Imbolc – Sacred Inspiration

To continue my series on the sacred within Wicca, I would like to concentrate on learning to cultivate a connection with the divine, or sacred inspiration. Imbolc is a time of celebrating Brigid, and one of her specialties is inspiration, especially the inspiration that gives voice to poetry. I am not a good enough poet to begin to express the beauty of her inspiration, but I would like to try my meager hand at encouraging you to try experiencing divine inspiration yourself.

Many cultures have seen inspiration as something that comes from the divine; in some Hellenistic cultures it would be the Muses who brought artistic or scholarly inspiration, and that role has come down to us today in our language, although usually diminished in sense. Being a muse today is often seen as a passive role, while the original sense, and the kind of inspiration I want to discuss here, is very much a function of active engagement on divinity’s part.

There are different ways to experience different degrees of inspiration. Here I am not talking about full-blown possession, but rather something more gentle (which can shade into possession if you learn that style of work), more about a sensed connection with the divine which leads to new information, ideas, or emotions arising within you.

In Judy Harrow’s essential book Spiritual Mentoring, she names the divine collectively as the Entheoi, meaning the deities who are within us. This is a lovely revisioning that emphasizes the immanent nature of deity rather than the transcendent, and it normalizes the connection with the divine, emphasizing that the divine is present within each of us, something we only have to become aware of rather than create from scratch.

Even with those features in mind, though, it can still be difficult to access this kind of awareness; just because the divine is within us doesn’t mean it’s automatically easy to talk with them, because they are still vastly different from us. Think – and feel if you can – how different our awareness is than that of a wild animal, or a plant, especially a long-lived one like a tree. If we are so different from these living beings with whom we share our form of being, then how much more different must be the metaphysical beings we know as the deities? They are as far away from us as we are from the sun and the Moon, yet as close as our own heartbeat, our own breath.

That difference in being but closeness in spirit is why I refer to the relationship that leads to sacred inspiration as a connection that needs to be cultivated, because it is through practice and repeated attention – which, after all, is what we really mean by devotion – that this connection or mode of awareness becomes stronger and more reliable.

Cultivating a connection which will support inspiration requires a particular kind of devotion, though, because this is not the aggressive devotion of an athlete constantly pushing herself harder; nor is it an empty passivity that negates the self; this is a devotion very much like wooing a beloved, with regular attention and an open curiosity that delights in the presence of another.

I learned to cultivate this through trance work first; for me, that was a safer place to have these beyond-normal experiences; the real wonder for me is when we create the conditions to let that awareness flourish while maintaining connection with the outside world so that our different types of awareness can inspire and augment each other.

I believe that one of the highest goals of ritual and the work we do in general is to put people in touch with the sacred more directly, helping each and every person who wishes to do so to open that connection a little bit wider, helping them learn to use it on a regular basis.

The first place to start building this connection is usually with your primary deities – your matron or patron. And having an existing relationship with your matron or patron makes this whole process much easier, because you have someone to guide you, someone you trust, someone you know has your best interests at heart, which makes it much easier to accept the kind of closeness that is necessary for successful inspiration to be communicated.

The more I study, and the more I practice, the more I come to the conclusion that Wicca is a religion of relationship, and the relationship with the divine is one of the most beautiful parts. So once again, begin with relationship, begin with devotion. Begin with the simple act of being present. Be present for yourself, and then expand your awareness to begin to be present for those others who are so near and yet so different, whose wisdom we crave and whose closeness we cultivate.

May your presence be blessed with the awareness of their presence.

Ritual for Inspiration using the Ace of Swords

The full moon is coming up! As some of you may have noticed, this month’s full moon falls on Valentines. Let me take a moment to repeat my public service announcements about why you should not do “love spells” because they’re generally ethically contemptible and they also often go awry.

