritMAMA Blog

Shamanic Journeying and Liminal Spaces

I’ve always been fascinated by stories that talk about going to parallel realities through tunnels or portals. C.S Lewis’s Narnia was my favourite, in particular The Magicians Nephew.

Magicians Nephew | Spirit Mama BlogRemember that between place that the children find? A heavily wooded forest with its cloying stillness that caused one to doze and forget – dotted with many pools, each one leading to a different world.

Or how about Oza place found only through the eye of a cyclone? Or that book A Wrinkle in Time – about the girl who travels to another dimension to find her father. I loved these books when I was a kid, but there was something decidedly creepy about them. Like, these places exist, but they are not of our reality and so anything could happen if you went there. There’s a feeling of immense power that makes you feel tiny…not necessarily evil, but not good either, just you know, really BIG.

I think I went to one of these places once, when I was attempting a shamanic journey. It was similar to that Narnia forest.

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Antelope Cave Painting | SpiritMAMA Blog

A Message from the Wanderer

Today outside your prison I stand
and rattle my walking stick: Prisoners, listen;
you have relatives outside. And there are
thousands of ways to escape.
Years ago I bent my skill to keep my
cell locked, had chains smuggled to me in pies,
and shouted my plans to jailers;
but always new plans occured to me,
or the new heavy locks bent hinges off,
or some stupid jailer would forget
and leave the keys.

Inside, I dreamed of constellations—
those feeding creatures outlined by stars,
their skeletons a darkness between jewels,
heroes that exist only where they are not.

Thus freedom always came nibbling my thought,
just as—often, in light, on the open hills—
you can pass an antelope and not know
and look back, and then—even before you see—
there is something wrong about the grass.
And then you see.

That’s the way everything in the world is waiting.

Now—these few more words, and then I’m
gone: Tell everyone just to remember
their names, and remind others, later, when we
find each other. Tell the little ones
to cry and then go to sleep, curled up
where they can. And if any of us get lost,
if any of us cannot come all the way—
remember: there will come a time when
all we have said and all we have hoped
will be all right.

There will be that form in the grass.

– William Stafford

Helena of Constantinople | SpiritMAMA Blog

The Reindeer Goddess Part One: Saints And Empresses, Antlers And Sovereignty

Helena of Constantinople | Spirit Mama BlogThe beautiful and intriguing, alleged reindeer goddess of ancient British Isles, ‘Elen of the Ways’, needs more investigation. I feel in my heart that there is a horned goddess out there so of course in my scientific brain, I have to find proof enough of her existence that it will satisfy my intuition – my guts.

This intuition told me right away that there is something, something that needs more exploration there. So it’s been fun these past few days, searching out the origins of Elen in history – and running across her in the blogosohere as well.

I found a few references to Marion Zimmer Bradly and The Mists of Avalon series – apparently she wrote in the character of ‘Elein’ in The Priestess of Avalon, who was a priestess of Elen of the Ways. And Elein compared her to the goddess Nehallenia of the Netherlands (perhaps also Celtic), who was goddess of sea ways. She also intertwined her with Elen Luyddogg, the brief Roman empress Welsh saint, ‘Elen of the Hosts, and  St. Helen(a) of Constantinople, also empress of Rome.

As far as I can tell though, this points back to Caroline Wise and her manuscript Elen of the Shimmering Ways, because it was published in 1986. Bradley’s book was published in 2002 and in fact everything I have found that refers to Elen of the Ways, dates later than this original manuscript.

In it Wise says that she has been researching this goddess for 25 years. She in fact named the goddess ‘Elen of the Ways’ after coming to the conclusion that this goddess was one and the same as the Empress ‘Elen of the Hosts’ of Wales, who was responsible for building a network of roads across her territory (more on this in a bit).

This is important because it means that any reference to Elen of the Ways we come to from this point on, points back to Ms. Wise, and we have to go backwards to her, rather than forwards in our search.

