Freya and Beltaine Magic

Freya is the unapologetic goddess of love and sexuality in Norse mythology. We celebrate her on May 1, Beltaine, a cross-quarter day between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice.

As described in Elizabeth Cunningham’s first book of the Maeve Chronicles, Magdalen Rising, in which Mary Magdalen is brilliantly transmogrified into a Celtic goddess, “the eve of May was a socially sanctioned orgy. Running off into the woods with someone who wasn’t your spouse was practically your civic duty. You were obeying the oldest law. You were multiplying the orgasms of the sexy, fecund earth. Hey, it could only help the crops--and hence the tribes. So just this once, go ahead. Surrender. Let go and let god/dess. That was the mood of Beltaine.”

Freya is perfect for the season. She is a sassy, bawdy and bold goddess archetype who, like Aphrodite, has many lovers -- pretty much whomever she chooses -- and her legions are legend.

Her story is one of love and lust for life, men, and beautiful objects like the necklace of amber tears she obtains after bedding the four dwarves who made it. (Makes you wonder about Snow White and what she was doing in the beds of the 7 dwarves, doesn’t it?)

It turns out these four dwarves represent the four directions in Norse mythology, and through these acts of consummation, Freya embodies the energy of these directions as well as the elements of earth, air, water, and fire. The necklace came to symbolize her life-giving power, and though many tried to steal it, including the trickster, Loki, Freya held onto it with fierce determination and supernatural authority.

For she is a goddess with magical powers and knowledge of Seidr, a form of Nordic shamanism that allows her to shapeshift into various animals from falcon, to sow/boar, to goat. She rides in a chariot drawn by two cats and is sometimes described wearing a white catskin cloak, gloves, and shoes, and at other times wearing a cape made of falcon feathers.

Freya shares some qualities with the Greek triple goddess, Persephone, Demeter and Hecate. She has the ability to resurrect after being killed in initiatory rites much like the Eleusinian mysteries allude to, and has the role of leader of the Valkyries, who bring half of the dead warriors from every battle to her (the other half going to Odin, who may or may not be her husband referred to as Od). She is adept in the magical arts like Hecate, a seer and spinner of the Great Wheel of life and death with all of its lustiness, messiness, and juiciness.

So enjoy, this frisky time of the waxing moon, Sisters and Brothers (Oh, did I mention that one of Freya’s lovers was her twin brother, Freyr, similar to Isis and Osiris, the holy rulers of the land who ensure fertility and abundance through their divine union?). These gods and goddesses remind us of our primal nature and connection to Mother Earth whose bounty we enjoy but often take for granted. Beltaine is a day to jump over the fire, have a picnic, “go-a Maying,” (or roll in the haying), and remember who our mother is.

Brigid, Triple Goddess of the Fire

In Celtic tradition, February 2, Imbolc or Candlemas is celebrated. This is the time when Brigid or Bride, makes her presence known. She is goddess of the fire; Imbas was the word that described inspiration that came from her creative and transformational fire. Imbolc refers to the time when the ewes are lactating in preparation to give birth to their lambs in spring, just six weeks away. it is a time for the maiden Brigid to bring in the light so as to usher the old crone of winter out and let the sunshine in.

Brigid's triple aspect is as goddess of poetry, smithing, and healing. The fire is important to each of these crafts. The poet receives enlightenment and passion from the fire, and the stories and poems told by the bards were like fire themselves, unable to be harnessed, touched or held. They could only be passed from mouth to ear in a sacred way by those who were skilled in the art of storytelling. Both the white-hot fire of the blacksmith that shapes lumps of metal into useful objects, as well as the healing fire of the hearth that boils the herbs and potions, bring about transmutation. And so it is with each of us as we honor Brigid's fiery presence. She has the power to enlighten us.

