27 December 2010

Holidays, Twilight, and Forest Treks

"winter forest . deer" by Zi De Chen
This time of year is filled with a lot of familial obligations for me, as I imagine is the case for many others. In fact, I spent more time sitting through a Catholic mass to please the family than I was able to devote to my personal celebration of Yule. Even though my family is aware of my faith, and the fact that I'd been secretly practicing in high school and only decided to go "public" with it about a year ago, they expect me to go to church with them when I'm home. I got out of it last Sunday, but there was no way I could miss the Christmas Eve mass. So I went. And it wasn't that bad; I know the service inside and out (in my earlier days, I was an altar server, and I've done a lot of time singing in Catholic choirs). Of course, my heart isn't in it, nor has it been for years. Nevertheless, I enjoyed people watching and spending time with my brothers and father while mama sang in the choir. They have the same priest I grew up listening to, and although his homily wasn't quite as inspiring as it might have been if my faith still leaned that way, he's always a classy orator. I spent most of the mass trying to stay awake through the heat and the closeness and the presence of my youngest brother clinging ever to my side. Still. I made it through. I even made it through having drunk considerably less wine at dinner before mass than I had intended.

Even though Christmas Eve mass took up more of my time than I would have liked, I did have a nice little ritual on the night of the solstice, beneath a full moon lunar eclipse no less. One of my friends who also enjoys stargazing (not, incidentally, Stargazer) alerted me to the phenomenon, and so I worked it into my ritual and my altar layout. I set out my silk snowflake scarf, and, straying from my usual habit of bright scented votives, I lit a simple, spherical, white floating candle. To me, the display of the white wax suspended in a pear-shaped cup was quite evocative of the moon. I also have two crystal balls which I occasionally—not nearly often enough, as just holding either one in my hand, I can feel the power waiting to be unleashed—use to scry; one is of labradorite, which I use during the New Moons, and one is of clear quartz, which I use during the Full. For this, I set out both. I didn't do any scrying per se, but I did display the lovely spheres on my altar, corresponding with my two matron deities representations, as well as tokens for my totems, Raven and Wolf. The theme I focused on was the full moon eclipse, and so everything was a balance of dark and light. I've always considered myself to fall somewhere in the gray areas between, treading ever on the edge of light and shadow, in the twilight of dusk and dawn. As a warrior and as a huntress, the shadows are my place; as a priestess and a scholar, I require light for my work. Thus, I am the gray between.

Although I believe firmly that magic and mystery and power and love and all the forces I work with and produce come from within, I love the aesthetics of an altar, of my little Pagan tools and toys, of the wooden dagger hand-carved by a beloved old friend that I use as my athame. Even though I don't consider the material aspects of my practice integral to it, I like having them. I like making them. I make dream catchers and statues and jewelry and even the robes I wear. For the solstice ritual, I rocked a silver-set cabochon of rainbow moonstone dangling from snowy ribbon on my throat, and two matching moonstones suspended from my earlobes, with silver Celtic knots in my second ear piercings. To balance the light of the moonstones, I wore a jet cabochon ring and a bracelet of blackstone nuggets. Everything in balance. Light + Dark = Gray. Twilight. Dusk. Dawn. The in-between spaces of Spirits, and warrior-mystics who don't really know where, exactly, they should tread. I walk ever with one foot in and one foot out, and perhaps that is my destiny: to be always on the brink.

I won't go into details about the ritual itself. This Yule was a deeply personal one for me. I made my offerings, and I meditated, and I communed with my deities. A few days later, I went to the woods and finally communed with my trees. I didn't see my satyr friend from the dream when in the woods, but that was expected. I did see plenty of other wildlife, or at least evidence thereof. I sang pretty much the whole time, so apart from some lazy squirrels and birds smart enough to realize I wasn't carrying a gun, nothing went near me. There's still nothing like a day-old snow to prove that the forest is not remotely dead in winter. I followed deer tracks and fox trails, but I'll admit I paused when I saw the coyote footprints, and when I got to the prints of the black bear, I turned around and hightailed it to the trail that would take me back home. The crows, brothers to my Raven, warned me away from that one. However, ever curious soul that I am, I pressed further after their warnings…until I saw those bear prints and figured I should listen to my brother Crows after all. At first, having spent enough time in the woods to know that humans tend to be the most intrusive things there, I assumed they were just cawing at me. Maybe they were, maybe they weren't. It doesn't matter either way.

Happy hunting, dwellers of shadow and light.

No comments:

Post a Comment