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Altar Candles | SpiritMAMA Blog

Learning With an Altar-Space

Around Bealtane (Spring) 2012, I set up my first altar. It was confusing at first, because I wanted an altar for a few different reasons: one was to honour my ancestors and guides and whomever else may be out there helping me out; the other was to have a place to do a daily devotional to my HP (higher powers); and another was to have a working altar where I could sit in circle and work on things like making tools, journeying and working with energies, in a more formal way than I have been doing so far.

So I set up three altars at first… and it didn’t work.

I felt like my energies were too scattered. I realized that the working alter would have to be opened and closed – like, assembled and disassembled, unless I wanted to be feeding it every day – which I initially did do, but having three alters to ‘feed’ every day actually takes up way too much time for me. I get about ten minutes in the morning to myself, to pray etc, before my little one starts bugging me to come and play. Being a busy mom, there is little time for me during the day to set aside for meditation and prayer. It has to be fast and efficient, yet meaningful.

Plus I figured out that the working alter really just needs to be a secluded place for me to be able to go to and actually complete tasks, whereas a place for daily prayer and gratitude is something different.

I ended up with a nice spot in my kitchen, on top of my piano, where I put a bunch of pics of relatives gone past and some friends who have passed. Each morning, I would bring them coffee and oranges and sometimes other things that seemed appropriate – rose petals, a bit of scotch – there are some personal items there as well, that belonged to these people. I would light a candle, and a stick of sandalwood and state their welcome out loud.

Then, it also became a place where I would put ‘gifts’ that I would find out in the world during my days. Rocks that wanted to come home with us, a white feather, a crow’s feather, some sparkly gold leaves, my crystals, some animal figurines that kind of just show up in my house here and there. Crow, Bear, Hog, Cat.

So the altar space morphed into a devotional space to ancestors and to the Goddess/God/Creator and to Pachamama as well. Rocks and earth. Fire and water. Animal guides and feathers for the angels. It kind of all came into the space on its own, and my confusion evaporated.

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Quickening: An Imbolc Tarot Spread

This is a great spread to start off a new year. It was very insightful for me! Choose your favourite cards and check it out. I actually used three sets of cards to go deeper.


Imbolc Tarot

Imbolc is a time of quickening.

The word Imbolc is from the Gaelic for “in the belly” and speaks of the promise of spring, even when winter lingers. Think of the earth stretching before arising from her winter bed and her blood warming beneath her skin of soil. Our Quickening Spread for Imbolc is about paying attention to those seed dreams we discovered within ourselves in the dark of the year, focusing on how we can nurture our dream into reality.

1. Seed. What is the dream seed that you hope to grow in the brightening year?

2 + 3. Quickening. What energies are stirring awake within you? What part of your self that has been slumbering is slowly awakening?

4. Fire. What aids and inspires your dream seed?

5. Ice. What blocks and challenges your dream seed?

6 + 7. Forge. How can you…

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Brigid's Well | SpiritMAMA

Turning the Tide, Planting Seeds – 8 Ways To Manifest a Better World at Imbolc

I don’t really celebrate Imbolc. Probably because I’m tired out from the winter holidays but, also where I live in the Pacific Northwest, there is not much difference in the weather between January and February. It just rains. A lot.

This year I’ve been thinking about a lot of stuff. The world is going crazy south of us here in Canada and no-one knows how it will all pan out for all of us. Everything feels suddenly hyperreal, as is common when faced with a threat – reality solidifies around survival instincts so we can have this pin-point of focus on the enemy.

Wheel of the Year | SpiritMAMAThere is really SO MUCH wrong in the world it can be overwhelming. My reaction thus far has been to try to keep my eye on all of it, as if in some way this will make it all safer. But this is impossible. It spreads my energies thin and accomplishes very little, other than creating a state of fear and worry. So this year, at Imbolc, I am doing something different.

