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.
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.
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.
As someone who was raised in a New Thought household, I have spent my life studying and practicing positive-mind mechanics, such as Law of Attraction. Often when I encounter theories about the causative power of the mind, arguments generally fall into one of two camps: either every thought creates our reality or there’s a rejection of the notion entirely. I fall somewhere in the middle. I do think that the mind plays an intimate role in how we experience physical reality, but I don’t believe it is the only influence. Because in addition to being raised within the New Age community, I am also a professional historian who studies and teaches social movements of twentieth-century America. I have a deep understanding of the power of historical context, which in the collective memory is often very painful. Just as shadows exist in our individual psyches, so do shadows haunt our collective past. Thoughtfully speaking about positive-mind mechanics can be challenging in New Age circles due to the over eagerness of most practitioners to diminish the influence of historical and cultural contexts. I want to expand on this by exploring why context is important, and how applying contextual analysis can help craft a life desired of living while ethically contributing to the mutual benefit of others.
Ritual is work. That’s what I learned in 2018 from my teacher Ylva Mara Radziszewski in their healing craft program available through Crow Song Healing Arts at the Cunning Crow Apothecary in Seattle. The two year program trains magical practitioners from various traditions to be spiritual counselors, applying magic as medicine. In my own Northern European heritage, this is akin to the cunning folk of centuries past. In 2018 I completed the first year of the program, a foundational course for decolonizing magic and reclaiming a practitioner’s connection to it. The healing craft program (aka witch school) concludes each year with a two-day initiation ceremony. Students give a presentation of some form that embodies what they’ve learned about themselves and their magic, and it was within this context that I found myself reclaiming and performing on myself the Rite of the Five Seals of Sethian Gnosticism.