When Christianity usurped the worship of the goddess, St. Brigid was born in the fifth century CE, with many of the same attributes as the beloved goddess of yore. St. Brigid was born at sunrise just as her mother crossed the threshold of her home, associating her with the idea of liminality--existing between worlds. There were many legends about St. Brigid's connection to fire, like the goddess of her namesake. One such is that when she was an infant, she was left in the house while her mother tended the animals. Neighbors saw great flames of fire engulfing the roof of her house and rushed to her. But when they reached her, there were no flames or burnt remains. She was said to perform miracles, like the magical goddess herself, healing the afflicted, bringing stillborn babes to life, and having a never-depleted cauldron of food for those who were hungry.

St. Brigid's fire is still tended by 19 nuns in Kildare, Ireland and never allowed to go out. Tonight I gather with a group of women who celebrate these sabbats as the Great Wheel turns, and we will all light candles from one that was lit from Brigid's sacred flame in Kildare. I invite you to light a candle in honor of the returning sun, the bright goddess, and the passions that stir within each of us.

Kuan-Yin & the Year of the Dragon

Happy New Moon and Chinese New Year! It is my birthday today, on the cusp of the New Moon in Aquarius on January 22 and the Chinese New Year on January 23, when the Year of the Dragon commences.

I have this very picture of Kuan-Yin, goddess of compassion, mercy, magic, and fertility on my wall. Her name means "one who perceives sounds," which means she can hear the cries and prayers of the people, particularly the children of the world.

She is often depicted riding a dragon over the sea. The dragon is an ancient symbol of power, wisdom and transformation. As we enter the year of the dragon, which occurs every 12 years, we can be sure that this will be a year of getting things done on both the spiritual and physical plane.

Whatever you set your mind to this year, you have the strength and power of the dragon to propel you forward. In Chinese astrology, each animal of the year is paired with one of the five elements, and this is the year of the water dragon, also bringing Kwan Yin to mind.

So this is the time to find compassion for ourselves and others, a year to transform on a feeling (water) level, and to complete whatever needs to be healed or transmuted. Water calms the fiery dragon, so there may not be as much upheaval and anger both on an inner and outer level with this tranquil influence.

How auspicious as we enter this new moon in Aquarius, the water bearer, we also welcome the water dragon. We can call in the great bodhisattva (near-Buddha), Kuan-Yin, who vowed never to forsake us as long as there was one human being who had not yet seen the light of truth. She is with us, another form of the Great Mother protector, whenever we need her. We're in good hands.

If I were adrift upon the ocean

with demons and dragons all around.

I would think of sweet Kuan-Yin

and the hungry waters would subside.

If I were trapped within a furnace

as hot as hell's own blazes,

I would think of Kuan-Yin's power,

and the flames would turn to water.

If enemies pursued me, if I were thrown

from a high mountain peak, if knives

were raised against me, if I were imprisoned

or beset by beasts, I would call on her.

Her pity shields me from the lightning.

Her compassion is like a cloud around me,

which rains down sweetness and

puts out the fires of my sorrow.

- Chinese prayer to Kuan-Yin

Cerridwyn and the Winter Solstice

I am Cerridwyn, daughter of Wales. I live alone on an island in the middle of Llyn Tegid (now Bala Lake). Some call me a hag witch, which I consider a compliment for they are only acknowledging my powers as a holy woman, a fierce healer. I have two children, a daughter, Creidwy, and a son, Morfran, who I would fight to the death to protect from harm's way. And that is what I do for you, my children, protect and guide you through the dark nights of winter.

For this is a time to be brewing new potions in your cauldron for the coming year. It is time now to sit by the hearth fire and stir the thick soup, letting it simmer over the long dark nights to come. Don't be afraid to add new ingredients, to play with the recipe. I encourage you to add generous dollops of Courage, magnums of Inspiration, and heaping cupfuls of Trust. Circle the cauldron throughout the winter months, remembering its power, touching the container of life, death and rebirth, the never ending cycle, the beginning and the end.

Seek the light in the pregnant darkness. Gestate. Care for yourself. Renew. Restore. Release. And do it now my children, on December 22, the longest night of the year, when the sun appears to stand still in the sky. It is the time to release all that has been accumulating and weighing you down so that you can make way for the new.

