Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Going Furthur at the Greek

When P-Love and I first started seeing each other, I saw that he was a fan of The Grateful Dead.  One day, he says to me, "Do you want to go to the symphony with me?" and that was where I was introduced to the magic that is the music of the Grateful Dead (Bob Weir was doing a project with the Marin Symphony Orchestra where they put together a symphonic arrangement of the GD's music). A month later, I saw a Furthur show, at Shoreline Ampitheater, and I was hooked for life. (Furthur is a band that Phil Lesh and Bob Weir put together to keep the GD's music going.)

Furthur has announced that in 2014 they are going on a hiatus - no more tours!  So, P-Love and I quickly grabbed up tickets for the fall tour shows that we could make it to.  This past weekend, Furthur played at the Berkeley Greek theater - P-Love and I went to all three shows (Friday, Saturday, Sunday).  On Saturday night, I managed to catch this awesome bit of magic on camera:

This is the kind of thing that happens all the time at their shows - little bits of magic, all around the place, that makes the whole experience so amazing.  I have met so many great people through the concerts that I have attended and I have had so many awesome, magical, funny, spiritual, and love-filled experiences at these shows.

I thank P-Love, all the time, for introducing this to me.  This is the best gift he could have ever given me.

Bloodroot Honey Priestess Musical Sampler

The Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe LOVES to sing. We, as a group, write a lot of our own music and chants for the rituals that we enact. Here are a few (homegrown) samples of the music that this tribe of women create:

Branwen's Hera Song

Flower Of Death

Hathor Chant

Hera Chant

Juniper's Hera Song

Kore Chant

Mind, Body, Spirit chant

Om Para Shaktiya Swaha

Sacred Maiden Song

Yansumi's Saraswati Song


Recently, I had the opportunity to serve on a ritual where the Three Graces (Euphrosyne, Aglaea, and Thalia) were called in and honored.  The Three Graces were known as the attendants of Aphrodite.  So, as I am both dedicated to Aphrodite and I have taken on a personal task of writing at least one chant/song for each public ritual I work this year, I decided to honor these deities with song.

The Three Graces
Written and sung by Q'desha Yansumi Diwata

In the ancient land of Greece
There were the Graces Three
Between the three of them no party lacked for revelry

Euphrosyne was filled with mirth
Aglaea was splendor in spad-es
Thalia was all good cheer - They livened up even Hades!

One day the Graces Three set off
To party and boogaloo (*pause here to let the Sisters "boogaloo")
Just as they embarked Thalia said, “My sisters, I am blue!”

Aglaea said, “what IS this blue?”
Euphrosyne said, “Blue, who?”
Said Thalia, “My heart is heavy and I don’t know what to do!”

Euphrosyne said, “take this trinket”
And handed her a gift
“see a pretty pinwheel” she said, “your spirits are sure to lift!”
Joy” She said, “is always
within your arm’s reach”
“all you have to do is get your mind to your own beach!”

Aglaea thought a moment
And suddenly she said
“and add a merry little dance to cure your stressed out head!”

Taking her sisters by the hand
They spun and danced around
They danced and spun around so much, they fell upon the ground

But up again, they danced and laughed
The day so merrily
they arrived to see their sisters, in the grove, like you and me

Thalia said, “My sisters dear!
I Know just what to do!
When joy and merriment - have flown away from you!

“Pick up a thing of whimsy” she said
“and dance a step or two
When you find yourself in play, the joy returns to you!”

“so sing along with me,” she said
Repeat it round and round
Sing this song when your joy is nowhere to be found:

Hi ho the merry o
Return to joy with me
We’ll chase away our sorrows with great mirth and revelry!
(repeat this verse until energy reaches high point)
(end with repeat of “we’ll chase away our sorrows with great joy and revelry!”)

Over this past weekend, my tribe headed out to the woods in Sonoma County for our annual coven-wide retreat.  Isis Oasis is a truly wonderful, magical place and I hope to return there for many more retreats with our coven.

Our Coven has a tradition at our Harvest Home (what others might call "Mabon") ritual: we each select an item of importance to us that we will give away during our ritual on the Saturday night of retreat.  This item is something that we should feel some attachment to such that it "has feels" around giving it away - it is up to you to choose the item.  During the ritual, we tell a short story about the importance of the item and it is put into the center of the room.  When everyone has given up their items, the whole tribe gets up and chooses an item that calls to them.  

