Spiritual Advocacy and Water Flowing

In this essay, I am exploring a theme I call, Spiritual Advocacy.  This year in Fort Myers, among other activities on the Earthways Shamanic Path, I have been learning about the concept of Spiritual Advocacy starting with the Element of Water, since it is so central to our “Florida Lifestyle.”    Southwest Florida is surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. There’s Lake Okeechobee in the middle of the Southern end of the peninsula. The Caloosahatchee River runs from Lake Okeechobee, to the Gulf of Mexico.  There is the Everglades to the South of us.   We are not “land locked,” we are Water Flowing.

I am blessed to have several good friends with passion in their hearts and they began hosting a series of Water Blessings. The first one was in April. Then, they attended a Water Blessing conducted by people in another part of Florida, and brought back songs and stories.  Last month, they launched our monthly Water Blessings ceremonies.   I’ve attended these local Water Blessings as my schedule will allow, and they are very uplifting.  They are nurturing.  I feel replenished when I attend these Ceremonies.

And to me, that’s part of the whole point of these Ceremonies:  we honor the Water and our land, when we conduct Ceremonies like this.  And when we honor the elements, we honor ourselves.  Ceremony is nurturing and it feeds our souls.

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Reflections on a Water Ceremony, September 2016.

And by doing Ceremony, we then realize what active steps we must take (besides prayers and ceremonies) in order to protect the element we are celebrating.

Honorable Shamans and Fellow Pagans, what do you do to feed your soul?  And, when you have fed your soul, what mission is revealed to you?  What action is required of you?

Share Your Peace With Mother Earth, Father Sky, and the Big Waters all Around You.

(c) 2016 to present,  Whale Maiden for the Earthways Shamanic Path, All Rights Reserved.

 

Share Your Peace With Our Earth

Share Your Peace With Our Earth, Honorable Shamans and Fellow Pagans.  I’ve been concluding just about all my posts with this phrase, or, “Share Peace With Our Earth”, since about June, but what does it mean?

Here’s what I mean.

Just before we conclude a meditation, or a ritual or ceremony, in our practices we send back accumulated energy to Mother Earth, for Healing.  My hope is that you will take that moment to think about the social and environmental concerns facing you and your neighbors, and focus your intent on that local concern.    In the Earthways Shamanic Path, we encourage you to  explore the magic of your land.  What is it saying to you?  Think and pray  about local issues.

Here in Southwest Florida we have over 1.5 million people in a six county area.  We are surrounded by water.  Some of us are very concerned about our water quality.  Our aquifers supply fresh drinking water to many people.  As more and more people mover here and put a well on their property, or put another golf course up and irrigate the greens and fairways with water from the aquifer, we run the risk of wells going dry.  People pollute the aquifers, too.  People also pollute our Rivers.   So, when I have  accumulated energy, I use it to pray for the Water itself, that it will be protected from harm.  In that way, I am sharing peace with my part of the Earth, Our Earth.

a local waterway
a local waterway

What are some local environmental or social justice concerns in your community?

“Share Your Peace With Our Earth.”

