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The Year Keeps Turning

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Just two weeks ago we had a storm which left the mountains looking like an ice sculpture.  I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more of that this year.p1000941

Now we are half way from the solstice to the spring equinox.  For my favorite cross-quarter day I lit a new white candle in honor of Brigid, goddess of poetry and smithcraft (and all things fiery, I suppose).

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The Pennsylvania groundhog may see six more weeks of winter, but here in southern New Mexico the trees are beginning to bud.  We’re in a stretch of fine weather for walking and hiking, and I’ve just seen my first poppy.  It was in a protected spot along a wall and only half open, but there it was.

What can be said about poppies?

Gluttons for sun,
they shine it back,
closing at night.

They pop up,
not in the same spot,
new every spring.

Poppies.  Spring.
Nothing more
to be said.

Another Turn in the Wheel of the Year

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I spent a large part of May Day cleaning a nasty piece of malware called “Get Savin’” out of my computer. It could be considered a very modern form of spring cleaning, I suppose. Thank goodness there are helpful websites out there and people who can tell us which ones are good. After all that work I decided to “lie low” for a couple of days. I didn’t want to chance discovering that the “cure” hadn’t been successful.

In the materials I’ve been reading about this cross-quarter day, the mid-point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, I have been even more struck than usual by the climate specific nature of the Celtic beliefs on which current ideas about Beltane (May Day) and Samhain (Halloween) are based. If you live in northern Europe – or New England – you are likely to be excited about the spring flowers, and you can find dew on the grass on May Day morning. (Apparently there is an ancient tradition that washing your face in that May Day dew will bring you beauty and good fortune.)

Here in the desert, however, the weather is getting hot – this really is the turn into summer, which will last until the fall equinox. the way I measure the temperatures. No waiting for Memorial Day to open the swimming pools around here.

People like Lisa Michaels, whose posts on the seasons and the astrological signs I read regularly, are well aware that they are using language that only fits the northern hemisphere. Christianity too is a northern hemisphere religion, with its light in the darkness themes of Christmas and Epiphany. Christianity has done best when it absorbs aspects of a local religious viewpoint into its ritual and imagery. Where we live, and the images and ideas we draw from our surroundings, make a difference in our world view. Place – the specific place in which we live – matters.

(You can find Lisa’s recommendations on celebrating the seasons at http://www.lisa-michaels.com)

Halloween and Other Ghosts

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We’ve reached another cross-quarter day, the midpoint between the fall equinox and the winter solstice, better known as Halloween.  It is interesting that this day gets so much attention.  Many believe it has no connection with religion.  They celebrate it with fun and costumes in the early dark.  A significant minority in this country knows that it has religious origins and prohibits it as satanic.  In its early form it was a time of religious ritual, particularly rituals of purification through fire, and of moving to winter quarters.  In some places it was also the start of a new year

I’ve always thought it would be an awkward day for a birthday.  How special would you feel if everyone else was getting candy too?  A friend born on this day, however, told a story about a time in elementary school when birthday parties were forbidden.  The teacher worked her birthday into the Halloween festivities.  That would make a person feel special.

Another person who was born on this day was my mother-in-law, Jane.  Her sons would have no excuse for forgetting their mother’s special day.

I’ve not been impressed with the recent focus on zombies.  I don’t believe in them.  Ghosts, however, are real, in a number of ways.  A woman from New Orleans told me, “Home is where you listen to the ghosts.”  I picture her attending to voices of her―and her community’s―past now that she has returned home, voices she could not hear properly when she lived elsewhere.

My own ancestor research has been work with ghosts, a crowd of people clamoring to be remembered.  They have sometimes weighted on me as an obligation.  At other times they are more like sprites, delightful wisps teasing me into the past.

One of the special things about my mother-in-law was an uncanny ability to find a parking place just where she needed one, no matter how crowded the situation.  To this day, when my husband and I find a space like that we say, “That’s Jane’s space.”  It’s as if she has found and held it for us.  She’s a good ghost; we’ll have her with us as long as we remember.  The parts of our past we’ve neglected may come back to haunt us.  Those we’ve cherished will remain in our hearts, connecting us to our heritage.  Perhaps you’d rather call them something else than ghosts.  Any metaphor will do, as long as we remain mindful of this phenomenon, that we continue to be connected to those who are gone.