I invite you to follow the lead of my sister, Pixie Campbell, as she guides you in the Mother of All Releasings Ceremony: Winter Solstice, 2012.

Happy Solstice!

Winter Solstice Blessing by Stacy Anne Murphy

Shed away your tired old coats my darlings. Shed the tears that tear you from within. Like a snake who has outgrown her skin, writhe and scrape until the dull old scales fall away.

Slough off the remnants of your worn-out self. Peel away the layers that no longer suit you, that constrict you, so a shiny, smooth, lissome you emerges.

Glide effortlessly into the new year adaptable, flexible, amenable, joyful.

Enter your new beginning with grace, warm, bright, glistening, grace.

Baba Yaga Rides Again

The full Harvest Moon on Monday marks the time when farmers bring in the last of the summer crops, the late harvest of root vegetables and cruciferous plants that will warm our blood over the colder months to come. The weather is starting to change, the sky to darken, foreshadowing the turning of the Great Wheel towards fall. We celebrate the autumn equinox on Friday, September 23. There's something in the air. Do you feel it? The stirrings of the Wild Woman, the dark goddess who arrives on owl's wings, silently gliding through the forest to awaken us? Do you hear it? The yip of the coyote, the howl of the wolf, the yowl of the cat, as they pad stealthily through the underbrush in search of sustenance?

As September wanes, what does your inner Wild Woman want? Before we start to draw inward, there's still time to dance under the light of the moon, to stir something up in the creative cauldron. What is your passion? Art? Writing? Dancing? Singing? Cooking? Teaching? Nurturing? Healing? If you don't know, it's time to listen to your inner voice, to the Wise Woman within, to The One Who Knows.

You know the story of Baba Yaga, don't you? It all starts with a little girl named Vasalisa, who much like Cinderella, must live under the watch of a horribly jealous stepmother and two mean, ugly stepsisters after her mother dies. But on her deathbed, Vasalisa's mother gave her a little doll, dressed just like Vasalisa. She tells her to keep it in her pocket at all times and to ask her for help whenever she needs it.

So, as in all such stories, Vasalisa is sent out into the forest, into the dark unknown, where the old woman, Baba Yaga lives. Her mission is to fetch an ember from the Yaga as her stepmother and sisters secretly conspired to let the fire burn out. Everyone knows Baba Yaga is an ugly old witch, a frightening hag who flies about in the dead of night in a cauldron with a pestle as an oar. It's well known that she eats children for breakfast and uses their bones for toothpicks. Oh, and did you know her house dances around on chicken feet? Go on, little girl, there's nothing to be afraid of.          

And so the brave, little Vasalisa ventures into the deep, dark woods, just as we all must step into the darkness at times and face our worst fears. What are they?

That you may fail?

Look foolish?

Not be liked or approved of?

Or perhaps that you won't live up to others' expectations?

Name your fear: ____________________

But at each twist and turn of the path, Vasalisa consults the doll in her pocket and is advised which way to go, until at last she arrives at the crazy house that careens about on chicken feet.

Vasalisa sees the fire for which she has been sent inside of a skull perched on a fence post. As she starts to reach for it, the unmistakable cackle of Baba Yaga causes her to pull her hand back in fright. Baba Yaga demands to know why she should give her the fire.

"Because I ask," Vasalisa replies. That is the right answer, Baba Yaga tells her. Why? Because we cannot get the help we need unless we ask.

Baba Yaga tells her she will give her the fire if she will complete the tasks she sets for her, seemingly impossible ones. She must cook three meals and clean her entire filthy house during the night, which Vasalisa is able to do with the help of the little doll. The next night she must sort thousands of seeds from the dirt so that Baba Yaga will have oil the next day. This she is again able to do with the help of the little doll in her pocket guiding her.

Satisfied, Baba Yaga gives the skull with the burning ember inside to Vasalisa. She carries it home trumphantly, much to the surprise of the evil stepmother and sisters who thought they had seen the last of her. And, as is often the case with evildoers such as they, the fire consumes them, and leaves nothing behind but a few charred bones.