~Whale Maiden~

~~~ ♡ ~~~

Although the Earthways Shamanic Path is based in Florida, it can be celebrated anywhere.  You just need to explore the magic of your land.  What is it saying to you?   What are the seasons, where you live?  What do they mean to you?  How are they celebrated? 

Join Whale Maiden in the discussion at the Earthways Shamanic Path – Facebook Group 

(c) 2015, Whale Maiden.  All Rights Reserved. 

thoughts on Hal and Sam

Labyrinth at UUCFM, October 2015
Labyrinth at UUCFM, October 2015

In a short amount of time a few weeks ago, I attended the Halloween Costume party for families at the UUCFM, followed by the Samhain Celebration led by the CUUPS group there and then attended the Sunday church service, honoring our beloved dead. I’ve realized there is deep meaning for all these events, and they all serve very different purposes.

In the Earthways Shamanic Path (Florida Wheel) I’ve so far only identified four holidays so far:  the beginnings of Rainy Season, Hurricane Season, Dry Season, and Fire Season.  I was trying to see if we could do without the Days of Samhain, Imbolc, Beltaine, and Lunashgh.  Or to see how they play out organically, here in Southwest Florida.

The Halloween Costume party, provided a fun, kid friendly gathering for people in my Church Community. This party started with a community dinner prepared by one of our church members. She prepares a wonderful meal each Wednesday.  After the food and dishes were cleared away, then the party started. This party was organized by the RE Director, and she did a fabulous job.  There were people in costumes, and people who choose to not be in costume. We had fun activities, and entertainment.  I was in costume; and had a wonderful time, however, I couldn’t stay for the whole party.  This party was decorated with pumpkins and cut out paper bats and paper mice.  They were whimsical decorations, more festive than ghoulish.  It was perfect.

The Samhain Celebration was held outside at the amphitheater on Saturday evening. I stopped at a store on my way to the ceremony, to get some cookies for the pot luck, which was held after the ceremony.

When I left the store, it was humid, slightly overcast, and approaching twilight. I realized that it was later than I thought, that I was running late, and that it was going to rain soon. I hastened to the Ceremony. It was growing darker. There was a fire glowing already and people were seated around the amphitheater. I brought my midnight blue heavy cloak, but didn’t wear it; it was too hot out.  After I put all my things down, I brought my Ancestors Box and teddy bear to the altar table, which was set up to one side of the fire. Other celebrants had placed mementos of their departed loved ones on the altar.

We joined hands and sang a song. This promoted a cohesive feeling, and was energizing:  I love being in Ceremony outside at night time.  My Friend led the Celebration, asking us to rise and name our beloved dead, that they might be remembered,. As each person said a name, the rest of us would respond with the person’s name and then sing, “those who have gone before us, rise up and call their name.” I named my parents and a cousin, and my recently departed cat. Then I pointed to the Teddy Bear and said that was for the Florida Bears, since the hunting season had just opened earlier that week. Many bears had been “taken” in the hunt, among them lactating momma bears. As each person stated their beloved dead’s name, we chanted, “those who have gone before us, rise up and call their name.”  This was very moving, yet comforting to be with each other, as we went through this ceremony of shared remembering.

Next, we each took two pine cones, and placed them in the fire. One was to release something that wasn’t working for us any more, the other was to signify something we wanted to draw to us.  It was a Full Moon, still, so this was a great use of the energies of Samhain (to harvest) and the Full Moon, at the same time.

After that, some of us walked over to the newly rocked Labyrinth. The cobblestones lining the Labyrinth are easy to see in moon light, (even if overcast) and we all walked the circuits with ease. Then we walked back to the the people who were still at the amphitheater, sang some more songs and closed the circle.

It began to rain, and I felt that I had held the rain off, personally. After that, we went to the Hall and had our pot luck. It was fun to see people and chat with them. Some I hadn’t seen in a while, others I have.

Sunday was the day to honor our beloved dead at church. I brought a friend to church and we arrived late. When there was a good opportunity, I brought my pictures of my parents and my cat, and the bear, to the table that had been set up to hold these items. There was music and readings. We wrote the names of our loved ones down on slips of paper. Those slips were collected.  The Youth read the names. I wept for my parents and for my cat.

Now that my parents are departed, I feel their presence; they have become my Ancestors, and provide comfort and guidance.

As I listened to all the names being called out, I remembered more and more people from my Church family.  I wrote their  names down to be read out loud. I realized that I have been in this Church Family for so long, I may be the only one who remembers some of these people.  I know the names of our Church’s ancestors.  I must call out their names, so they will be remembered.  Next year, I will prepare myself ahead of time, and make a list before Church.

As you build your Wheel of the Year following the magic in your land, consider how you will remember your Ancestors.

