Daily Archives: June 21, 2012

‘THINK on THESE THINGS’ for June 21

By Joyce Sequichie Hifler

Isn’t it true that when someone days something is wrong, our first thought is, “What have I done wrong now?” That constant fear of having a finger of accusation pointed in our direction – that guilt complex that can plague us into admitting guilt when it isn’t ours.

Shakespeare wrote, “The mind of guilt is full of scorpions.” And surely it is. For we often take more on with a feeling of guilt than is required of us. It is more often a feeling of fear; fear of being ridiculed, blamed, or even threatened.

A guilt complex can be erased. Not in a day, and maybe not completely, unless we are dedicated to keeping it out of our minds. We are so prone to throw fuel on the fire that we must always be completely aware of the thoughts we entertain.

But certainly, with turning to our innate faith and wisdom we can find enough courage to recognize the ghosts of guilt and see them for what they are.

Perhaps in the final analysis we find we were not guilty at all. We feel relieved, but if we were guilty, the relief of admitting mistakes is just as great.

*<<<=-=>>>*<<<=-=>>>*<<<=-=>>>*<<<=-=>>>*

Available online! ‘Cherokee Feast of Days’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler.

Visit her web site to purchase the wonderful books by Joyce as gifts for yourself or for loved ones……and also for those who don’t have access to the Internet:

 

http://www.hifler.com
Click Here to Buy her books at Amazon.com

Elder’s Meditation of the Day
By White Bison, Inc., an American Indian-owned nonprofit organization. Order their many products from their web site: http://www.whitebison.org

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Elder’s Meditation of the Day June 21

“The god that people reject is not the true god, it is a god they have conjured up apart from proper education, and understanding. In such cases, the least Fools Crow will do is to call their assumptions into question, and force them to reevaluate their position.”

–Thomas Mails on Fools Crow, LAKOTA

Inside of every person – man, woman, and child – is the knowledge that there is a Supreme Being. Many of us have been taught that the Creator is a punishing God. We have been taught about feelings of guilt and shame when we do things wrong. We have been taught that God gets angry and disappointed with us. The Elders teach us that the Creator is a loving and forgiving God. He loves us during our good days and He loves us during our bad days. He doesn’t know how to do anything but love. If I really want to find out about the true God, I only need to ask in prayer. There is one thing that God cannot do and that is refuse help to one of His children who asks.

My Creator, I ask You to be a part of my life today. Whisper to me Your wisdom. Let me feel Your presence. If I am doubtful and afraid, show me, in terms I can understand, You are real.

 

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June 21 – Daily Feast

 

Chances are we never recall just when we made the biggest decisions in our lives – unless we can remember some of our quietest moments. We think of change coming with fanfare, but that so seldom happens. Most of the time we silently recognize the great things in our lives long before we bring them our to be known by everyone. It is hard to say just when the change began. Some of it is even ga lv quo di, sacred to us, not easily shared – nor wise to share, because it is our own that comes from somewhere deep within us. There is an inner life that makes changes easier because it prepares us to accept what we cannot change – and more importantly, to change what we can.

~ The whole world is coming. A nation is coming, a nation is coming. The Eagle has brought the message to the tribe. ~

WOVOKA

‘A Cherokee Feast of Days’, by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

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Daily Motivator for June 21 – Don’t worry

 

Don’t worry about what you must do. Just get going and get it done.

Don’t worry that there’s not enough time. Just make full, purposeful and effective use of the time you have.

 

Don’t worry that there’s not enough money. Focus instead on the ever-present opportunities to create value.

 

Don’t worry about what others might say or think or do. Use your time, energy and resources in accordance with your own highest vision.

 

Don’t worry about what has already happened or what might occur in the future. Now is the moment in which you can act, and now is where your awareness belongs.

 

This is your beautiful, precious and amazing life, so don’t contaminate any of it with useless worry. Instead, live it fully, richly, peacefully and confidently as each wondrous day unfolds.