And so it is with Baba Yaga, the witch, the crone, the hag -- for hag comes from the word, haggia, meaning holy wisdom -- the wise, old woman who teaches us. Her words are sometimes harsh, her demeanor frightening, her lessons hard. But as the dark goddess, the dark mother, she helps us burn up our fears and transform from frightened little girls into women of courage, women who are willing to take the necessary risks to reap the rewards of consciousness and creativity, to fuel the fires of our passions.

And so, the Wild Woman learns to listen to her inner voice, follow her intuition, and dance by the light of the moon. Are you ready?

If you're in the Triangle, come to my Art & Soul workshops at Dancing Moon Bookstore on Saturday, September 24 and October 1, where we will meet and explore five goddesses: Persephone, the Maiden, Demeter, the Mother, Hecate, the Crone, Kali, the Destroyer, and Yemaya, the Creator, using my workbook, In the Lap of the Goddess: Connecting With the Divine Feminine. Pay by September 19 for a discount. Go here for more information: http://owlandcrow.saladd.com/goddess-workshop/

Mother and Daughter: Demeter and Persephone

to be a fool while spring is in the air                 

my soul approves.

--e.e. cummings

As spring gives way to summer and the return of the sun on the solstice, June 21, we are in the time of these two goddesses. Persephone, the maiden, represents the new moon, the emergence of spring, rebirth. Demeter, the mother, who represents the full mother moon, greets her daughter as she emerges from the Underworld, to reign together over the Earth in spring and summer. These goddesses work together to bring about fertility and growth and to remind us that as above, so below.

The mother-daughter dyad helps us remember our own inner maiden and all that is new, innocent, playful, growing, free and light-hearted, as well as our inner mother and all that is cultivating, blooming, active, abundant, and full. This is the time of year when we are witnessing both of these aspects at work on Mother Earth and  within us.

Of course, we must not forget the third part of the triple goddess, Hecate, the crone, whose time is winter. And while it is not her season and we feel her less strongly during the bright days of summer, she is there, in the shadows. There is a lunar eclipse today in Sagittarius, reminding us of her presence, the things that are hidden from consciousness that may be revealed over the next days and weeks to come. Hecate also reminds us to stay in balance between doing and being, and the need to rest and restore. She has the gift of overview and helps us discern what is important and what is not. She is Persephone's companion in the Underworld, so she and Persephone can help us during times of darkness and shadow and guide us back to the light.

Many of us may be looking forward to summer vacations as a time to unplug and and recharge, sitting in the quiet and beauty of long, summer days at the beach, in the coolness of the mountains or lazy days at home enjoying our gardens, children, and a good book. Summer vacations can also be busy times of actively doing, going, and seeing.

I'm already seeing my summer laid out before me: my sister, Lynn, is visiting us in North Carolina for a busy 2 weeks of sight-seeing and weekend trips to Asheville and Jamestown; my daughter, Chloe, is going to a filmmaking camp in July for 3 weeks, she and I are going to California for 10 days to visit our dear friends whom we have missed these past three years since moving to North Carolina. I am facilitating a SoulCollage® summer solstice gathering in June, an introductory playshop in July, and will be preparing to lead a SoulCollage® facilitator's workshop called SoulCollage® and the Divine Feminine: Nurturing Your Soul With the Goddess Archetype in Her Many Forms in early September. Whew! The active mother is very much alive in me this summer, but so is the maiden who will be embarking on some new new ventures and playing -- with friends and family with a carefree heart.

On June 21, as the Sun enters Cancer, ruled by the moon, with the lunar eclipse energy casting its shadow, we can expect to have emotional stirrings, and for family bonds and relationships to take center stage. Persephone and Demeter  help us mend, heal, and strengthen the relationship between our daughters and our mothers. For as Jung said, "Every mother contains her daughter in herself and every daughter, her mother, and every mother extends backwards into her mother and forwards into her daughter."

Three chapters of my interactive SoulWork book, In the Lap of the Goddess: Connecting With the Divine Feminine, are devoted to the triple goddess of Persephone, Demeter and Hecate. Summer is a good time to get to know these aspects. I hope you'll take a look...