Although the Earthways Shamanic Path is based in Florida, it can be celebrated anywhere.  You just need to explore the magic of your land.  What is it saying to you?   What are the seasons, where you live?  What do they mean to you?  How are they celebrated? 

And “Let’s Share Peace With Our Earth.”

Join Whale Maiden in the discussion at the Earthways Shamanic Path – Facebook Group

 

(c) 2015, Whale Maiden.  All Rights Reserved. 

Halloween and Samhain and the time in between

I have developed what has become a very complicated relationship with Halloween and Samhain. But first, let’s talk about the Full Moon. I love watching the Moon change over time. There is something so quietly sacred about this simple process, which we watch and are part of. Month after month, year after year, it is a natural process, it is a spiritual process.

For the Full Moon, just before Halloween 2015
For the Full Moon, just before Halloween 2015

When I was a kid, I couldn’t understand why Halloween didn’t occur on a Full Moon each year; I thought that only made sense, because of Easter and its connection to the Full Moon. But all the grown-ups would say was, “Halloween has always been October 31st.” I grew up in a Unitarian-Universalist household, and we didn’t celebrate All Saints Day or All Souls Day on November 1st. But I had friends who were Catholics, and they did. But all they could say was, “it’s all in Latin…” so they didn’t understand it, either. We were just kids, of course. Yet, on a basic level, I knew the whole time frame of the end of October and the beginning of November was somehow special, sacred even. At least to some people.

Halloween was special to me as a kid, because I got to design and dress up in a costume, and go outside walking around outside at night, and get candy. Each of these features was a rare opportunity in my childhood. I think Halloween should be kept as an event for children, as a right-of-passage.

As I grew a little older, I went through the phase where I felt I was too “grown up” to go trick-or-treating. And then, I grew a little older and began to find Halloween parties and other occasions where I could dress up in costume. Since Halloween wasn’t tied into the cycle of the Full Moon, it gradually became all about dressing up and partying to me. The partying was mostly indoors, so the connection to nature at night, was severed. And I watched as Halloween became just another over-commercialized consumer–oriented event in our economy, one where in 2014, it was “estimated that Americans will spend $350 million just on pet Halloween costumes…” And as the costumes for adults became more and more sexy/provocative or violent. And I gradually quit celebrating Halloween.

As a kid growing up, my connection to my Ancestors was an on-going lesson in History, since my Mom spent so much time researching our genealogy. Yet, it wasn’t presented as, ‘these are your beloved dead.’ Due to circumstances in my family, the deaths of my grandparents was treated in a somewhat remote fashion. I collected mementos of my grandparents to maintain connections to them, small objects that I carry with me to this day.

In my on-going spiritual path, I met some Native Americans. One was an Algonquin, and he shared with me the concept of Great Spirit, and how we were connected to all beings, and these were, “all my relations,” and I liked that, because I felt connected to all the animals and plants and rocks and trees and the Moon and the Stars. And also in my Spiritual path, I learned to SEE the energies of the fey and connected with the spirits of the animals.

happy samhain

And then I met my Wiccan and Druid friends, and was invited to my first Samhain. These rituals were celebrated outside and that was wonderful, to be outside at night time. And I liked the connection to the Spirits and the acknowledgement of our Ancestors and our Beloved Dead. I liked the idea that the “veil is thin at this time of year,” where we could make contact with our Ancestors and Beloved Dead.

After a year with that coven, I gradually felt that it was important to me to identify the holidays of my place here in Southwest Florida and to celebrate those holidays. So I left the Wiccan coven and went off on my own. I developed the Earthways Shamanic Path, and in Southwest Florida that is expressed as Rainy Season, Hurricane Season, Dry Season, and, Fire Season. Those holidays have “spiritual meanings,” and accompanying rituals, to be sure. But none of these holidays as yet address the deep spiritual need people have to connect to our Ancestors and Beloved Dead, and to do it in community.

In my Shamanic practices, I readily connect with my Animal helpers and guides, spirits. And with the Fey. And I can certainly connect with my Ancestors and Beloved Dead, at my Altar space. And as we are all getting older, and my Parents are now across the veil, I feel deeply, the need to honor them, to connect with them. This morning, I rearranged the things on my altar, the feathers, rocks, special objects and photographs of my parents and departed cousins. I lit candles and I lit some rosemary, to remember…

But what about that shared community experience? I belong to several spiritual communities. The Wiccans and Druids I met years ago are still my friends, and they have open Samhain gatherings. These are spiritual gatherings outside and at night, which satisfies my Earth-based needs, too, I’ll go to that tonight. And then tomorrow morning at my Unitarian Universalist Church, we have a ceremony honoring our Ancestors and our Beloved Dead. I’ll go to that, too.

Join Whale Maiden in the discussion at the Earthways Shamanic Path – Facebook Group

(c) 2015 Whale Maiden All rights reserved

 

The End of Hurricane Season – for now