Ritual for inspiration

The ritual for inspiration centers on the Ace of Swords card from the Tarot. Swords are the suit associated with Air, which represents ideas, information, communication, and choices. Since aces represent the gift of a new infusion of that suit’s energy, for this ritual we’re going to call on the Muses to gift us with inspiration in the form of writing. We’ll use a pen instead of a sword – remember the old saying – and give ourselves an opportunity to express any and all ideas that come to us.

Specifically, for this ritual we’ll engage in free writing. You’ll need a pen or pencil that you like and can write with quickly and smoothly. Make sure you have plenty of ink or that you have a backup; the point is to keep writing, so you don’t want to be interrupted by breaking a pencil point or a pen running dry. You’ll also need plenty of blank paper. I suggest regular unlined printer paper, at least ten sheets or so. You’ll write more than you think, and you may start writing in larger handwriting in order to keep up with the speed of your thoughts. Don’t worry about how it looks, and don’t try to keep it neat, straight, or beautiful. Plan to do your writing in ritual space, so pre-position a book or lap desk to write on, along with a comfortable place to sit. You can use a desk or your altar, as long as there’s no computer on the desk to distract you, and you can sit comfortably. The focus is the writing!

You’ll also want to have a timer to encourage you to keep writing. You can use a regular kitchen timer or any kind of digital timer as long as it won’t distract you. You want to be able to keep writing until you hear the timer go off; you don’t want to be checking the timer or clock every few seconds, because that disrupts the flow of writing. Set the timer for two to five minutes.

Writing during this ritual is like brainstorming: nothing is out of bounds. You can write about your day, your dog, your dinner, or even start writing “I don’t know what to write…” as long as you keep going from there. Let go and let the words flow.

You may want to have the Ace of Swords from your favorite deck on your altar as a visual inspiration. You may also want to listen to the song “Musa venit carmine” by the Mediaeval Baebes and consider using that line as a chant to invoke the Muses:

Ritual:

Use your pen as a magical tool to cast your circle.

Call the Quarters using these words or your own:

Powers of the East, Element of Air, source of new beginnings, I call you to blow through me with inspiration. Hail and welcome!

Powers of the South, Element of Fire, our motive force, I call you to fuel the energy to engage my inspiration. Hail and welcome!

Powers of the West, Element of Water, feelings that run deep, I call you to flow through my inspiration. Hail and welcome!

Powers of the North, Element of Earth, our grounding and stability, I call you to help me capture a form of my inspiration. Hail and welcome!

Invoke the Muses. You might concentrate on the image of the Ace of Swords, and imagine the sword opening a pathway for the Muses to come to you. You might chant “Musa venit carmine,” meaning “The Muses inspire our song.” Or you might simply breathe deeply, engaging the Element of Air in your own body, and say:

Muses, goddesses of inspiration, breathe into my mind and into my pen

Then free write for two to five minutes!

After the timer goes off, keep writing to finish your current thought. Then breathe again, grounding yourself. How do you feel inside yourself after doing this? Excited? Drained? Something else?

Take a few minutes to go back through your writing and circle anything you may want to work with after ritual. Don’t try to reorganize it into a complete piece; just pull out the ideas, phrases, or words that represent ideas you should work with more in the coming month.

When you are finished, put your writing on your altar or in front of your altar and bow to the card, bow to the Muses, and bow to your writing, the product of their inspiration in you.

Muses, goddesses of inspiration, thank you for the fresh breath of these ideas.

Dismiss the Quarters using these words or your own:

Powers of the North, Element of Earth, I give thanks for your help recording my inspiration into a stable form. Go now with my thanks and praise. Hail and farewell!

Powers of the West, Element of Water, I give thanks for the deep swells of emotion that interact with my inspiration. Go now with my thanks and praise. Hail and farewell!

Powers of the South, Element of Fire, I give thanks for the energy that drives my inspiration. Go now with my thanks and praise. Hail and farewell!

Powers of the East, Element of Air, I give thanks for the fresh breath of inspiration and the words to express it. Go now with my thanks and praise. Hail and farewell!

Open your circle using your pen.

Ground yourself again.