The Bear Goddess

The Native American Bear Woman is protector of Mother Earth and the tribes and clans that walk upon her. Bear Woman is in her cycle of power during spring and summer. She has moved out of her cave with her cubs underfoot, and is foraging for food and water. She is a shapeshifter who moves through the forest with agility and strength, helping us awaken to our potential and reminding us to not let our creative energies lie dormant. Look for what feeds your soul and chow down! Bears care for their cubs for a couple of years until they are old enough to go out on their own, and in this way, they are akin to human mothers whose task is to prepare their children to find their own way and learn their own strength. Bear Woman tends to the unity of the family of man and animals, ensuring their safety and protection.

The Greek moon goddess of the hunt, Artemis (Diana), was also a bear goddess who presided over all of Nature.  She was a protector of animals, and had attendants called arktoi, or "bear girls." These maidens behaved like tomboys, wearing bearskins and masks, lived in the wild, untamed and unwashed, protected from men, until they reached puberty and had developed the strength and ability to chose whether to remain virgins in the temple of Artemis or to marry. For Artemis and her acolytes were virgins--whole unto themselves and not defined by the masculine. It was Artemis who transformed one of her nymphs, Callisto, into a bear, who then became the constellation, Ursa Major.

Artemis had strong principles about preserving Mother Earth, in keeping with the Native American Bear Woman. As fierce protectors of women and children and all wildlife, they believed that all sentient beings were deserving of respect and would not allow them to be killed wantonly. Artemis is responsible for the protection of great areas of pristine countryside in Greece even today because of the people's veneration of her and all she stood for. In this way, Artemis and Bear Woman are protectors of the environment and patronesses of conservation.

The Bear Goddess is symbolic of the circle of life, death and rebirth. She reminds us to go within when it is time. The Mama Bear guides and protects us on the journey into the Underworld of the Unconscious, where we ponder our lessons and gather our creative energy until it is time to emerge into our cycle of power once again.

Learn more about the goddesses that represent these cycles: Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, Demeter, the Mother, who like Artemis, ruled over the land, and Hecate, the One Who Knows, by ordering my new SoulWork book, In the Lap of the Goddess: Connecting With the Divine Feminine, available as a download or in printed form to be mailed to your door.

Comment here about your favorite goddess between May 25 - 31 for a chance to win one of four e-book format copies of: The Triple Goddess (3 chapters in one); Kali, the Destroyer; Yemaya, the Creator; and the entire 58-page book, In the Lap of the Goddess. Winners will be randomly selected on June 1.

"I finished reading your book and am working on Kali. I love it!!! It is a wonderful tool and I love the guided meditations. I want to try the audio versions on your website. I really like it! You put a lot into it. The layout and graphics are really perfect. I love so many of the images." - Diane J.

The Goddess Maia - Queen of the May

It's May! It's May! The lusty month of May!... Those dreary vows that ev'ryone takes, Ev'ryone breaks. Ev'ryone makes divine mistakes! The lusty month of May! - from Camelot, Lerner and Loewe

I don't know what you have planned for the month ahead, but in the olden days, lusty young men and maidens were running off to the woods together, with nary a virgin returning. Beltane is celebrated in the Celtic tradition starting on the eve of May 1 and lasting throughout the day. However, in days of yore it was often celebrated with feasting, dancing, and merriment all the way through May 15. In the Gaelic lands of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, Beltane refers to the entire month of May. So there's nothing that says you can't extend your celebration through the end of the month!

This is the time when Maia, the maiden, Roman goddess of--you guessed it: fertility--as well as playfulness and granting wishes--was feted. Her name means mother and this is really the time when the maiden of spring gave way to the mother of summer. Maia was Queen of the May and was celebrated with flowers and blooms in abundance.

The May Pole was first a tree festooned with flowers and ribbons, symbolizing the phallic energy of the season and the renewal of Mother Earth. Bonfires were set atop hills and celebrants would run between two fires for cleansing and to bring about a bountiful harvest and good luck in the year ahead.