— Ralph Marston

The Daily Motivator 

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Daily OM for Thursday, June 21 – Working with Angels

Graceful Guidance

by Madisyn Taylor

Our angels are here to help us and by calling on them for assistance they are able to do their job.

 

At some point in our lives, we are likely to find ourselves asking for help, perhaps from no one in particular, and without knowing where help could possibly come from. We may have raised our eyes skyward or whispered our need under our breath only to find that somehow we were heard, and the help we needed arrived. It might have come in the form of a person who appeared at the right time, or perhaps it came in the form of luck, chance, or divine intervention. However assistance appears, these are times when we can be sure that there are angels watching over us.
We may find ourselves asking for their help with simple things—like finding a parking spot or to watch over loved ones—but then we forgot to call on them when we found ourselves alone or in pain. We don’t need to be aware of them to receive their assistance, but there is comfort in the knowledge that they are there for us when we need them. And when we remain open to their presence, we can call on them whenever we need them to connect and be nurtured by their ethereal and heavenly energy.
As symbols of grace and gentle encouragement, they can offer us comfort as they enfold us in their wings or lift our spirit as they take flight. We may be warmed by their glow, guided by their gentle nudges or inspired by their whispers in our ears. We may hear the name of our angel and feel a personal connection, but it isn’t necessary. All they need is to be heard, to see us benefit from their guidance and perhaps to hear a word of thanks sent their way every now and then. Whether they appear in the guise of a helpful stranger, or as a thought that suddenly occurs to us, angels are our loving guides from the spiritual realm, who with a brush of their angelic wings help us to make the most of our human experience by balancing it with the spiritual awareness that all things are possible and that we are not alone.

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Secret, Ancient Rites of Stress

by Tostito Tramp

I am so stressed from my friend Earthbeam stressing out my friend Uberwurm that I think I need some relief. It occurred to me that others may be in the same boat — to be specific, the S.S. Stress, which sails out of Shit Happens Harbor. There is new research that points strongly to this being the very boat that carried Amun Re through the underworld — and why not? What could be more stressful than that whole Egyptian afterlife fooferah? For those of you experiencing stress, I offer this ancient yet timely ritual to propitiate that god of modern life, Stress.

I would like to take a moment to stress (ha, ha) the utmost antiquity and lineage of the occult methods that you are about to read. The ancient Sunkurians knew the unpleasant tension of their lives by the name Nekhurt. Nekhurt Nekhurt Bibastos Nekatut translates to “shit that fucking shit deity screwed me again.” Doctors Pesty and Moreseau question this and have suggested the alternative “damn me, damn him, we screw it up,” which contains intriguing hints at modern philosophy concerning responsibility for one’s own circumstances, as well as divinity lying within ourselves. The Sunkurians conducted special weekly and biannual ceremonies to appease Nekhurt, so that he might take pity upon them and make their lives a little less miserable.

We find a less well-known ritual influence among the Vikings, who despite being a freewheeling and uninhibited people still offered up votive gold goat figurines to the great goat GnashJaw, sometimes referred to as Toothgrinder, the infamous third goat who always pulled Odin’s cart the other way. Even today, we find the expression “third wheel” to designate someone as a source of stress for those around them.

For etymologists, it is interesting to consider the similarity between GnashJaw (originally spelled Gnashja) and the name of the Indian god Ganesha, known as the Lord of Obstacles! Many insights can be gleaned by dwelling upon the mystical truths embodied in Ganesha’s characteristic creature, the elephant. Consider the notoriously long memory of the elephant (hint: what more stress relieving phrase is there than “just forget about it”?). Consider the deep wrinkles covering elephants, demonstrating in the very flesh a lifetime of anxiety. This secret stressful characteristic of memory is also expressed by the Greeks in the story of Odysseus. What an easy time of it he could have had if he had just stayed with Calypso, or with Circe, or even just been a happy little piggy chomping on Circe’s garbage!

