Ritual for committing to daily practice using the Eight of Pentacles

The 8 of Pentacles is an image of an apprentice practicing a craft. The message of this card emphasizes that progress and rewards come from repeated, enduring practice. In this ritual you will commit to practicing a single action every day for the next week and a day.

Your commitment to practice does not need to be a big one. In fact, it’s important not to make it too big to start out with. It could be something as simple as “I will take a deep breath.” It could be brushing your teeth. (Since we’re working with the suit of Pentacles, choosing to do something good for your body would be wonderfully appropriate!) It could be deciding to put a dollar in your savings. It could be a commitment to name three things for which you’re grateful. You get the idea.

Make this commitment specific, measurable, and realistic. Specific means that you name exactly what you will do – instead of “I will work out,” say “I will walk a mile.” Measurable means that you will be able to tell for sure whether you’ve achieved it. Instead of “I will be grateful,” say “I will name three things for which I’m grateful.” Realistic means that this needs to be something you can fit into your existing life in the next week. Every day. No exceptions. That’s why I encourage you to pick something small. Tiny. Just one thing!

Oh, and this should be a specific action you will do, not something to refrain from doing. This isn’t giving up X or refusing to do Y. This is a positive action for you to practice.

For materials you will need eight tokens. I suggest pennies, because they neatly reflect the theme of the card, but you could use stones or beads or slips of paper or anything else you like.

You may want to use the Eight of Pentacles from your favorite Tarot deck. If you have an object or tool that you will use in your daily practice (a candle? a mug for your cup of tea?), it would be beneficial to include that as well.

Ritual:

Ground and center yourself.

As you cast the circle, think about the repeating nature of the circle.

Call the Quarters:

Powers of the East, Element of Air, blow through me with a fresh breath as I (re)commit myself to this daily practice. Hail and welcome!

Powers of the South, Element of Fire, burn in me with the dedication to carry this practice through every day. Hail and welcome!

Powers of the West, Element of Water, flow through me with the commitment to this daily practice. Hail and welcome!

Powers of the North, Element of Earth, ground me in the stability of this daily practice. Hail and welcome!

Invoke a goddess if one is appropriate to the practice you have chosen, or simply ground and center and commune with your landbase as you commit to yourself with this work.

Sit in the center of your circle. Arrange your tokens in front of you, but not on your altar. Reflect on why you have chosen this practice, at this time. Meditate on it, and consult your intuition and inner guidance to be sure that this is what you want to pursue for the next eight days.

Formulate your practice into a simple statement. Build a visualization of yourself doing it: what does it look like, feel like, mean to you? Will it be at the same time every day, or will it be something you do when you remember to? How will you make it work on days when it’s hard? Ask all your allies to help you commit to this single, simple daily practice for the next eight days.

When you are ready, bless your tokens to help you. For each one, pick it up and draw an invoking pentagram over it (starting from the top point down to the lower left) as you state your daily practice. Place it in a pile on your altar.

When you have blessed all eight, put your hands over the pile and send any extra energy into them as a whole.

Ground and center yourself again. Thank your landbase and any goddess that you called.

Thank the Quarters:

Powers of the North, Element of Earth, I will do what I have said! Let me gain strength from it. Go now with my thanks and praise. Hail and farewell!

Powers of the West, Element of Water, I will do what I have said! Let me gain equanimity from it. Go now with my thanks and praise. Hail and farewell!

Powers of the South, Element of Fire, I will do what I have said! Let me gain energy from it. Go now with my thanks and praise. Hail and farewell!

Powers of the East, Element of Air, I will do what I have said! Let me gain insight from it. Go now with my thanks and praise. Hail and farewell!

Ground and center yourself again.

After the ritual, put your tokens in a place where you will see them as you do your daily practice, if at all possible. Move one from the pile to a new pile every time you do your practice. At the end of the eight days, take time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t about this practice, and what you’ve learned and gained from the experience.