The item that I gave away, this year, was an abalone shell that has been doing some magicks on my altar to Aphrodite.  Several years ago, when I first approached working with this Coven of wonderful folk, I started working with Aphrodite, asking her to bring someone into my life that was my sanctuary. I used this abalone shell to work a lot of that magic and Aphrodite answered my prayers tenfold.  Not only did I find a coven family who is it's own type of sanctuary for me, but the universe found a way to put P-Love and I together - *HE* is my sanctuary. I wanted to help others find that bit of sanctuary that I have found so I gave this item away.  I know that it has found a good home.

At the end of the retreat, I was standing under a large oak tree near one of the firepits outside.  We had just been sitting around that firepit, talking on various things, one of them being Aphrodite.  Later, as I stood under that oak tree, I saw, in front of me, a flat, round, palm-sized, gray stone, embedded in the dirt.  I like to use these kinds of stones for warding magicks - they're small, light, easy to carry, easy to charge. So I walked over and picked it up.  There was a leaf sticking to the underside and as I brushed it away, I noticed something was different about this stone.  There, carved into the other side of the stone, was a dove, in flight, with a heart in the center. 

Aphrodite, you continue to give me many blessings.  Hail, Aphrodite!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


I have dug my own hole of stresses and right now, they feel pretty damned heavy. I have been feeling a lot of regret and frustration, directed at myself, for the choices that I have or haven't made that led me to being in this place.  That stress and frustration has been coming out, more than I'd like, in my words and actions as of late - manifesting itself in not-so-great-interactions with others and paralyzing myself from action as I'm caught in "beating myself up".

This morning, I had a straw land on me that is (again) of my own doing and takes my having to ask for something that I hate having to do. So again, I find myself feeling more of the being angry at myself for making these same mistakes over and over again. As I get angry at myself, my perception of the world COMPLETELY changes.  Every little thing begins to bother me whether it be the woman next to me on the train who puts her purse on the seat between us so that it's on top of me (rather than putting it into her own lap) or it's being frustrated with pedestrians around me who walk slower than I do and force me to slow when I need to "get somewhere now" or it's something at work that is a minor issue that is "yet another problem from so-and-so" that I have to deal with. When I'm not stressed, these things don't cause me aggrivation (even though I notice them).  However, when I am feeling stressed, these little things become huge issues that make me even feel even more anger and frustration and I end up really broadcasting that to the world around me (which then affects others who, in turn, affect me even more). In a moment of feeling completely consumed by all of this, my inner Priestess kicks in and says to Herself, "Yansumi, these people don't deserve what you are dishing out.  Get ahold of yourself and simmer down now. You're getting into a bad cycle, again, here."

I started to think to myself, this has GOT to stop!  But what "this" am I speaking of, to myself?  Is the "this" in reference to outside forces that I perceive as acting on me that I must always react to?  Is the "this" my getting angry at every little thing? What "this" is the thing that has to stop?  When I stopped to breathe, center, and examine *myself* for the issue (as I believe that to solve such things, we must always start with ourselves before moving on to the external), what I found was something that may be obvious to others but is the kind of realization that I often feel really uncomfortable with making:

When I really think about it, the "this" that I am referring to is NOT that the world around me has to stop aggrivating ME.  The source of my feelings is NOT externally caused/sourced even if my feelings are, in part, driven by the external.  The "this" is really MY perceptions and those perceptions are caused by things that *I* have done (or not done, in some cases).

In my work as a public priestess, this is something that I often see from others - that they, too, blame the world around them for their problems and look to the Goddess to solve things for them.  When I am in the position of priestessing for someone where this is the case, I am reminded of the line from the Charge of the Star Goddess:

"... And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without."
I take this to mean, in part: if you cannot find it within yourself to create change, you're not going to find the change outside of you, either. If I need something to happen, I can pray to the Goddess for what I want but if I'm not actually doing the work, why should I expect that She grant my request?  Magic, prayer, spells - each of these, in my opinion, has their price that must be paid in order to happen. Most often, that price is that I, along with the Goddess, must work to make these things happen.  What that "work" is, varies from situation to situation, but still it is the same "price" that must be paid each time.