Honorable Shamans and Fellow Pagans…  Oh, Dry Season is coming to Southwest Florida!  We’re excited to leave the Heat and Humidity and Daily Torrential Rainstorms of Hurricane Season behind us.  Particularly the Heat.  And the Humidity.

But first, here is a ritual to close out Hurricane Season.

Ground yourself as described in the Earthways Shamanic Path Stepping Stone #2 – https://whalemaidensuburbanshaman.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/earthways-shamanic-path-stepping-stone-2-get-grounded/

You may complete this Ritual, over the course of several days.  You may do some of it with family members, and some of it by yourself.

First, put your Hurricane Supplies away.  Inspect and clean all your equipment that you got, and put it away.  If you have a generator, follow the instructions to prepare it for long-term storage.  Maybe you can put a tarp over your Storm Shutters.  Make sure your wingnuts are all packed up in the wingnut bucket.  Visit your “To Go” box, and make sure you haven’t left any trash in it.  Make sure to leave a road map of your State or Region in there, and maybe this year’s Storm Guide.  The Storm Guides are usually good for all kinds of disasters, and it is good to have a plan.

Second, bring a sturdy box to your supply of canned food and inspect those cans. (Inspect the expiration dates.)  Are there some that you want to donate to a local food pantry?  This is an excellent time to do this, because after Hurricane Season ends, and the Dry Season starts, our Snowbirds will arrive and the food pantries need more canned foods.  You can also empty the water bottles you created – use them to water plants or your lawn, or your favorite tree.  Release what is no longer needed.

Third, review everything you learned this Hurricane Season about how storms are predicted and tracked, and how intense and unpredictable they really can be. Make some notes about what you and your family need to do in the coming months, to better prepare yourselves for next year’s Hurricane Season.  Visit my previous posts to get an idea.

Forth, review what happened to the people who were in harm’s way in the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic and Haiti and the Bahamas and Bermuda and South Carolina, and consider donating funds to a reputable disaster relief organization.

Finally, think about what you learned about yourself spiritually, this hot and humid Hurricane Season.  As we pointed out previously, the spiritual aspect of Hurricane Season has to do with planning ahead, and being ready to take correct action, but not letting that constant state of readiness exhaust you, or make you anxious.   And, it also involves asking for help when you need it, and how to offer help to others, when they need it.  Were you able to experience the middle line of having a plan, but being flexible as changing circumstances warranted?  Do you feel that you were adequately prepared for this Hurricane Season?  What did you learn about asking for help and providing help?  Take a few moments to reflect on this, and write about it in your Journal.  Remember, Hurricane Season is an annual event in the Wheel of the Year

Close out this Ritual as directed in the Stepping Stones.

Now's the time to release the canned food items you don't need
Now’s the time to release the canned food items you don’t need

And Remember to Share Peace With Our Earth

© 2015, Whale Maiden.  All Rights Reserved.

Join Whale Maiden in the discussion at the Earthways Shamanic Path – Facebook Group

Changing Seasons, changing lives

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Rainy Season: Afternoon thunder shower forming over the Mid-point Bridge from Cape Coral to Fort Myers, FL. June 9, 2015

I think it is FINALLY Rainy Season here in Southwest Florida.  I have traditionally marked it as starting June 15th, plus or minus a day or two, since the Earth does wobble a bit on her axis.

It seems to me that this time of year, is the start of the new year, in Southwest Florida.  Many Pagans I know, start their year at Samhain (October 31st) when it is said that the the veil between the worlds is thin.

But the way I look at it, this is the start of the new year.  This is the time of year when school is out for the summer, and people are graduating, getting married, and moving away.  Some people do all of that in a whirlwind week of change.  The rest of us, go see them off:  we go to graduation ceremonies, to weddings and we help people pack up and move.

In Southwest Florida, all of that is happening as we slog into Rainy Season.  When I place an emphasis on “Rainy Season,”  I am talking about the Wheel of the Year, in accordance with the weather here in Southwest Florida.  (This concordance is in contrast to the Pagan Wheel of the Year celebrated by a lot of pagans:  Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Spring Equinox, Beltaine, Summer Solstice, Lunnasagh, and Mabon/Autumnal Equinox.)

Here in Southwest Florida, we have Rainy Season,  Hurricane Season, Autumnal Equinox, Dry Season, and, Fire Season.  The Solstices and Equinoxes are interspersed in this annual cycle, but I’ll talk about that more, in another post.

After we do all those family rituals and ceremonies, then it is a smart time to do a ceremony to honor the shift of what “was,” and recognize that everything that follows, is new now.  In Southwest Florida, the Rain is very cleansing.,  It usually hasn’t rained a whole lot since about mid-October.  The Earth is dry and everything is kind of dusty.  The Rains literally wash the dirt away.

Once the daily afternoon thunder showers start happening, here in Southwest Florida, then the accompanying element of Humidity, rears its head.  (Humidity is another face of Water.)