When the Christian religion supplanted the pagan traditions and sexuality was split off from spirituality, some remnants of the old traditions remained. In fact, Mary became known as Queen of the May:

O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the angels, Queen of the May

In honor of Mary, young girls wore flowered garlands around their head, maintaining the symbols of fertility (flowers are the sexual organs of plants), new growth, and the maiden.

If you want to learn more about how the maiden and mother goddesses relate to your own life, check out my Triple Goddess pages. There you will discover how the seasons of the maiden, personified by Persephone, and the mother, embodied by Demeter, and the crone, represented by Hecate, are reflections of the feminine psyche and alive in you! You can now purchase my interactive e-book, In the Lap of the Goddess, in its entirety or pre-order it if you would like a bound copy delivered to you after May 20.

For more information, check out my interview with the amazing creatrix and dear friend, Pixie Campbell, at Pink Coyote.

Ostara and The Miracle of a Rabbit

As Easter approaches, the Anglo-Saxon goddess, Ostara, fills our days with spring blossoms, colored eggs, and bunny sightings. Like all spring goddesses, she brings with her new ideas, new beginnings, rebirth, and hope. In the Christian tradition, Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ, but in ancient times spring festivals celebrated the arrival of the goddess who ushered in the new dawn, the imminent return of the sun. Following these time-honored traditions, today Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. This full moon, known in April as the Egg or Pink Moon, appears on April 17.

As a fertility goddess, Ostara reminds us of what we are birthing. Her totem animal is the hare or rabbit, a symbol of fecundity. It is a time to make great leaps, to start bringing that idea that's been brewing into fruition or to take the leap into the unknown. Because who knows what magic will come when you do?

Today, I am giving birth to two chapters of my SoulWork book, In the Lap of the Goddess: Connecting to the Divine Feminine available here. The two goddesses featured in these chapters, Kali, Goddess of Destruction, and Yemaya, Goddess of Creation, are timely as they help us through the process of death and rebirth.

In May, I will present three more chapters on the Triple Goddess of Greek myth: Persephone, the Maiden, Demeter, the Mother, and Hecate, the Crone. At that time you will also be able to purchase the entire SoulWork book, which celebrates these five goddesses from different traditions, either as a download or in printed form.

And to tell us about another great leap into the unknown is my guest today, the beautiful Goddess Leonie from Down Under, whose Creating My Goddess Year inspired me to create my own e-book. And without further ado, here she is to tell us a tale about...

The Miracle of a Rabbit

Many moons ago, a rabbit came to live in our front yard for a while. She would sit there, hovering beneath the pines, watching us with calm eyes and a dignified kind of grace.

I would laugh about it each morning as we set off to work together.

"Rabbit! I wonder what that means! I must look up its medicine!" I'd tell my love.

Then we'd bundle into our blue jeep and head out into the turquoise day, and I'd promptly forget about it.

Each night we'd return home just on dusk.

And there Rabbit would be. Hovering just beneath the pines, just out of arm's reach.

I worried about her at first. Worried that she would be sniffed out by the neighborhood dogs that roamed.

She didn't want to be caught though. She led us on a wild hopping goose chase until we relinquished the fact: she was safe. She was happy. She was where she needed to be.

Then we'd go inside our cottage, and I'd forget about it.

And each morning, the same dance would happen again.

There Rabbit would be.

We'd drive and I'd dream out loud to my love:

"What does Rabbit mean? New hope? Spring time?"

It was winter here in the southern hemisphere. Spring was still months away, and it just didn't feel like the answer that fit.

And I'd say "I should look deeper into this. Find out her medicine!"

And then…

I'd forget.

I was too busy eating everything in sight. And forgetting everything moments after they happened.

Can you guess Rabbit's medicine yet?

One Sunday, my love and I ate falafels for lunch.

I pushed the rest of mine away.

Ugh. I feel nauseous. What did we eat last night?

My love looked at me. They crinkled around the edges, and his right eyebrow raised just a millimetre.