Ritual for creating stability using the Four of Pentacles

The 4 of Pentacles is traditionally seen as depicting a miser, someone who clings to possessions and physical objects at the expense of all else. For the purposes of this ritual, I would like to propose an alternate interpretation: someone creating stability.

In Mary K Greer’s wonderful book 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card, she suggests physically taking the position of the person depicted in a card. When I did this with the traditional Four of Pentacles, what I felt was that the person was holding the pentacle in front of herself almost as a shield or protection. The image also looks like a castle, and fours are typically about stability and balance. For myself, this fall has been a time of tremendous upheaval, and the whole Samhain season can feel that way to others as well. In response to that, the intent of this ritual is to help us create a sense of stability even while experiencing change.

I have written this as a largely silent ritual, but you may add words wherever you feel moved to do so.

Materials: Four stones – any stones will work, as long as they feel strong and stable; you can use your most precious crystals, or four stones found in your local landbase. I find that slightly larger stones give me a better sense of grounding, and you may actually prefer darker colored or ordinary stones for their grounding nature.
You may want to use the 4 of Pentacles from your favorite Tarot deck.

Ritual:

Ground and center yourself.

Cast the circle by walking it, imprinting your intention on the earth with your feet as you move.

Sit in the center of your circle.

Take the first stone, face East, and call the Powers of Air with your mind. Blow across the stone, and place it on the ground.

Take the second stone, face South, and call the Powers of Fire with your will. Warm the stone in your hands, and place it on the ground.

Take the third stone, face West, and call the Powers of Water with your heart. Lick your finger and touch it to the stone, then place it on the ground.

Take the fourth stone, face North, and call the Powers of Earth with your whole body. Feel the weight of the stone, and place it on the ground.

Meditate about what makes you feel stable or unstable, safe or unsafe at this time. Think about the ways you seek stability for yourself. What is working well for you and what is not working?

Reach out to the stones surrounding you and feel their stability, their fixed nature. Ground yourself more strongly into your landbase and know that it is always there for you.

Take up the position of the person in the traditional Four of Pentacles card, holding an imaginary disc in front of your body with one arm below it and one arm above it. Now instead of a coin or a shield begin to see this disc as the full moon, shining between your hands, glowing directly in front of you. How does the Goddess guide you to stability, even in the face of change?

When you are done, thank the Goddess and thank your landbase.

Touch each of the four stones in turn and silently thank the Powers of the Elements.

Open your circle by walking in the opposite direction.

Take time to reflect on your meditation over the next few days; you may wish to journal about it.

Ritual for celebrating triple Goddess using Three of Cups

The suit of Cups is all about Water, so it has to do with emotions and relationships. The Three of Cups is a card of relating to others, and it has special resonance for goddess worshippers who know that several goddesses take on a three-part form, or can be understood as part of a triad with other goddesses. The ritual below is written arounnd the general theme of Maiden, Mother, Crone, but you can substitute instead any three-part goddess you work with more closely.

The image on the Motherpeace card is a celebration by a river. (See the Motherpeace image by selecting 3 of Cups from the drop-down menu.) I also particularly like the image in the Robin Wood Tarot where three women are dancing holding chalices marked with the moon phase symbols.

In this ritual we’re going to offer libations to the goddess in her three parts. Using this ancient method of celebrating and honoring goddess will strengthen our relationship to her and also represents the way we are participating in the continuing river of her presence poured out for us.

Materials:
Chalice or your favorite drinking vessel
A bowl to pour your libations into, unless you can do ritual outdoors and pour directly on the earth
Liquid that you like to drink – it could be water, wine, milk, tea, or anything that you would share with Goddess

Prepare your altar with any Goddess images or decorations you like, especially symbols of the triple moon, or a trio of white, red, and black candles. Put your Tarot card on your altar along with your chalice and bowl to receive your libations.

Ritual

Ground and center yourself.

Cup your hands in front of you and see the light and energy of the full moon filling them. Cast your circle by walking around the perimeter and pouring this light out to mark the edges of your circle.

