May 1st is Beltaine, one of the four Celtic fire festivals of the calendar year (along with Imbolc, Lughnasadh, and Samhain). In Irish folk tradition Beltaine marks the coming of summer and the annual return of the aos sí, supernatural beings who are ambiguously ancient Celtic deities, nature spirits, and ancestors of modern Irish and Irish diaspora. Beltaine is a time to petition the spirits for blessings of a bountiful harvest. But metaphorically, it serves as a reminder for us to return to the intentions we set at the beginning year and actively tend to them. In doing so, we can reap their future benefits in autumn – just like we would a garden.
The Gospel of Mary begins with a line that articulates the profound interconnectedness humans have with each other and the natural world: Every nature, every modeled form, every creature exists in and with each other. It’s a phrase to which I keep returning, as the social, economic, and physical impact of COVID-19 deepens globally. We live in a different world now. Nature is greater than humanity and it’s changing, challenging us to transform with it. At some point in the future the immediate crisis will end and at that moment communities across the globe will have to pivot towards rebuilding local infrastructures. We each have a part to play, as the imperfections of our political, economic, and social systems come into greater clarity in light of the pandemic. Now is the time to go inward and discern what needs to be purged and what needs to be cultivated for a better a future. And a basic understanding of astrology can help in navigating these unknown waters.
In early April of 2019 my grandmother passed away. She was my dad’s mom, and I last remember seeing her at my great-great Aunt Jane’s funeral at age seven or eight. I can’t remember how old I was. In the years that followed my dad became estranged from my grandmother, and I became estranged from my dad. All of which, I believe, stem from the intergenerational trauma related to alcohol addiction.
A few months prior to my grandmother’s death I launched this blog as a project to discuss my personal relationship with magic, and her death impacted that relationship in deeper ways than I could have anticipated. Throughout 2019 subtle events unfolded that taught me of a deep, quiet love that alchemizes emotional pain experienced during this finite lifetime.
Today is Lughnasadh (pr. Loo-nah-sah), the ancient harvest festival of Ireland and Scotland, typically celebrated July 31st through August 1st. The holiday marks the start of harvest season and is named after the Celtic god Lugh who was master of all arts – poetry, music, battle, diplomacy, and justice.
Lughnasadh occurs six months following its sister holiday, Imbolc (January 31st – February 1st). At Imbolc we are called to plant the seeds of our hopes and intentions for the coming year. It’s associated with the goddess (and saint) Brigid, who stokes the hearth fire to germinate our growth and development. Now, halfway through the year, it’s time reap what we’ve sown.
Often when I hear people talk about the dark night of the soul it’s usually described as a form of depression, without much attention given to the euphoria of the experience. The concept comes from an untitled poem by Saint John of the Cross, written in the sixteenth century. The poem emphasizes the act of turning inward during an existential crisis in order to align the soul with the Divine. In fact, the poem describes the dark night as joyous and repeatedly praises it for its transformative power! The dark night of the soul is a cathartic (and ecstatic) experience and deserves further examination beyond the crisis point.
Humans are social creatures, and a major aspect of the human experience is fulfilling a sense of belonging. We want to connect with each other. But in adolescence the desire to belong is so strong that we might ignore our own intuitive intelligence and instead look outside ourselves for external validation. Expectations and/or pre-defined hopes are put onto us from peers, mentors, culture, and media to be and think certain ways. And if the environment is painful enough, we might choose to reject those parts of ourselves that others find taboo, just out of survival.
Rejection of the childhood self can still run on autopilot in the shadows of our adult psyches, and reacquainting ourselves with those lost parts helps to heal the areas where we feel wounded. By gently reintegrating those aspects, we gain the joy of embodying unconditional love and respect for our own humanity. Below are four techniques to reconnect with your inner child.
I’m heading off to the desert this week for an utiseta, a ceremony in deep wilderness that allows a practitioner of magic to go under the veil and completely disconnect from the human world. There’s nothing “to do” during an utiseta other than meditate and open oneself to receive answers as they come (while also utilizing basic survival skills). While I’ve been preparing for the six-day ceremony for five months, most recently I completed a spirit bath to balance myself before entering the void.