After knowing and loving this man for ten years, I know the movements of his face as whole conversations.

WHAAAAAAT? WHAT'S WITH THE EYEBROW, MISTER?

And he smiled a secret smile.

My love, he said.

Do you think it's time for a pregnancy test?

I was adamant I wasn't.

I would KNOW if I was. Me - the one who is so in tune with her body. I would KNOW if a baby's energy had come to stay!

But the smile and the crinkle of his eye and that glow of his --

they suggested otherwise.

And as he so often is, he was right.

I was.

Nine moons later, a cyclone blew over my tropical hometown paradise -- Proserpine, the only town in the world named after the Goddess Persephone. A deep energy cleansing.

My waters burst with a rush of ocean the next day.

Three days later, a week or so after the equinox, a week or so before Easter,

a baby girl was born.

She rushes in one swoop into her father's hands, and he gifts her to me.

She echoes one birth cry, then is quiet, wide blue eyes open to the world, taking it in peacefully.

And true to the spirit of the Rabbit, to Spring, to miracles, to hope, to Easter,

her name emerged:

My goddess daughter. Filled with the light.

Of the goddess that Easter was named for.

Of Morgaine Le Fay.

Of all the ways the blessings of our ancestors make our days anew now.

The time is drawing near again.

The marketplaces become filled again with soft, fluffy totems of rabbits, and chocolate odes to the beginning egg.

And my heart lights up with the joy of it all.

It is that sacred time again: the spring time in our souls.

The rabbit is hopping.