Of course the Hermetic magicians and alchemists of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries regularly made sacrifice and propitiation to the great power Inhibitus Obsessus. It is in their rituals that the forms we know today first come into focus. According to Goutish Cornish of the Flemish Museum of the Scottish Gnomish, stress (in other words the inexorable workings of Inhibitus Obsessus) is credited as the object of over 86.3 different traditional sayings, rituals and superstitions among the Scottish Gnomish people of the Middle Ages. And why not, eh? Middle age is extremely stressful. At least we in modern times only spend a brief time in middle age. Imagine generations of people living there for their entire lives! Going to the dentist before anesthesia!

This century has witnessed both the rise of stress and the rediscovery of these ancient ways of appeasing it. It starts in Britain during the twenties, where Dr. Poodle from Helsinki met the charismatic and thoroughly repressed Madame Tourniquette. Together, they founded a secret society dedicated to research into the occult causes of stress and perspiration. Although they eventually had a falling out over the inclusion of perspiration in their research agenda, their original findings and work were made public in 1952 under the magickal names Sphincter (Tourniquette) and Retention Od Avicus (Poodle). Note the interesting connections implicit in the second name, dealing as it does with the modern concept of anal retentiveness (also echoed in Touniquette’s own magickal sobriquet), as well as the traditional mental retention of Ganesha’s elephants, seen herein to be so debilitating to them.

In the self-published Gnasherbitnail, Poodle and Tourniquette first revealed the ritual presented in this article. At the time, its readership consisted of a small occult splinter group hungry for enlightenment. Now I bring it to a broader readership no less in need. I have consulted some of the premier occult minds of the Meadowbrook neighborhood as well as sparing no trouble to retranslate the ritual from the language in which it was first published. So, from the ancient Sunkurians to you, my readers, behold the authentic Secret Rites of Stress. (Disclaimer: This translation of the original Sunkurian has not been evaluated by any individual attached to an accredited scholastic institution.)

The Ritual

First you need some salt. Don’t waste it by scattering it in a circle, dropping it into water or throwing it over your shoulder. These actions are far too cavalier and messy. To appease Stress, we must pile it all into a small perfectly proportioned pyramid and then eat it. Don’t forget to align the corner of your pyramid with Sirius — and if you don’t know which corner to align, what are you even doing reading this article?

Eat the salt, and lots of it, to increase your blood pressure, get a nasty taste in your mouth and cause you to purse your lips, which is part of the Stress Mudra (more about that later on).

Water is also involved. You may drink some to alleviate your parched throat and cracking lips after the salt. But do not spill a drop on the floor or on your ritual attire. Robes, you say? What robes? This is a stress ritual! It is to be conducted in a suit and tie or a corset and three-inch heels. (Notice I made no indication of criteria to choose which outfit to wear, so if you bridled at my sexism, then you have only your own straitjacketing and chauvinistic presumptions to blame.)

You are allowed 1.2 ounces of water. It must be perfectly pure. Read those labels carefully; contact the bottler if necessary; you may even have to distill it further a few times yourself. If you use too much, then Stress will be displeased, because by association and correspondence and all that uptight magickal twaddle you are allocating your emotions more than their acceptable time and energy. So drink your 1.2 ounces of water with great care and deliberation. Keep those emotions in check!

I can see that you traditional ritualists are just itching to light up some incense about now. Yes, the rolling eyes and urgent, furtive glances toward the altar give you away. Well, you know what? No. N-O. There will be no incense in the Stress ritual. It is just far too hippie dippy earthy crunchy touchy feelie. Suck it in and push on! That is the way to the Stress Deity’s heart.

Now we cast the circle. This is where that 9-foot cord comes in handy. Get a pencil or pen and tie it to the end of the cord. Do not use up too much of the cord tying it to the pencil. You can make up for some lost length by angling the pencil out as you draw the circle, but it will only make up for a little. Next, find the center of your ritual area. This will require some measurement and possibly mathematics. If you can’t cope with that, then your best bet is to postpone the ritual until you feel sufficiently stressed to be motivated to find the center of your ritual area properly. `Nuff said!