In the end, it isn't that something must stop in order for me to find more peace, stability, and happiness in my life.  Something must actually start.  That something is me: the choices I make, the accountability that I hold for myself, the steps I take towards my goals, and the work that I must do internally and externally, for all of this to happen. NOW is the time that I must change and must create within myself, the resolve to actually DO something (rather than just allowing myself to continue to sit, fret, and wallow in this quagmire I feel myself in).  The coming days will see me making change for me - my own, personal, revision.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Retreat to the Labyrinth

Author's note: originally, I wrote this a year ago, after the end of our Clergy's spring retreat.  I hadn't intended on publishing it but recent events and epiphanies made publishing this appropriate.

Each year, my coven holds two major retreats for it's clergy.  The first is an ordained clergy-only event and it was held in early March, in the redwoods of the Santa Cruz mountains.  Although it is a 3-day/3-night event, I was only able to attend for the last full day and night of this past year's retreat.  Usually, I'd feel like I had to pack a whole bunch of "doing stuff" into being there only for one full day of the retreat.  However, this time I decided that it was "perfect" that I was only going for the one day/night and I would enjoy my time there in a very relaxed fashion.

These kinds of events strengthen the bonds between each of us as clergy within this coven.  It's also the time of year when each of our clergy examines their own Priest/esshood and their connection to deity. For me, it is a time when I can truly let my hair down, magically speaking as I am amongst chosen family who loves and supports me as I love and support them.  This is the place where I don't have to worry about placing shields upon myself that keep people out or keep me in.  This is the place where I can really let go and not worry that "something bad might happen" whilst in the middle of trance/magical workings. My Sisters and Brothers are there with me and for me.

Where we go on our spring retreat, there is a big labyrinth in the midst of giant redwoods at the top of a hill.  On the last night of the retreat, a group of us decided to make the trek up there together, in the dark, close to the hour of midnight.  Through the darkness we found our way, bells lightly tinkling, feet crunching dried leave and twigs on the path, silent voices as we made our way.  The air was cool and clear, occasionally reminding us of its presence through soft sighs that brushed the network of branches above our heads. We made our way to the clearing and gathered together under a dark sky and luminous full moon.

One by one we stepped into the circle and traveled through the stones.  I wondered if my fear of stumbling in the dark would reign for this walk but that soon disappeared from thought as my feet found their own rhythm to walk by.  It didn't take long for The Dark Goddess to begin her whispers and soon enough I would let Her in.  She would accompany me on this little journey, answering my unspoken questions, soothing my unvoiced fears. 

She sang to me - this is the form of communication that I remember the most.  On the journey into the circle, she sang to me.  She sang to me of previous hurts now healed by Love. She sang to me of closure and freedom.  She sang to me about new life.  She sang to me the words that were already in my heart but I still needed to hear:

My heart is free from burden and my spirit's no longer chained
A new love lives in my life now and I'm forever changed
While I can't forget You for Your choice that changed the game
when I think upon the words the message is the same:

Memory's a lesson that you learn to set you free
My new Love He lifts me up and loves me just for me
I've learned that Love is not like You and so I have to say,
Like memory, Your kiss, Your touch - it fades.

I can tell you, in my heart, there is no going back
I no longer worry about how the deck is stacked
While I can't forget You for Your choice that changed the game
when I think upon the words the message is the same:

Memory's a lesson that you learn to set you free
My new love He fills me up with joy for all to see
I've learned that Love is not like You and so I have to say, 
Like memory Your kiss, Your touch - it fades

I love a man who knows just what it means to be a Man
I feel the heights of love and strength when He takes me by the hand
But unlike memory, this Love I know will never fade
His Love has healed those wounds You gave me, ever deeply made

Memory's a lesson that you learn to set you free
I've put my heart now on display and still Love calls to me
I've learned that Love is life with Him and so I have to say, 
In my heart now, His Love will always stay.

When something dies, something new must eventually take it's place.  Before new growth can occur, the remnants of the previous life must be cleared away. The Dark Goddess destroys, clears, makes way for the new.  The Dark Goddess stokes the fires that can either temper or consume.  The Dark Goddess takes away the mud, dirt, and grime and leaves behind a space of clarity in their place.  Work with the Dark Goddess helps us to clear away our attachments to those things that no longer serve us, those things that weigh us down.  My heart had hurt, for a long time, covered in the muck, burnt by the flames of conflict.  Without the Dark Goddess, my heart may have taken another turn down a path of never recovering from its wounds being too overwhelmed with the weight of things past and gone. 

