Monday, January 25, 2016

Winter (Living Life by the Seasons)

My woods are down to their bare bones. They stand stark against the mountains, quiet guardians. Snow lies over my fields, sparkling in the Sun. My small stream is frozen over. Time seems to stand still.

Winter is time for rest.  Mother Earth rests, humans and animals rest.

In today's Western Society we are never encouraged to rest. We are told that being busy all the time is a mark of success and productivity. This is contrary to the cycles that Nature practices. During Winter there is no growing season. Instead, roots are strengthened in preparation for the upcoming growing season. If we as humans do not take time to foster our roots we cannot continue to grow. We cannot be of any help to others if we are depleted ourselves.

I live my life according to the seasons out here in the country. Winter is a time of introspection for me. No gardens to tend, no crops in the fields. I take this time to rest and renew myself. This is my chance to do Inner Work. Carl Jung talks a great deal about the Shadow Self and I take the opportunity to work with that aspect of myself during this time.  Beginning in Fall (usually by Samhain, a traditional time to release unneeded and unnecessary aspects from one's life), I take a good look at my life in general. Especially my relationships. Negative ones are terminated to make way for more positive relationships in my life. Habits that no longer benefit me are ceased.

I also look at deeper issues. Old pain, old anger, old fear. I resolve and move past these issues with various rituals and meditations. In some traditions this is referred to as "Root Work", one's inner self or soul being the Root.

By the Winter Solstice (Yule) known as the Pagan New Year I am ready to begin anew and set my intentions and goals for the coming Year. I generally also take this time for personal study. Books are acquired and read. Workshops for the coming year are developed and written, mostly inspired by my own inner reflections which evolve into a desire to share with and encourage others. I also find knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the Universe through communion with my Deities. They inspire and challenge me, spurring me along my spiritual journey.

I encourage everyone to take this season of Winter to rest and then and plant your own seeds of intention. Here are a few suggestions for "Resting" during these Winter months:

-Shadow Self work. There are many books available to guide you through this process.
-Taking up a new past time you find relaxing and enjoy to chase away any Winter Blues.
-Taking more time to commune with your Deity or Deities.
-Daily meditation, Yoga and Prayer
-Self-Care such as taking a long bath, getting a massage, anything you would typically find you "don't have time" for.

The possibilities are endless. Take time to rest.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Reviving the Appalachian Granny Woman Tradition

A tradition near and dear to my heart is that of the Appalachian Granny Woman. I come from the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia and my family has lived here for generations. While growing up, I was introduced to this tradition by my mother and other female members of my family.

The traditions of the Appalachian Granny Women originated with immigrants from Scotland and Ireland who bought their knowledge and practices over during the 1700's and blended them with local Native Cherokee methods. Sometimes, Granny Women were referred to as "Water Witches" due to their skill with dousing.

Skill with plants and herbs, healing work, spiritism, music and more comprise this tradition.

As a young girl, my mother and I would walk through the woods and she would point out wildflowers, herbs, trees and shrubs. She would tell me their "old-timey" names and their uses, whether medicinal, edible or magical. On subsequent walks, she would "quiz" me about the same plants. This tradition continues between us even today.

One of my cousins was widely known in my area for the ability to "heal with her hands." She allowed me to watch her work once, on my uncle. I was fascinated by the process. But much to my dismay, when I asked her to teach me, she refused, saying "I'm afraid if I show someone how to do it, I will lose the Power." Now, she resides in a nursing home, her mind far afield and her methods and art are lost forever.

When that occurred, I became determined to learn all I could from anyone I could about this tradition. Now, I work actively to pass that knowledge on to others in the hopes that the knowledge will not be lost forever.