In Southwest Florida, our whole way of approaching daily life, changes in Rainy Season.  It must, because Rainy Season is characterized by Rain — usually daily afternoon thundershowers, high Humidity, and Heat.   We also have a high UV index, because we are so far South, we are in the Tropics.

This time of year, I tend to get up earlier, because I want to get a lot of things done before it gets too humid.  I want to sit on the lanai in the morning and bird watch and read Facebook, until it gets too hot to sit out there.  I need to do yard work, before it gets too hot.  I should run to the grocery store, before it gets too hot.  Hmmm, maybe I’ll go to the Beach, before it gets too hot.  So, I have to prioritize and decide, before it gets too hot.

This time of year, by about 10:00 AM, it is usually over 80 degrees and Humid.  If you can manage it, you don’t run errands from noon until after it has rained.  For one thing, it is too hot to be out, if you don’t have to.  For another thing, once it starts raining, seems like everybody forgets how to drive on wet/slippery roads.  This is a particular problem, because the daily afternoon thunder storms occur during rush hour.

On the other hand, there’s less traffic on the road this time of year because the Snowbirds left just before Easter, and, the Tourists haven’t all arrived yet.  {That’s a distinction I’ll save for another post.}  So, for a few weeks, the restaurants are less crowded, and so is everything else.  It is just hot, and everyone is exclaiming that to each other.

When Rainy Season starts, in Southwest Florida, we do a Water Ceremony.  After setting up sacred space, and after acknowledging the Great Spirit and Father Sky, the Big Water, and Mother Earth, and the Four Directions, then we thank the Rains for coming, for without it, we’d all go hungry.  We honor the aspect of High Humidity, because that’s about all you CAN do about Humidity.  We drink water, to honor the Rains and because this time of year, that’s just smart to stay hydrated.

After the daily afternoon thunder shower, the plants and the Mother Earth usually drink up all the water very quickly, and what wasn’t absorbed gets steamed off…

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After it Rains, June 2015.

The point of the Earthways Shamanic Path, is to learn what the natural rhythms are where you live, and then, honor those rhythms.  In doing so, you will Share Peace With Our Earth.

Why not smudge with Sage in Floirida?

A few weeks ago now (Feb 22) I created a Medicine Wheel in Southwest Florida, with the help of several wonderful people.  Before we created the Medicine Wheel, I led a meditation/demonstration of what we could use besides sage, to smudge ourselves and our materials.

What’s wrong with sage?  Nothing, in general.   For something like 20 years, at almost every ritual I’ve attended, regardless of intent, we have smudged with sage.   This is painting with too broad a brush in my opinion.  I like sage.  It smells good to me, it tastes good to eat (or smoke) and is readily available at most “new age” or “metaphysical” shops.  The drawback is, I think it isn’t native to Florida, much less Southwest Florida.  Plus, I read a great article a few weeks ago on facebook called “the four sacred plants,”  which led me to reconsider how and when we use sage in our rituals and gatherings,  In a word, we are over using it, which I had long suspected.

So when I invited the people to help me create the Medicine Wheel, I also asked them to bring tree material from around where they lived.  I suggested they forage for tree items since that would reduce the potential to pick plants that are either non-native, or are endangered, or toxic.  Plus, trees are easier to identify than plants, so I thought that would help us keep track of this experiment.

I brought a coconut, from my neighbors’ coconut palm.  And, some dried flowers from the Orchid Tree.

Other people brought:  pine cones, pine needles, pine sap on bark bits, and a bunch of other types of trees materials, particularly from Mahogany.  We had cypress tree leaves that had fallen to the ground and were gathered.  They were already fairy dry.  We also had oak scree.

Oak scree is what we call the flowers/ reproductive parts of the Live Oak trees.  (There’s several species of Live Oak, but we don’t distinguish them in this essay.)

We talked about what each person brought and discussed whether it was suitable for burning in a smudge bowl.  For example, the coconut is readily available, at least in my neighborhood, but it is difficult to prepare for smudging.  We burned bits of each item and sat with each to see what we liked best.

I like the oak scree.  You have to be careful because it is a quicker burn than sage is.  But it is readily available, if you gather it at the right time, and has a nice smell.  One person brought some berries of (Cypress? or Cedar?) and these smelled very good when burned.

Of course, if I only use oak scree I’ll be back to the problem of painting every ritual with the same broad brush.  Hmmm…

Take a stroll around where you live, work, go to church, or play and see what tree items you could gather and dry for your ceremonies.  Sit with the items and see what speaks to you.

——-

footnote:  There are times where we have consecrated sacred space with an herb like rosemary, dipped on water.  We anoint people with this when we are in a place where we can’t burn sage or other materials.  Presently I’m using a sprig of Boston Fern to anoint people in my Class.  It is right outside the door of the classroom, and is thus very convenient.  And, it is growing in Florida, so that works for my purposes.