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Bridged Dolls - Celtic Soul Craft | SpiritMAMA

Gorgeous Bridget Dolls and Art from Celtic Soul Craft

Here’s a timely little poppet, in honour of Imbolc / Bridget’s Day.

Brighid ‘Brideog’ Doll – Click on image to view in shop Brighid Altar Wall Hanging – Featuring protective Brighid’s wheel/cross and pocket for offerings – Click on image to view in shop Brighid Altar Wall Hanging – With pocket for offerings & Brighid’s wheel/cross which offers protection to the house for the coming year. […]

via Brighid Art in the Shop…. — Celtic Soul Craft

Altar with Ptarmigan Statue 2015 | SpiritMAMA Blog

How Solstice Was Magic This Year

This year, in the beginning, the usual winter holiday festivities felt staged to me. A little barren, a little rote. We had more cash to buy gifts than usual, but this actually made everything a tad more stressful (shopping) and left me feeling hollow.

I opted out of doing any hosting this year. Usually we host a Winter Solstice feast and open house but I just wasn’t feeling it. I wanted a mellow, stress-free holiday and it was – but I had a hard time connected with the deeper meaning of the season. I dutifully set up my Solstice altar as I do every year and felt nothing there.

It was pretty though.

Winter Solstice Altar 2016 | Spirit Mama Blog  Winter Solstice Altar 2016 | Spirit Mama Blog

Then Solstice Eve rolled around. I spent that day reading out of my favourite book for seasonal celebrations, Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions by Starhawk. I decided to make a real go of it and celebrate the night the right way, regardless of my hum-drums.

Fox With Lantern | Spirit Mama Blog

We have a local theatre group here that hosts a yearly Winter Solstice lantern parade in three different neighbourhoods in the city. It’s fantastic. There is a parade, lantern building workshops, fire-dancers, roving bands and entertainment, and Morris Men dancers! (my favourite), along with First Nations dancers, headdress making workshops and last but not least, indoor labyrinths of light, made from paper bags and beeswax candles. What bliss!

Solstice Lantern Parade Vancouver 2016 | Spirit Mama Blog Solstice Lantern Parade Vancouver 2016 | Spirit Mama Blog

IMG_5391I had talked to my family about the tradition of staying up all night on the Solstice, to keep vigil through the night and tend the solstice fire (a candle) and of the importance of watching the sun come up once again after the longest night of the year. My son was really into it, so when we got home, my husband went off to work for the night and we began: we made custard with eggs symbolizing the returning light; we listened to medieval Christmas carols; we painted suns and put them all over the house and the altar. I read fairy tales about Mother Winter and journeys to the Celtic underworld with its silver apple trees, snow and ginger bread houses.

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Buddha Meditating Art | SpiritMAMA Blog

Begin to Meditate: It’s Easy and It Will Change Everything

I used to think mediating was hard because well, it was. Every time I sat down to do it I found myself fidgeting and wishing I was somewhere  else. Eventually I’d get irritated and get up. End of session.

But in yoga teacher training, I was trained in the basics of meditation and realized that it wasn’t meditation that was hard, it was my perception of what I thought mediation was that was causing me difficulties.

A common misconception is that meditation is about ‘clearing your mind of thoughts’. So, we sit down and close our eyes and try to push all of the thoughts out of our heads. But, with this kind of force, the mind retaliates and actually becomes busier.

What we actually want to do is to simply observe the thoughts. As if we were sitting in a theatre, we sit in our minds eye and perform a process of allowing the thoughts to come and go. Our minds will jump on thoughts here and there in an effort to follow the progression of the thought to an end resolution – take us on what I call a ‘thought train’. When this happens, we remember we are meditating, gently jump off, let the thought go and bring our awareness back to the here and now. I bring my awareness back to my third eye in the centre of my forehead and say, “I am not my thoughts.” This was the technique taught to me. I have since added, “I am not my emotions. I am not my stories”. You could also say something like, “Come back to centre”.

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