Call the Quarters using these words or your own:

Air, powers of the East, inspire me as I share my thoughts and words with Goddess tonight. Hail and welcome!

Fire, powers of the South, light my way and warm my heart in celebration with Goddess tonight. Hail and welcome!

Water, powers of the West, fill my cup so that I may pour it out in libation to Goddess tonight. Hail and welcome!

Earth, powers of the North, receive what I pour out in libation for Goddess tonight. Hail and welcome!

Invoke Goddess using these words or your own:

Clever maiden, merciful crone, loving mother of us all, Goddess, I invoke you in your triple form.
I honor you, I praise you, I love you.
Hear me, guide me, and bless me this night and always.

Chant “We all come from the Goddess and to her we shall return / like a drop of rain rolling to the ocean.” You can use the words alone, or learn the tune here:

As you chant, take your chalice into your hands and direct your love and devotion to the Goddess into your chalice. When you are done, dedicate the cup to her by drawing the triple moon symbol )O( in the air over the cup.

Pour three libations. During each one, name the aspect of the Goddess to which you are offering, and  thank her for her blessings and/or ask her for help with her special gifts. For example, you might say:

Maiden, youthful, beautiful, and free, I offer this drink to you. Help me celebrate my independence with joy.

Mother, loving, gracious, and kind, I offer this drink to you. Help me give birth to my hopes and dreams.

Crone, wise one, merciful, and strong, I offer this drink to you. Help me honor my own wisdom with grace.

When you are done with your libations, drink the rest of the cup to take Goddess’ blessings into you.

Thank and dismiss the Quarters.

Open the circle.

A simple ritual: Moon shadows

For this month’s ritual, I want to suggest a simple activity which can be as elaborate and engaging or as quiet and meditative as you want: looking at your moon shadow.

The weather is nice enough in most places at this time that going outside while the full moon is high doesn’t mean flirting with hypothermia. So why not get yourself out of doors while the full moon is the main light source and spend some time with your shadow cast by moonlight?

Shadows are curious creatures – appearing and disappearing, images of ourselves but shaped by our surroundings. Shadows cast by moonlight are even more rarely seen, unusual and perhaps revealing.

Turn your back on the moon and do ritual with your shadow as your partner. Can you feel it? What does it look like? How does it engage or not engage?

Meditate with your shadow. What does it have to show you, to tell you, to be for you?

Ostara Ritual To Find the Sun

Eggs are strongly associated with Ostara and its images of fertility and growth, and dyeing hardboiled eggs is a wonderful tradition to use for this Sabbat. This ritual uses the egg in a slightly different way to symbolize the release of restraints in order to promote growth and development.

Personally, I am so very, very tired of winter here this year that I am going to use this ritual to break away the snow and cold and ick in order to usher in a reasonable, gentle summer.

Materials:

  • Hardboiled egg. Whether you dye it or not is entirely up to you. If you do, you can spend time while the egg is submerged to meditate on the way that snow melts and begins to reveal the colors of springtime.
  • Plate or bowl and knife to cut the egg. (Be careful when handling knives, especially if there are kids involved.)

Ritual:

Cast the circle as you chant

The earth, the air, the fire the water
return, return, return, return

Call the Quarters with words like these or your own:

East, Powers of Air, blow through me with the winds of a fresh start! Hail and welcome!

South, Powers of Fire, burn in me with the energy to grow and change! Hail and welcome!

West, Powers of Water, flow through me with the courage to ride the waves! Hail and welcome!

North, Powers of Earth, ground me with the strength to break free! Hail and welcome!

Pick up your egg, and visualize its shell as the constraints that have been holding you back, especially anything that has been restraining you this past winter. Put all of your feelings about those situations into the shell (just the shell, not the egg!). Visualize your new energy as the egg itself, ready to be set free from that shell.

When you are ready, crack the shell with a sharp rap against the plate, and visualize your the constraints breaking. Peel the egg, and visualize all that has held you back falling away, allowing you to break free and emerge into a period of new growth and development.