In my experience though, She does not clear it for you but rather she shows you the way to do it yourself.  The Dark Goddess is that which questions us, to make us truly think about what it means to continue to carry something with us.  She asks us the value of that thing, asks us what the cost of that thing is, asks us to truly think about whether we benefit through the continuous effort of carrying that thing.  If we can face the Dark Goddess' questions with certainty that it is truly worth it to maintain this 'thing' then it is so.  If we face the Dark Goddess' questions with uncertainty, She forces us to look at that uncertainty and shows us the decisions that we can make.  Through my work with Her, this night was like the final "dusting off and polishing" of a new piece of artwork and she showed me, through her questions and messages that, in fact, my heart is truly capable of amazing things - including healing to the point of allowing love in, again and again and again.

In the Center of the labyrinth, I left behind that dirt and grime that had remained on my heart for so long.  Of course I should be free to be in love with my sweetie if that's what my heart felt.  This seems like a simple realization, doesn't it?  Perhaps the concept is simple but the journey towards understanding that concept isn't always quite so easy. 

In the center of the labryinth, my Brothers and Sisters stood with me as I poured this, among with a few other things, into the center and out of me.  I was free to be in love.

Now it was time to leave the circle.  At first, I heard the words of Yeshe Rabbit's song for Hekate:
Mother of Darkness
Won't you guide us
through the labyrinth
to the truth

Mother of Darkness
Won't you carry us
Through the Chaos 
to the truth

 But then, The Dark Goddess began to sing a different song for me:
Mother, Dark Goddess
Carry me, Dark Goddess
Mother you shield me from fire and rain
Mother, Dark Goddess, I call your name!
She's left this for me as a project to work on.  I gave you the framework, She said.  Now I just have to work on it.

The Void

Recently, I had the opportunity to work with Polunochnyaya, one of the Zorya, sister goddesses in the Slavic tradition.  Her Sisters are The Morning Star and The Evening Star - Polunochnyaya is the Midnight Star who cradles the dying Sun God at the end of the year.  She straddles the time between light and dark, that moment of reflection between the end of the old year and the begining of the new. To me, she showed herself as moving with a beautiful silence and stoic grace, spreading wisdom where she goes, and being filled with the love of a Mother cradling her child in comfort and security. 

I wanted to share the message of Polunochnaya:
The Void is that which holds up all of creation.  In The Void, there is darkness that surrounds.  In The Void, there is nothing and there is everything.  In The Void, there is no time and there is time without end.  Here, in The Void, what exists is that which we have cultivated within our own souls, within our own personal energies.  It is the womb of The Mother, ready to carry us in the Darkness when our soul's time for reflection has come.   
Here, within this womb, there is the energy of the soul examining itself.  The Void strips us of our masks that we wear in the world of Earth, and we are shown the true nature of our Self.  It is here, in this examination, that the true power of The Void is revealed - for, in The Void, we look at ourselves and we make a decision.  This decision is one that The Void will make manifest for as long as we choose it. 
Do we refuse the power of The Void to birth us into a new existence?  Do we shroud ourselves in the trappings of this mortal coil, the trappings of fear, uncertainty, and pain?  Do we remain clothed in these, bundled so deeply within them that we cannot see the way to move forward?  In The Void, we can certainly do this - we can choose to remain weighed down by grief, anger, and fear and in doing so, remain in The Time Without End.  
In The Void, we can also choose to embrace the power that will birth us into a new existence, into the time of Now.  The power of light, the power of Love, these forces exists in The Void also.  What we bring into The Void, those energies that we chose to weave within our being while on Earth - these are carried into The Void with us.  And I'll let you in on an important secret:  what we welcome into The Void exists there as well.  We have but to decide to embrace the powers of Love and of Light, to welcome them into our Self, to turn away from the blindness of closed minds and eyes, and make the decision to see that these powers are always available to us to call out, draw upon, and be guided by. 
When we make that decision, to embrace Love and to embrace Light, we are renewed - ready to be created again from The Void, from the womb of the Goddess.