Once you find the center, pound a nail into the floor. No outdoors Stress rituals allowed. If you attempt it, the godhead will smite you with agonizing inner accusations of “cheater, cheater” for a very long time. Tie the other end of your cord to the nail. Watch out now! You are really starting to lose some length here. Then slowly and carefully draw the circle on your floor using your cord like a compass. Do not let the cord go slack! Do not change the angle of the pencil! Do not stop and redraw that bit that you missed! If you foul up, you should again wait until you have sufficient incentive to get it right.

As you draw the circle, you must visualize a reddish black line of energy exactly corresponding to your pencil line. You should channel your personal stress into this line. While casting the circle, the following should be sung in the key of D minor (remember it is the saddest of all keys):

With this pencil I describe

The perimeter of my Stress bribe.

The perfect accomplishment of this task

Reflects the worth of my sorry ass.

You had better end a verse as you are completing the circle. Anything less shows a slapdash attitude that simply will not do. If at the end you do not meet up with your starting line… you guessed it. Try again some other time.

I must pause briefly to assure my international readers that I in no way wish to make it impossible to conduct these important mysteries accurately and correctly. So after consultation with my in-house magicians, witches, linguists and historians, we recommend the following substitutions: 35.732 milliliters of water, a 274.32-centimeter cord and 7.62-centimeter heels if that is your chosen footwear. The national baseline of meticulousness should be consulted to indicate whether you need to exert yourself additionally to propitiate Stress.

Now take your 11.6 inch (29.464 centimeter) lacquered blackthorn wand and stand facing 3 degrees north of east, as derived from true north. Your local longitude and latitude will indicate the correction to use to arrive at true north from magnetic north. It is time to assume the Stress Mudra!

Stand with your feet together, weight evenly distributed. Your knees should be locked (disclaimer: the author assumes no responsibility for any fainting resulting from spending too long in the Stress Mudra). Tuck your butt, straighten your back, pull your shoulders down and back, reach your arms behind you as far as you can, wrinkle your brow, purse your lips, clench your teeth and press your tongue against the bottom of your mouth. Now tighten every muscle in your body and bring to mind the most humiliating scolding you ever received.

Facing 3 degrees north of true east in your Stress Mudra, groan once with full energetic vibration from your fifth chakra. Simultaneously bring your wand in front of you with your projecting hand (for those who don’t know, this is the hand with which you flip people off). While slowly correcting your facing to true east, using the same reddish black stress energy as before, draw in the air the Rider-Waite Ace of Swords Tarot card. Don’t forget the border and the little yods (those are the two-ended flamy-spermy things that were probably just a leaky pen but got passed off as kabalistic truths). While you are doing all that, recite with full energetic vibration from the fourth chakra the first Stress Affirmation:

I must perfectly recall everything I ever learned, or by Obsessus I suck!

As you say suck, release all the tension in your body and fall backwards into a limp heap on the floor. Your fourth chakra must fall exactly on the center of your circle. Don’t forget to remove the nail first!

Get back up and face 2&fraq12; degrees west of true south. Assume the Stress Mudra as before. This time, draw in the air a group of hydrogen molecules fusing into a helium molecule. Simultaneously correct your facing to true south and recite the second Stress Affirmation:

If everything I want does not manifest instantly, then by Gnashja I suck!

Again, fall completely relaxed on the floor, but this time land with your third chakra on the center of the circle.

Repeat at the remaining directions, with these details: West should be 5 degrees south of true west; draw a map of the world’s oceans and recite “I must never allow my feelings to influence me or by Inhibitus I suck!” Vibrate from your second chakra and land with it on the circle’s center.

North is true north; draw your house. Recite “If I am not healthier and wealthier than anyone I know, then by Nekhurt I suck!” Vibrate from your first chakra and land with it on the circle’s center. Be careful not to injure your tailbone.

By now, you should be feeling the immense tension of your life building in your body, mind, and spirit. If you don’t, pause here to make sure that you are fully aware of the Stress in your life. Otherwise, the ritual is completely useless, and you should have known you would fail at it and never have started it in the first place!