Cut the egg in half. See the golden yolk inside as the sun, which is returning to its strength and bringing energy to fuel the growth and change of spring. Say, “The sun returns!” and celebrate!

Eat the egg to take that energy into yourself.

Thank the Quarters for their presence and blessings.

Open the circle.

PS – if you’re looking for something different, there’s also a more meditative ritual that uses seeds as a metaphor that I wrote a while ago, or a salt scrub.

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.

Imbolc: Make a Brigid’s Cross ritual

It’s almost Imbolc! In honor of Brigid’s day, you might want to read my stories of Brigid, think about making an affirmation to engage Brigid’s gifts of fire and poetry in your own life, or try this simple ritual. Whatever you do to celebrate the day, enjoy, and may Brigid bless you richly!

Ritual: Crafting a Brigid’s Cross

Making Brigid’s crosses is a traditional Imbolc activity. In this ritual, we use strips of paper and empower each strip with an intention that we send to Brigid. Each strip can be a separate matter, or you can weave together multiple intentions all related to a single project or issue.

Materials:

  • Strips of paper. You can make these using regular typing paper, but I recommend construction paper if you can get some. Try multiple colors! Cut the strips lengthwise, about a half inch wide. If possible, use a ruler and pencil to sketch straight lines and cut with a long pair of scissors to make the strips even. You will need about 12 strips to make a single cross.
  • Writing instrument that will show up on the paper chosen.
  • Tape to seal the ends of the cross, or glue.

Ritual:

Cast the circle and call the Quarters. You can focus your invocations on Brigid and the theme of Imbolc, or tailor them to fit the intentions you will be instilling into your project.

Invoke Brigid with a poem, chant, or song. “Way to the Well” and “Holy Well and Sacred Flame” are especially well-suited to this Sabbat.

Write your intentions, wishes, or prayers on the strips of paper. Don’t worry about filing them all; it is better to have a few blank ones included than to have too many to work into a single cross.

Leave one strip blank, or just write Brigid on it. Lay it down in the center of your space, pointing up and down.

For the next strip, read it aloud, and say, “Brigid, hear my prayer.” Fold the strip in half with the words on the inside, folding it across the center strip with the ends pointing to the right.

Rotate your cross a quarter-turn counter clockwise. Now the single center strip is pointing left and right, and the strip you just folded is pointing up.

Read and bless the next strip. Fold it in half across the previous one with the ends pointing to the right.

Repeat the previous two steps until your cross is a size you like.

For a visual example of the folding, see these instructions or this example with pipe cleaners.

When you are done, use a little bit of tape across the ends of the arms to hold all the strips in place. (If you prefer to use glue to glue together each strip as you go, follow the instructions in the first link above.)

Holding your completed cross, repeat your poem, chant, or song and give thanks to Brigid.

Thank the Quarters and open the circle.

Afterwards, keep the cross and hang it somewhere where you can look at it and draw on its energy. If this is a short-term project, then when it is completed, dispose of the cross by burning, recycling, or composting it as a thanks-offering to Brigid. It is especially appropriate to burn it on one of the fire festivals (Beltane, Lunasa, or Samhain) if you can. If the cross relates to a long-term project or concern, dispose of the cross at the next Imbolc, and make a new one if you wish.

The Fool: A full moon ritual of play and possibilities

To start off the new year, here is a ritual I’ve written to engage with the Fool card of the Tarot, and specifically with the theme of play. Playing can be a way of opening ourselves up to new possibilities and to opportunities for re-envisioning our path forward. Especially for us as adults, this is not always easy, and it does not always seem reasonable. It’s not supposed to be reasonable – it’s play! Try approaching this ritual with an open mind and open heart.

To set the space, we play with each of the four Elements: with words, with actions, with laughter, and with what we wear (the way we present our bodies). Then we invite the goddess Luna to inspire us with her foolishness and wisdom, and try to bring that inspiration into being by playfully creating something. In addition to the freedom of experiencing playfulness, this creation can be a source of divination and possibly inspiration to help us imagine new possibilities for the year ahead.

