Archive for ‘Holiday’

September 28, 2011

Mabon in India: Adaptation

This Mabon, I drank apple juice, seated on the cushions in a rooftop cafe next to the Ganges in India.

Being immersed in a radically different climate reminds me that earth religions must be adaptable. Not only is modern Paganism widespread in the United States, Europe, and Australia/New Zealand due to cultural similarities and a common language, its symbolism and mythology is grounded in the four seasons. Naturally, considering that a large percentage of its practitioners can trace the evolution back to Great Britain. What does it become, then, in other climates?

If you don’t have forests, can you have a Green Man? Does our symbolism fail? And what, exactly, are we without four seasons?

My feet slipped softly into the sand as I made my way down to the Ganges. A couple of cows lounged on the beach, enjoying the sun and quiet, I suppose. Leaving the holy men in their orange robes and painted faces behind, I climbed over and around boulders, finally settling on one that rested at the water’s edge. Balancing cross-legged on the rounded surface, I gazed at the eddies swirling and disappearing in the sacred waters rolling by.

Letting my consciousness slip into the stone, I felt the heaviness tempered by the water’s movement. Permanence experiencing change in a slow etching of a trillion tiny droplets moving together. As many have said before, rivers are never the same. They, in a sense, are “water when it moves through this particular space at a generally large volume” — not quite the water itself, not quite the space. And this river is the spiritual artery of a nation.

Although the apple juice was lovely, trying to celebrate Mabon as if I was not in India denies the point of the holidays; which are for grounding yourself in the season, the cycles of the year. Shifts here are less subtle, and my spirituality flows into another expression, a different form of grounding. Because it has to, and I think that is healthy. Perhaps traditions like Wicca may not so easily translate to other areas of the world, but the core ideas — earth connection, world-immersion, and nature grounding — can find expression everywhere.

June 23, 2011

Summer Solstice

On June 21st, the sun cycle reached its fullest point: summer’s official start in a light-swollen day. It is a time to reflect on successes; the work begun in the winter has either flourished or failed.

Marking the summer solstice allows for a pause at the beginning of a season (hopefully) full of adventure and relaxation, finally able to enjoy warm weather, outdoors. Having spent the last four years living in Chicago, I am overwhelmed by the very greenness of the land where I grew up — Massachusetts. The full-leafed trees blend together into the hills, the gardens are fresh and need weeding, and I can move barefooted through the grass at my father’s house without fear. City life provides access to culture and excitement, but I have been starved for nature. Still feeling strained and rootless after graduation and closing down my life in Chicago, I took the time to ground and focus during Solstice.

I strive to include my entire being in my spirituality. By engaging the body through taste and smell, I can more fully enter into the work that I am doing. I made lemonade, some of the best lemonade I have ever had, ate corn on the cob and watermelon, lounged in the sun reading — part of holidays is just to recognize and immerse into the season. Interpreting the significance of the holiday and applying that to my life helps me keep an intentional focus on what I do, why I do it, and where I am going next. I wrote, drew runes, and planted the maple seed that was a parting gift from University Ministry.

At dusk, I laid a small fire in the stone ring at the bottom of our yard, surrounded by trees. Despite a childhood of helping with fires in the fireplace, I struggled to keep my small one alive. Coyotes and fischer cats live in the woods below our house, and alone in the dark at the edge of our property, working the flames, a quiet fear welled in my heart despite my attempts at repressing it. I laughed at myself, the irony of failing at a fire on Solstice. I could sustain it briefly, then it would die out. Finally, one lasted long enough to accompany my meditations and reflections, and then left me again. But Solstice was not lost to me; rather, I saw the symbolism of my own shortcomings yet to be improved. And working alone in the dark, afraid of what could be waiting at the edges, moving past failure again and again — doesn’t that come with being earth religious?

At the longest day of the sun cycle, I stand, balancing at a point in my life. I am transitioning from a place of achievements and community, I have recognized and thanked what I have loved and learned, and am grateful for my successes. Turning forward, finally grounded, I look forward to the work that comes.

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