Now assume the Stress Mudra at the center of the circle, facing the direction that corresponds best to your personal stress (this would be the one with the Stress Affirmation that you hated saying the most). Recite 19 times:

“It is all my fault!”

Now release all the stress. If the ritual has been correctly done up to this point, you will know how to do that. Otherwise, do not attempt this Great Mystery, for you may injure yourself, betray everyone you care about, anger the Stress Deity, summon by mistake the ex-lover with whom you broke up bitterly and cause all the people you hate to get raises or even better jobs.

Once Stress is released, you must ensure Stress will not return. Therefore, perform all the steps that lead up to the Great Mystery backwards. It may take you a while to practice saying the affirmations backwards, as well as springing smoothly up from the floor into the Stress Mudra. Don’t forget to include any extraneous actions you took during the course of the ritual.

Did you get through it? If you did, congratulations! Your life will now be perfect.

If you didn’t, Stress will eventually forget this botched attempt at propitiation and go back to only heaping upon you your normal daily allotment of frustration, pain, anxiety, ignominy, humiliation, boredom and illness. Better luck next time.

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A Midsummer Night’s Lore

by Melanie Fire Salamander

Cinquefoil, campion, lupine and foxglove nod on your doorstep; Nutka rose, salal bells, starflower and bleeding-heart hide in the woods, fully green now. Litha has come, longest day of the year, height of the sun. Of old, in Europe, Litha was the height too of pagan celebrations, the most important and widely honored of annual festivals.

Fire, love and magick wreathe ’round this time. As on Beltaine in Ireland, across Europe people of old leaped fires for fertility and luck on Midsummer Day, or on the night before, Midsummer Eve, according to Funk and Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend.Farmers drove their cattle through the flames or smoke or ran with burning coals across the cattle pens. In the Scottish Highlands, herders circumnabulated their sheep with torches lit at the Midsummer fire.

People took burning brands around their fields also to ensure fertility, and in Ireland threw them into gardens and potato fields. Ashes from the fire were mixed with seeds yet to plant. In parts of England country folk thought the apple crop would fail if they didn’t light the Midsummer fires. People relit their house fires from the Midsummer bonfire, in celebration hurled flaming disks heavenward and rolled flaming wheels downhill, burning circles that hailed the sun at zenith.

Midsummer, too, was a lovers’ festival. Lovers clasped hands over the bonfire, tossed flowers across to each other, leaped the flames together. Those who wanted lovers performed love divination. In Scandinavia, girls laid bunches of flowers under their pillows on Midsummer Eve to induce dreams of love and ensure them coming true. In England, it was said if an unmarried girl fasted on Midsummer Eve and at midnight set her table with a clean cloth, bread, cheese and ale, then left her yard door open and waited, the boy she would marry, or his spirit, would come in and feast with her.

Magick crowns Midsummer. Divining rods cut on this night are more infallible, dreams more likely to come true. Dew gathered Midsummer Eve restores sight. Fern, which confers invisibility, was said to bloom at midnight on Midsummer Eve and is best picked then. Indeed, any magickal plants plucked on Midsummer Eve at midnight are doubly efficacious and keep better. You’d pick certain magickal herbs, namely St. Johnswort, hawkweed, vervain, orpine, mullein, wormwood and mistletoe, at midnight on Midsummer Eve or noon Midsummer Day, to use as a charm to protect your house from fire and lightning, your family from disease, negative witchcraft and disaster. A pagan gardener might consider cultivating some or all of these; it’s not too late to buy at herb-oriented nurseries, the Herbfarm outside Fall City the chief of these and a wonderful place to visit, if a tad pricey. Whichever of these herbs you find, a gentle snip into a cloth, a spell whispered over, and you have a charm you can consecrate in the height of the sun.

In northern Europe, the Wild Hunt was often seen on Midsummer Eve, hallooing in the sky, in some districts led by Cernunnos. Midsummer’s Night by European tradition is a fairies’ night, and a witches’ night too. Rhiannon Ryall writes in West Country Wiccathat her coven, employing rites said to be handed down for centuries in England’s West Country, would on Midsummer Eve decorate their symbols of the God and Goddess with flowers, yellow for the God, white for the Goddess. The coven that night would draw down the moon into their high priestess, and at sunrise draw down the sun into their high priest. The priest and priestess then celebrated the Great Rite, known to the coven as the Rite of Joining or the Crossing Rite.