Materials:

A silly hat or something else to wear that makes you feel playful. If in doubt, take something not normally worn as headgear and put it on your head.

Creative materials: crayons, water paints, construction paper and a pair of scissors, clay, whatever strikes you as fun. It’s important that you choose something that is open-ended, something where you don’t feel like you have to reach a designated end state or do it “correctly.” Have lots of starter materials (blank paper) available. You may want to start over, make multiple pieces, or something else: the point is to play!

Fool card: you may want to have the Fool card from your favorite Tarot deck available as inspiration. Any time you feel as if you can’t handle the silliness, look at the Fool and invite her to lead you a little further.

Ritual:

Cast your space by doing something foolish. Skip, jump, or hop your way around the perimeter of your circle. Imagine your circle as a giant trampoline and bounce up and down in it to get it moving. Visualize this time and space as a blank canvas for you to express yourself in ways that might surprise you.

Circle, circle, round and round, circle cast upon the ground.

Circle, circle, round and round, circle here and now is bound.

 

I open myself to the divine wisdom of foolishness!

Face East and use these or other nonsense words to invoke the playfulness of Air:

Snicker-snack, snicker-snack, the vorpal blade goes snicker-snack!*

I call the Air to hear my joy and send it onward, send it back!

Face South and use the silliest actions you can think of to invoke Fire. Start with sticking out your tongue and go from there: make faces, wave your arms, dance if you want. If you do this long enough, you should start to laugh at yourself, which leads to…

Face West and laugh. Laugh at yourself, at a funny joke, at a stupid joke, at the hilarity of the universe, and when all else fails, laugh at nothing.

Face North and put on your silly hat.

In the center, invoke Luna with these words or ones of your own:

Goddess of the full moon,

change the way I think and see,

bring your light and lunacy.

 

Foolishness here in play is revealed,

and deeper within lies wisdom concealed.

Engage with the kind of playful creativity you have chosen. Do whatever it takes to get yourself into a state of openness and activity. Try things like letting your eyes go out of focus or working with your nondominant hand. Practice observing what you create without labeling or evaluating it. Create something first, and then tell a story about it afterward, rather than trying to express a story. Try creating more than one item.

When you are finished – and only you know when that happens – rest, and ground and center yourself.

Give thanks to Luna for her inspiration and promise to spend time considering what you have created.

Bow deeply to the North as you take off your silly hat.

Grace the West with a smile and possibly one more laugh.

Blow a kiss to the South.

Tell the East:    I give thanks for the divine wisdom of foolishness!

Open your circle – perhaps by hopping backward? – and give yourself more time to rest and return to your usual mode of being.

Afterwards, possibly the next day, you may wish to journal about how it felt to do this ritual. What was difficult? What was easy? What surprised you?

Spend some time reflecting on your creation. Treat it as if it were a new Tarot card that you were trying to get to know: look for patterns, images, suggestions of all sorts. What does it suggest to you? Is there something here which might seem foolish but point the way to some other ideas for you to consider?

*With apologies to Lewis Carroll; this is part of my favorite nonsense poem, so it evokes the idea of playing with words for me.

Simple New Year’s ritual

I didn’t realize it until now, but this is the perfect time of year for Crossing the River to come out, as we’re about to cross over the boundary from one year into another. You can read more of my musings on boundaries and liminality around the new year over at Pagan Square.

On a similar theme, I want to share a simple but fun ritual for New Year’s: after the stroke of midnight or first thing in the morning, make noise and chant:

Old year is gone away,

New year is come today!

See? I promised it was simple!

Seriously, though, the new year is a great time for change. Combined with the fact that the new moon is on January 1st, this is an excellent time for doing the kind of work that I’m starting to think of as “editing” my life. It can be banishing and removing, but I like the idea of editing, which is a process that removes what doesn’t belong and reorganizes and improves the rest in order to create a better whole overall. The “editing” metaphor is more intuitively accessible to me, and it’s more intuitively focused on a positive outcome. As always, use the visualization that works best for you.

