Thursday, October 24, 2013

Blow out the Candles and make a Wish....

Every year, I post on my Blog about what I have
learned and decided to "let go" from the previous year so that I can celebrate getting a year older and hopefully wiser.  It was really hard for me this year to post; I was busy being clergy visiting hospitals; and running to do handfasting rituals, keeping the Temple workshops flowing, and dealing with the day to day counseling that I have grown into doing.

This does not count, that I am a wife.  I love my husband and we have four children and four grandchildren.  Somehow, we try to make time for them also.  Yes, I have immediate family two brothers and nieces and nephews galore...and all of these people I am glad to say I care about too. 

A very best friend made my birthday cake this year, it was a Sugar Skull skeleton that was filled with eyeballs and truffles.  Bright Pink and white I smiled, for it was the color of friendship.  One eye of the Skeleton had an eye missing...and while I felt love looking at the cake; I could not help but ponder the significance of that one empty eye socket.

Every year, I walk some of my students through a Odin ritual.  In this ritual they come to understand that they cannot "gain wisdom and understanding" without suffering and sacrifice.  It is not the kind of suffering and sacrifice that we deal with day to day but the kind the god ODIN agreed too.  He wanted the gift of wisdom, and to get that he had to "willingly sacrifice something" .  If you know this story, you realize Odin gives up his right eye; in exchange for one drink from this well.  Of course, Odin does this and because he does he gains the wisdom that he is seeking.

I do not ask my students to give me anything; I convey to them the idea that the Gods and Goddesses will ask you to willingly "sacrifice" something important to you for you to "gain something" much more important for the world you live in.  The key, I remind them, is to realize you must "willingly do it".  The ritual is over...hopefully they understand.

I look at the beautifully wrought cake, my buddy has made out of the love of her heart for me.  I gaze at the eyeballs laying all about it and notice once again the empty socket.  I see the convergence of what I have shared with others, and what I am being asked to do.  I lean forward, and joyfully agree...."Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday dear Sonya...Happy birthday to you....Now blow out the candles!!!" I hear everyone yell gleefully.  I close my eyes.

I blow out every last candle, and there were many to blow out and not one missed.  Thank you, I say to Isis; and yes I agree to whatever it is I must do for the gift that you would like me to have.

I have given up, any outside dreams of traveling the rounds as a celebrity stylist; or futher developing pinup hairstyles with photographers I adore.  I gave up the idea of being a gypsy and touring forever with one band or another playing for whatever I could pull together.  I gave up the idea of being single and traveling the world in the second phase of my life after my eldest son went to college. I gave up the dream of being a professor.  I gave up moving out of Memphis, Tennessee, and decided to stay and help the Gods and Goddesses and Spirits of this city with whatever they asked me to do.  I have given up most of my spare time, and any hobbies.  I have given up hair appointments, nail appointments, facials, massages, and extra special things like faster cell phones to serve.  You would have thought; that there was nothing else I could give up...but then there is my right eye!

I hope this doesn't seem negative because at the age of 43 I am calm; and smile and laugh to myself.  Whatever it is I am asked to give up, or do at this point in my life...I am there.  I understand that I do not truly understand.  I know that I know nothing.  I see that I really do not see.  I comprehend that feelings are not always reliable.  I know that if I died I understand what my eulogy would probably be; and what songs I would like sung and whom would be there...and I am at peace with that.

I was told once, that there is a warehouse and in it is a door that stores every imagined "treasure" that you could want in your possible human life.  These things are dispersed to us as we need them or ask for them.  However, it seems (I was told) that many of us will not collect or even get a chance to glimpse our true horde the Divine wants to give us because we are not listening; because we do not ask.

I blew out all of those candles, and everyone asked "What did you wish for?"  I wished for that " key to the treasure that the is on it's way to me" I said.  They all laughed not understanding the reference or getting my meaning. 

Today, I found a key in the parking lot of the hospital before we got in our car to leave visiting our member that is "under the weather".  I almost missed that key, being so busy thinking of all the things I had to do today; and all the things that had to be accomplished for the week.  BUT I did not miss it! 

Spirit, has a way of responding to us if only we listen....if only we look...if only we pay attention.  It is trying to interact, and co-create with us, and would love to give us all we think we need and want and more. 

It has been another year.  Maybe next year, I will be wiser because I got a key....and I gave up my "right eye" to drink from a well. 

Thank you for the gift of your time!  Please remember, if you do not ask; then get out of the will never be able to receive.  This is what I have learned this past year; and after three years of persistently blogging to you all....I want to thank you for still reading, and sharing and even CARING about my opinion.  Thank you

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Spirit in Retrograde

            October is upon us and autumn can finally be felt in the air. Samhain quickly approaches to bring another year to end. Many pagans, witches, and Wiccans recognize this Sabbat as the end and beginning of the year. But I would like to offer a different point of view, Spiritual Retrograde.