Some of Ryall’s elders called this ritual the Ridencrux Rite. They told how formerly in times of bad harvest or unseasonable weather, the High Priestess on the nights between the new and full moon would go to the nearest crossroads, wait for the first stranger traveling in the district. About this stranger the coven had done ritual beforehand, to ensure he embodied the God. The high priestess performed the Great Rite with him to make the next season’s sowing successful.

In the Middle Ages in Europe, traces of witchcraft and pagan remembrances were often linked with Midsummer. In Southern Estonia, Lutheran Church workers found a cottar’s wife accepting sacrifices on Midsummer Day, Juhan Kahk writes in Early Modern European Witchcraft: Centres and Peripheries, edited by Bengt Ankarloo and Gustave Henningsen. Likewise, on Midsummer Night in 1667, in Estonia’s Maarja-Magdaleena parish, peasants met at the country manor of Colonel Griefenspeer to perform a ritual to cure illnesses.

In Denmark, writes Jens Christian V. Johansen in another Early Modern European Witchcraft chapter, medieval witches were said to gather on Midsummer Day, and in Ribe on Midsummer Night. Inquisitors in the Middle Ages often said witches met on Corpus Christi, which some years fell close to Midsummer Eve, according to Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, by Jeffrey Burton Russell. The inquisitors explained witches chose the date to mock a central Christian festival, but Corpus Christi is no more important than a number of other Christian holidays, and it falls near a day traditionally associated with pagan worship. Coincidence? Probably not.

Anciently, pagans and witches hallowed Midsummer. Some burned for their right to observe their rites; we need not. But we can remember the past. In solidarity with those burned, we can collect our herbs at midnight; we can burn our bonfires and hail the sun.

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A Walk on the Wild Side: A Lifetime Finding Magick in Nature

by L. Lisa Lawrence

When I sit back and try to identify my first significant spiritual experiences, I can’t come up with just one but rather a series of experiences that share a common bond of nature and wilderness. These experiences span my entire lifetime and began when I was too young to understand them.

I was blessed to grow up on the coast. Some of my earliest memories involve running along the waterline dodging the incoming waves picking up seashells, building sand castles and watching the Pacific Ocean crash onto the rocks and cliffs sending its salty spray skyward. I remember the sun setting over the Channel Islands painting the sky orange, pink and purple. I was never as happy anywhere as I was where I could experience the sand, wind, water and blazing sun.

As a small child, barely 3 years old, my heart stopped beating as a result of respiratory arrest induced by an asthma attack while running on my beloved beach. I can’t recall any “white light,” dead relatives or even the paramedics restarting my heart with an intracardiac epinephrine injection, but I did know that my life ended and began again at the edge of the sea. From that day on, I would always be tied to the water. I was literally reborn to it.

Later, farther north on the coast, as an adolescent drawn to the beach and water, I defied my parents and climbed down a treacherous trail from cliffs to the beach below, only to be trapped in a cave by the incoming tide for several hours. I was not afraid but was at peace, knowing that the never-ending cycle of the moon and sea would let me go home when the time was right. I explored the labyrinth of caves and discovered bats, otters and sea lions that were more than willing to share their space with me and didn’t seem the least bit disturbed by my presence. Time stood still while I was in those caves. When I emerged, I was shocked to see the sun setting, and I made my ascent back up the cliff. I returned to those caves many times when I needed a place to just be — although after getting in trouble for worrying my parents, I learned to check the tide tables first.