This mini-ritual is simple and easy, so it’s an accessible way to engage the energy of this time even if you  haven’t been able to do a year-end review and set your umpteen thousand goals for the next 20 years of your life along with a detailed plan of how to achieve every single thing you’ve ever dreamed of…yeah, right. You don’t have to get too bogged down in the details here; just engage with the energy of the changing calendar and turning Wheel of the Year. Open yourself to the possibilities that a new year brings, and use that to kick-start your reflections and actions.

I have to admit, this ritual can also be fun and cathartic. There’s something visceral about making noise, which anthropologists dryly describe as a “primitive” way of scaring off bad spirits, but which can also be a way to change one’s feelings and experience, as I use it here. It is important to observe, however, that noise is NOT necessarily cathartic or fun for the people around you, especially if you’ve had more to drink than they have, so please exercise good sober judgment about this. If you live in your little Wiccan paradise and can go out to your own personal stone circle with no one around, take some pots and pans, take a whole brass band, and go to town. If, like most of us, you live in a place where others are around, or you’re fitting this into your other celebrations with friends and family, perhaps just clap your hands and blow one of those paper noisemakers.

Either way, make the most of the liminality of New Year’s; may it bring you an abundance of good things!

Ostara salt scrub

Happy Ostara!

I haven’t developed this into a full ritual yet, but here’s an idea you might try: an Ostara salt scrub. Why not try a little “spring cleaning” on your body as well as around the house?

Seriously, though, when I look at the imagery of Ostara, all those eggs and seeds, there’s a piece of the story that is seldom told. The first thing a chick does is break out of its shell. The first thing a seed does in order to sprout is split open. My beloved cherry blossoms start as buds that burst open to unfurl their tender petals.

And for all that vigorous language – breaking and bursting – it’s often made possible by a softening. We see this in the plant life. With many seeds, with many kinds of buds and blooms, the prerequisite is a change in the surrounding tissues, which become thinner and softer, so that the opening is more gradual and gentle.

A salt scrub is a simple way to experience this in your own body. Take relatively coarse-grained salt, like kosher salt, and mix it with a little oil, just enough to make a paste. When you start your shower or bath, before you turn on the water, rub the paste gently across areas of your skin that you want to exfoliate and soften. The coarser the grain, the stronger the scrub will be, and you can scratch yourself with this, so go slowly. When you’re done, wash with soap and water, and the skin should be refreshed – it might even be tender.

That tenderness has something to teach us. Think about how the new buds feel when their coverings are peeled away for the first time – they are tender and delicate, easily hurt. The transformation of Ostara isn’t just a process of scrubbing away or breaking through, it’s a process of softening into the change, and continuing that softness, that gentleness, afterwards as part of nurturing the new things that are coming into being.

If you want to make this into a ritual, I suggest you do it for your hands and feet. You might want to soak your feet to soften the calluses, then dry them off and do the scrub. Think about what you’re scrubbing away, but also think about how you can soften, how you can open to new possibilities in gentle ways. Take care of your softened, renewed skin by putting a little moisturizer on it, and think about how you’ll need to care for whatever this new thing in your life is.

When you’re done, ground and center – and if possible, go outside and put your scrubbed feet on the ground to do it. Feel how the refreshed, softened skin is much more sensitive. Maybe you’ll feel a new ability to root down into the ground, growing a few more tentative tendrils like the new shoots of springtime seeds.

Feel the new sensitivity in your hands, too. Think about the new possibilities available there. What are you aware of when you touch the world around you that you couldn’t feel before? Maybe you will put your hand to a new task. Maybe you can reach out in a new way. Whatever you do, be gentle with it. Remember the tenderness you feel; remember that other kinds of new life, new possibilities, new alternatives, feel just as tender and tentative in their own way.

Ground, gently, and renew yourself. Reach out, gently, and nurture the newness around you. Blessed Ostara!