            We can all agree the Wheel of the Year is a circle and we live within the cycle of that circle “with no beginning and never ending” as the enchanting Circle Within a Circle song reminds us. If this is true, how are we celebrating this old Sabbat as an ending or beginning? How is this “New Years”? Did our ancestors celebrate Samhain with this intent?

            Sir James George Frazer, the Scottish anthropologist often considered one of the founding fathers of modern anthropology, popularized Sir John Rhys’ theory that Samhain was the “Celtic New Year,” but did acknowledge that the evidence for such is inconclusive. Ronald Hutton, the English historian, says the evidence is flimsy. The evidence consists of Rhys’ inference from contemporary (modern) folklore containing customs with what he felt were “associated with new beginnings.” He also found that the people of the Isle of Mann sometimes called October 31, “New Year’s Night.” Other evidence includes calendars that place Samhain at the beginning like that of the Gaulish Coligny calendar. However, these calendars are lunisolar and contain a great deal of Roman influence. They are attempts to synchronize the solar year with lunar months. I have found little evidence in my research to suggest that the ancient Celts followed this type of calendar prior to Roman influence.

            We do know the Celts began each day at dusk rather than sunrise, thus the dark preceded the light.  Some debate remains about this suggesting the commencement of each day began at midnight or when the moon was high. We also know the Celts celebrated four festivals; Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh -- none these being solar in nature despite being labeled “fire festivals.” It is suggested the Celts celebrated the solstices and equinoxes but little evidence supports this. Because the Celts were mainly a pastoral people and not agriculturally focused, it is my belief they did not celebrate the solar holidays as a people. Rather, farmers recognized these holy days that held little significance to the nobles that held festivals.

            I conjecture the ancient Celts celebrated Samhain as a festival to honor the dead; to cleanse, bless, and sacrifice livestock for the survival of the people through winter; to gather the tribes for trade and politics before winter, and to honor the turning of the spiritual cycle inwards, Spiritual Retrograde.

            People would return home for the long dark winter after ensuring they had everything they needed to survive the cold months. During this time they had little to no contact with the community or teachers until Imbolc or perhaps even Beltane. Their spirituality would thus spiral inward, or in retrograde to the forward motion of perceived physical time. It is this retrograde motion that magically causes the veil between this world and the world of the Otherworld to thin so as to allow for easier communion with deities, fairies, and those who have passed on from this world ensuring that people still grow and learn despite their separation from community.

            Modern times provide many of us the luxury of not becoming separated from our community but we still need and desire the easy communication with our deceased loved ones. We have also incorporated the solar holidays into our neo-pagan practices. Me being a neo-pagan, neo-Celtic Wiccan and the engineer of my own spiritual traditions and beliefs, I set the parameters of my belief.

            For me, Samhain marks the point of the year our spirits spiral in retrograde to the universal cycle of the Wheel of the Year causing the veil to become thin. The thinnest point of the veil is on Samhain night or the night of the dark moon closest to this day, this year falling on November 3. Our spirits remain in retrograde and the veil thin until Winter Solstice, or Yule, when the Sun is reborn. During this time of the year, the God rules from the Otherworld with the Goddess by his side, both in their dark aspects. Because the God and Goddess have designed our spirits to spiral in retrograde creating a thinned veil, we can more easily communicate with them and feel their love through the darkness of the Otherworld and the darkness of winter. This is why as pagans we embrace the darkness and do not fear it; for we know love exists even without light. The spiritual retrograde is also why, in my belief, many pagans feel it appropriate during this time of year to cast their circles in widdershins.

            This is how I have come to understand the turning of the Wheel and the integration of what I know of the ancient Celts and the modern practices of Wicca. I assert that although the label of the “Witch’s New Year” makes the holiday appear more festive and less scary in the eyes of non-pagans, Samhain is not New Year’s. The Wheel is a circle, no beginning, never ending.

Blessed Be,
Kevin Red Patrick    

Kevin Red Patrick is a seeker at Temple of the Sacred Gift – ATC. Raised in Memphis, TN, and educated at the University of Mississippi. His pagan path began at the age of thirteen after understanding that his views of life, spirituality, and sexuality did not align with his Christian upbringing. He has followed an eclectic Wiccan path with strong Celtic influences for twenty-two years. Divine direction led him to TSG-ATC in December of 2012, where he is now receiving formal training with aspirations of becoming clergy. He now lives in Southaven, MS with his partner of thirteen years and two dogs.

Monday, October 14, 2013

May the Circle be unbroken.....

“Ancestors, those of blood and not of our blood.  Those of our Bone, and not of our Bone we call you forth tonight and ask that you join us in our Temple….”

Samhain, the time when the Crone Goddess aspect comes into power, and the time when the God dies; the time when we all dress up our “witchiest” and gather and do what? We gather together here in Memphis to honor our Ancestors.  The above phrase is always used every circle; but at Samhain it becomes more real.  Many of us have lost loved ones while the wheel of the year has turned:  children, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, pets.