When I got older and began to expand my geographic horizons, I discovered the foothills, forests and mountains. As a teenager, I rode the bus from my small costal town up into the foothills to work at a fancy inn’s riding stable on weekends and vacations, shoveling horse poop and guiding trail rides for a mere $15 a day, unlike my friends who were working at McDonald’s or in a fashion store in the mall. My reward for all the sore muscles, sunburn, saddle sores and blisters was being able to escape into the hills on my horse, alone. The pressures of a challenging academic program, teen angst and a dysfunctional family disappeared as my chocolate brown gelding and I ascended the steep hills and galloped across meadows with the wind blowing through our hair. Almost every evening, I watched the setting sun turn the Topa Topa Bluffs a bright pink and listened to crickets and coyotes sing a welcoming song to the twilight. I was at peace. I was at home. Only reluctantly would I come down out of the hills, walk two miles to the bus stop and take the hour long ride back down the hill to “real life.”

On the outside, I appeared quite “normal”; I was popular, excelled at sports, held elected office, did well in my classes and was involved in community theater, a church youth group and journalism. But I knew that I was different and often needed to escape to nature, which was the only place that I truly felt at peace. At that point in my life, I didn’t know anyone else that was like me, so being a typical teenager, I just did my best to fit in. I would soon discover that denying your true nature doesn’t work.

If I hadn’t already figured out on my own that I was “different,” it was brought home to me in junior high school when our Methodist Youth Fellowship youth group took a religion test. We were presented with a series of statements and were asked if we agreed or disagreed and on a scale of one to five how strongly we felt about it. Our answers resulted in a numerical score that correlated to a specific religion. Out of the 14 that took the test, 13 scored “First United Methodist,” and I scored “Unitarian.” I’m certain that “pagan,” “witch” and “tree-hugging dirt worshiper” were not included on the test, and that I had, in fact, received the lowest score possible. In our small costal town, the Unitarians were “those pagans on the hill who drink wine and have naked hot tub parties” and were not thought highly of by other churches.

After graduating from high school with honors as part of a group of friends who composed a Who’s Who of well-adjusted overachievers, then graduating from college with a degree in accounting, I spent a year and a half trying to do what was expected of me by taking a stable government job. I tried to force myself to work in a concrete and glass climate-controlled building, and in true overachiever fashion I became the youngest-ever deputy treasurer for the County of Ventura. It wasn’t me. I just couldn’t take it. At the tender young age of 21, I ran off to go fight fires for the Forest Service.

It was there that I found others who also loved nature and needed to be in it as much as possible. Every morning, I would take long hikes in the mountains, encountering bears, mountain lions and eagles that did not react to me as if I was an intruder, but rather as if I belonged there. It was there that I began to have visions of the spirits of the land and to understand my connection to the earth and the meaning of my dreams. I was finally free to be myself and even had others with whom I could openly discuss these things.

Soon, I became a liaison between the federal land management agencies and the local Native American tribes. Tribe members invited me to sacred ceremonies, and elders taught me because they recognized my connection to and dedication to the land. During my time and travels with the Forest Service and Park Service, I was accepted by several tribes.

But I knew that I didn’t belong. I became confused and discouraged that it was okay for the earth to be your religion if you were Native American, but not if you were white. It was as if I was trapped between worlds, not fitting in either. I knew I could never go back to the church I was raised in, and I felt that I would spend my entire life wandering in the wilderness alone, without those of like mind.

As I questioned and explored more, I discovered that my mostly Celtic ancestors also had a tribal culture that honored the earth and that was quite compatible with what I had been taught by Native Americans. I did as much research as I could, found bookstores, covens and teaching circles when they were available in towns near where I was stationed, and I had many mentors and pen pals (this was in the days before the Internet). I finally learned who the woman was who stood at the foot of my bed when someone died or when there was danger. I had inherited my line’s banshee, who skipped a generation from my grandmother to me. I even finally found my way to a few of those “pagan” Unitarian churches.

My formal training enhanced but never took the place of actually being in and connecting to nature. I stood on mountaintops in the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains talking to and honoring the spirits of the land. I sat in sweat lodges in the very womb of the Mother in the Black Hills of South Dakota and had visions that I can’t share here that told me to remain close to the earth. I’ve seen the ancestors in the pueblos of the Southwest and heard the music of the desert.