Note: Ostara just turned one in March.

~~~~ Goddess Leonie is the creator of the popular creativity and spirituality blog, www.GoddessGuidebook.com and the online Goddess Circle.

Isis, Moon Mother

In keeping with my commitment to write about the goddesses and their meanings as the wheel of this year turns and as we approach the first day of spring on March 20, we celebrate the Egyptian mother goddess, Isis. She was revered for over 3,000 years in Egypt, Rome, Greece and throughout the ancient world. With the revolution fomented in Egypt just last month and the removal of a 30-year patriarchal dictatorship as well as the upcoming spring harvest festival that is celebrated in Egypt on March 20, it seems a good time to take a look at this powerful goddess. Isis is also a goddess to consider in the wake of the 8.9 earthquake that struck Japan and the devastating tsunami that followed. Isis teaches us to grieve and re-member--to put back together that which has been lost--bringing about rebirth.

Isis was born of the sky goddess, Nut, and the earth god, Geb, and she ruled over it all--earth, sea sky and the underworld. She was known by many names: Goddess of the Universe, Life of the Nile, Goddess of the Underworld,  Mother Moon. The full moon this month appears on March 19, the eve of spring, in Virgo, the Virgin. When speaking of the Virgin Goddess, the word "virgin" does not have the same meaning as it does today--in ancient times it was a term that applied to a woman who was whole unto herself and was not defined by relationship to a man. Isis was such a goddess even though she had a husband, Osiris, whom she loved dearly but lost tragically.

Isis and Osiris ruled Egypt in a fair and just way, teaching men and women the ways of civilization, of cultivation, how to irrigate the dry land from the waters of the Nile, how to grow food and weave cloth. Then one day, Osiris's jealous brother, Set, killed him so he could inherit the throne.

This was what the goddess Isis did:     

after she had mourned Osiris,

she made wind with her wings

and flew on her own power

around the world, in grief,

never resting until she found him.

And when she found him,

motionless and dead,

she drew out his essence

and created new life.

- Egyptian Song of Isis

During the time when Osiris was resurrected, Isis and Osiris conceived a son, Horus, the hawk-headed god and future king of Egypt. However, Set found Osiris's body once again and this time he dismembered it, cutting it into 14 pieces and hiding them throughout Egypt. Again, Isis searched every corner until she found all of his body parts except one--the phallus. This she formed out of gold and replaced.

She put him back together in mummified form--introducing the rite of embalming to the Egyptians. Then Isis fanned Osiris's body with her great golden wings and through her magical power he was revived and became Ruler of All Eternity.

The story of Isis and Osiris is the story of spring told over and over from one culture and time to another: of resurrection and rebirth. It is the story of a divine child  born from the union of the sacred masculine and the sacred feminine that reside within each of us. Out of the dead, hard soil of winter, comes new life. From the dismemberment we can see that there are many parts that must be put back together again and made whole. The golden missing piece is the regenerative one, the part that when united with the sacred feminine allows us to create new life again and again.

As the days grow warmer and longer and the earth softens beneath our feet and tender shoots find their way to the surface, we feel a quickening inside: new life is stirring within and without. After much labor, I am about to birth my e-book in April, In the Lap of the Goddess: Connecting With the Sacred Feminine, A Soul Work Book.

Isis reminds us that it's never too late; that the creative force is ever present and ongoing; that our kingdom lies before us if we will but nurture and cultivate it.

She asks us:

What are you giving birth to?

What needs to be restored and made whole?

What are you feeding so that it can grow and flourish?

Brigid and the Snow Moon

February 1 is the day, Brigid, the Celtic goddess of fire, steps forth to make her bright presence known. This is also known as Imbolc in Irish tradition, which means “in the belly,” when the ewes were full of milk and about to give birth to their lambs. The first of February is one of the four cross-quarter days, marking mid-winter on the Great Wheel, reminding us that spring is just around the corner.

Brigid (pronounced Bride or Breed) is a powerful triple goddess who carries the fire externally as goddess of smithing; internally as a healer giving back to people their inner fire; and in her third aspect, stoking the creative fires of inspiration, as the goddess of poetry. Brigid's eve was known as the Fire of Illumination to celebrate these three impulses.

It is a time to gather by the hearth fire, light candles, and honor the return of the sun, warmth, and light after a long, cold winter. Young girls made corn husk dolls, and on the night of Brigid's Eve, they left a piece of cloth or clothing outside for Brigid to bless during her walk upon the earth. The head of the household would rake the ashes in the fire and the next morning the family would look for signs that Brigid had passed through.

Like many triple goddesses, Brigid is also personified as the maiden, mother, crone--part of the yearly cycle--much like Persephone, Demeter and Hecate in Greek myth. Brigid is the maiden of spring; Tailtu is the Gaelic earth mother of summer and fall; and the old crone, Cailleach, the hag of winter. At this time, the Old One passed to Brigid her rod of power, which became the wand that caused the seeds to germinate across the land. This wand or stick is associated with the blackthorn tree, which blooms at this time of year. Walking sticks are still made from the blackthorn tree, and its leaves and sloe berries are used for medicinal purposes (and to make sloe gin).

“The leaves can be boiled into a decoction that, once cooled, is an excellent mouthwash and gargle for those suffering from tonsillitis or laryngitis. It can also be used as a soothing eye bath. A tea made from the powdered bark has a calming effect on the nerves” (from Celtic Tree Mysteries).  Oil made from blackthorn is a soothing balm to the skin.                                                

And February 2 is Groundhog Day, which has its roots in ancient tradition, when the badger's appearance from its winter den was thought to be a portent of early spring; if it returned to its den, a long winter lay ahead.

It is also the day of the New Moon, a time to give birth....

A new moon teaches gradualness

and deliberation and how one gives birth

to oneself slowly. Patience with small details

makes perfect a large work, like the universe.

What nine months of attention does for an embryo

forty early mornings will do

for your gradually growing wholeness.

- Rumi

The full moon on February 18 is known as the Snow Moon or the Hunger Moon. February tends to be the month when the snows are heaviest and in olden days, the time when people and animals were hungriest. The Cherokee call it the Full Bony Moon because that’s when you were left with the bone marrow to suck and make into soup because hunting was not likely to yield much.

In these last weeks of winter, it is a good time to contemplate...

What are you giving birth to?

What do you need to let go of?

How can you bring the light of the sun into the remaining dark days of winter?

What can you create now?

What healing do you need?

What inspires you?

How do you get down to the marrow of what matters most?