We all come together and bring a candle to represent our Ancestor (usually we paste a picture of them on the candle) and the circle is cast widdershins (counter-clockwise) because things are about to change.  From that point forward until IMBOLC all circles will be cast in that direction for the time of the Crone has come into play.  Some midsouth circles will bring in the “Bone mother” as they call her (Cailleach, Nephthys, Hekate)  some of us will just call in the Hag.  Many of us will send the God to the underworld with gifts and offerings (this is my Egyptian practice), some will not mention his “absence” at all.

Stones will be piled high on the altar to make a monument that will honor our ancestors, and we will all walk a spiral to the center to call, and get an answer from them regarding something we want to communicate with them about.  For many this is just an apology, for some of us it is just to “reconnect” and say hi; most will ask for advice since it seems Ancestors crossed over are released from mundane worries and responsibilities and give us better advice than what we would choose for ourselves from time to time.

A dumb supper will be laid out, the table all black and mourningful, many of us will wear veils, the candelabras will be burning, the tissues aplenty…and we will eat in silence with our dearly departed as they speak, touch, and communicate with us in waves of spirit-filled emotions during that dinner. 

Every Ancestor ritual we do at Samhain I leave out offerings for my Grandparents and friends…but I communicate especially with my Mamaw and Papaw who I held so near and dear to my heart (and still do).  It is good to take the time to pause, and reflect and to acknowledge in a healthy way our loss.  It is a catharsis of the spirit that I look forward to every year; and never grow tired of this release. I realize of course, I can speak to my Mamaw or dearly departed Elders every day of the week…and I do many times.  However, taking the time to set aside one day of a year; before the changing of the clock and my “new year” starts is what I have come to find as the meat and potatoes of my spiritual practice.  

After the serious crying, mourning, communication, divination…then we will play drums, games, break a pi├▒ata, decorate pumpkins and eat so much candy our bellies will hurt.  We know too that our Ancestors, and dearly departed impart that wisdom…”enjoy being human, and those things that make you happy to be so.” 

I do not know what you do to celebrate this ritual at your home, or in your circle and would really happy to have you share that underneath this post.  As always, I thank you for the gift of your time, and the love that you send to us and ours here in the Bible Belt as you read this post.

How to have a “Dumb Supper”:

Cook some of the favorite dishes of people you have known and loved.  For example my Papaw loved German Chocolate cake thus I always bake one at Samhain.  Sit at the Table with your family and leave an empty chair (or pull it up to the table) for your dearly departed.  Pray, invite them to partake of the food with you. 

After you are done eating “re-decorate” the table and make sure to pour drinks in the glasses, use the good china, and fill plates to a heaping.  I lay out one for every person I can think of (make sure the table is full and the food is a heaping).  Leave the food out overnight, and in the morning clean the table, burn incense, and thank them from the bottom of your heart.  If you have a candle you designated just for them, let it burn down to the end to release all the love and happiness you send them.  Your Ancestors will thank you for it, and you will be grateful you took the time to acknowledge all those people in your life who formed and shaped you into the wonderful person you are!

“To all of those who came before me, I thank you.  May I leave the tree of our family sturdier, and may I leave the path behind me wider and safer for those who follow behind me…” SMB!* 

 (P.S.  The pictures are to give you a clue where I came from...Hope those are Southern enough for you!!!!)

Rev. Sonya Miller is a Highpriestess of the ATC and the Co-founder and Priestess of the Temple of the Sacred Gift-ATC.  She teaches classes at her Temple offering hands on learning face to face.  She has taught workshops locally for the Pagan community, had the pleasure of Presenting and Performing a ritual at the Pagan Unity Festival in Nashville, Tn helping people Erect " Little Egyptian altars everywhere" in an Egyptian ritual.

She presented a workshop at Gathering of the Tribes and delivered main ritual with an "Egyptian Flare" for the Tribes to build permanent structures in their cities and towns sending them home with firm foundations and Pagan Pride.  She has persistently published Southern Fried Pagan and was honored to be a presenter at her mother church in Index, Washington sharing the mysteries of Ma-at and Anubis at Hecate's Sickle ( The Aquarian Tabernacle Church Fall Mysteries).

 Her greatest feat thus far has been meeting her hero Pete Pathfinder (and secret crush) face to face, marrying the man she truly loved, and delivering safely a young "Golden Child".  She lives in East Memphis with a handsome Highpriest husband, Brian Clark, a rambunctious pagan toddler, a Boston Terrier named Betty, a Cat named Bowie, and a rabbit named Ruby.  Her motto in life is..."Fortes fortuna adiuuat"-----and you will find her almost every night of the week at the Temple of the Sacred Gift ( the Goddess is alive, and magic is afoot!