Each new sacred place in nature taught me a new lesson or introduced me to a new guide; many of them appeared in physical form and would do whatever was necessary to get my attention. High above the Colorado River, a golden eagle buzzed me numerous times and almost knocked me off a 2,000-foot cliff, appearing incensed that I didn’t recognize that it had graced me with its presence and was trying to give me a message. That eagle taught me that there is a message in every encounter and that it is our job to recognize and learn from those messages. It also taught me that the messengers don’t take kindly to being ignored.

I realize that I have come full circle back to the waters of the Pacific. I am blessed to live close to the water and to be able to walk down to it whenever the mood suits me. I often play my fiddle on the water’s edge and find myself in the company of harbor seals, bald eagles and great blue herons. I feel the sun on my face, the wind in my hair and the magick that is all around me. Just as when I was a small child, the water brings me comfort. I experience the elements as sand, wind, sun and salt water, only now I understand what they mean and my connection to them. I am also surrounded by great people who understand as well.

I have met many people over the last 20 years who can be described as “natural witches.” They draw their energy directly from nature, work with herbs and stones for healing and are attuned to the cycles of the earth. Their mysteries come to them directly from nature, and their magick has an organic feel to it. They may or may not have had formal training, but no matter what their experiences, there is something special about them.

My grandmother, a Scorpio, was such a woman, although I don’t think she would have taken kindly to being called a witch; then again, I could be wrong. We never talked about it. She was by all accounts the original “wild woman” and certainly looked the part, with long raven hair cascading around her face and shoulders, reflecting red in the sunlight as she stood in the desert greeting the rising sun. Well into her 60s, she would wander the desert alone in search of stones, herbs and adventure. She lived on her own terms, not giving a rat’s butt what anyone else thought about her, and preferred the company of the earth and its creatures to that of most people. When she did choose the company of others, they were always artists, writers, musicians and other Bohemian types. My mother, in bouts of exasperation with the wild and difficult child I was, often said, “You’re just like your grandmother.” Writer Earl Stanley Gardener wrote a piece about her entitled “The Desert Nightingale.” He knew she was special.

I wish I had been able to recognize and appreciate the magick in her. By the time I grew into an adult and began to understand, she was gone. But her spirit remains in the mountains, desert and ocean, and in me.

How does a woman with a legacy of wildness, whose spirituality is explicitly tied to nature, survive living in an apartment in town? It has been challenging, but it has expanded me.

Six years ago, when I moved to the Pacific Northwest and attended my first indoor circles, I was shocked to find that many groups here held rituals indoors. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could connect with the elements or the gods in a building.

I got over it after experiencing my first winter here. It’s all very well and good to be outdoors, but if your fellow participants are getting pelted with freezing rain, with soaking wet feet in the dark of night, they’re going to be distracted. I work alone and in small circles outside whenever I get the chance, even in crappy weather, but for larger, public events it’s easier to be indoors.

It’s much simpler than I thought to connect to the elements while standing inside a building. Going on a simple guided meditation can connect me to the earth, feeling its coolness, inhaling its heady scent of decomposing leaves and pine needles and reveling in the feeling of fertility. With a little work, something as insubstantial as a few two-by-fours and some shingles isn’t a barrier. If I’m in the proper state of consciousness, it doesn’t even seem to exist.

Even living in a city, wilderness is all around. Wilderness exists at the edge of the water, in a local park or even under a tree in a backyard. I have seen the fey dancing in a hanging basket of flowers on a patio in an apartment complex. The Cascade and Olympic Mountains are a short drive, in a car or on the bus. In a little over two hours, I can be standing on the beach looking out at the vast wilderness that is the Pacific Ocean or across the mountains harvesting sage in the desert.

I have experienced and learned much in the last 20 years from many different sources, but the times in my life spent in direct connection to nature, to the gods, to all this is, without religious structure or human-imposed limitations, have been the most powerful times in my life.

Every place in nature, and in pockets of nature in the city, is sacred. Each place has its own energy, song and spirit guides. Go on… take a walk on the wild side and see where that journey takes you.

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