Twilight Covening comes again.

I have missed it for the past two years. Now that things are stabilizing financially (thanks to Kit’s new job), I am going back to Twilight Covening.

Of late, I have been utterly overwhelmed by Life. This, if you’ve been around for a while, is not unusual. We’re still in the midst of the House Saga (very close to actually buying it now, thanks to family help). There’s still stuff to unpack, because my nerves about being able to stay kept me from unpacking much more. We’ve had a plumbing problem in the kitchen that we might (might) have finally solved. And add to that doctor stuff, anxiety stuff, day-to-day responsibilities, and business stuff, and BOOM. There goes the spiritual life again.

I feel like one of the weirdest godslaves ever, really.

I did manage Ganeshotsav this year, good and proper, including the nose piercing I still owed Him. And we finally got the main altars set up. That all helped immensely.

But going back to Twilight Covening is a relief… and utterly nerve-wracking.

The selection process was shockingly easy for me. And I got my first choice – Kodiak, which is built to help us learn to nourish our Work and our Selves. This is part of why I’m relieved, because yet again, I’m restless and exhausted and way too often on the edge of burnout.

No, I didn’t keep up with yoga. No, I didn’t keep imced or the Fool in balance. No, I didn’t keep any of the lessons I learned at my last Twilight in 2013. I’ve let Life overwhelm me again, and over and over again let me berate myself for being a lazy Pagan and a bad godslave and everything else, which is a cycle that is really terrible, honestly, and you shouldn’t do that and neither should I, but welcome to my brain.

So I need this. I need this badly, and Kit’s insistence that I go, that I use part of his hard-earned first paycheck to register, is a relief.

But I’ve missed two years of the mountain. And going back after being away from anything so long makes me nervous as hell. I’m back to being that, “Oh no, trying new things, help?” person, at least for the moment.

Sir is quiet. Danu my Mother is quiet. Ganesha my Cousin is quiet. The Folk and Redwing and Raven (who has more say in my life these days), and Tamalut… they wait. Not to see what I’ll do, not to see if I’ll fail. They wait for me to learn and to grow and to find my way out of the hole I keep putting myself in. They set the path. I need to turn my feet to walk it more often, and more consistently. For my own health; for my own heart; for my own healing.

So back I go. Back to the cold stone, the warm leaves, the high mountain, the low sky. Back I go.

Random bits.

The whirlwind continues, although it’s finally starting to even out. A few bits and pieces have come up this past month. These are just random thoughts, not necessarily related.

– My Kit is out of the state at the moment, working for the next three weeks with his old employer. His first day, yesterday, was 17 hours long. I haven’t been able to talk to him much, but if the next three weeks go like yesterday did, we’ll have a nice little cushion and start to the down payment on the house.

– Sir passed on Saturday. There is a hum, a buzz where His voice normally is. Usually it’s completely silent. In the days before Samhain, He was particularly talkative, especially as I led a chant during a ritual on the 30th. (I can’t tell you how nervous I was.)

– The Folk around our new home have raised their little heads, especially as much fog as there has been the past few weeks. They’re curious about me. This morning they tried to be tricksy in my head and I was having none of it. Mother Danu made motion too; they quieted down after that (with some giggling). Their House will be one of the things I pick up from J’s house this week.

– I am going through the next three weeks without my partner or my Lover. Friends are popping up with invitations for dinner and offers to come by, because I do tend to become a hermit by myself. Meanwhile, I’m channeling some of the lonely restlessness. I started the first part of the garden I’ve been planning – the compost basket for the center – and have gotten a few things organized around the house. I have plans to make some freezer meals this week – cook a dinner meant for six, eat a portion, pack a portion for lunch, freeze the rest. There are still boxes to move from J’s place, which I’m working on this week, and so many things to unpack.

– I’ll be at Festival of Light in Berkeley Springs in a week and a half, with our partner D to help me at the table (because she’s awesome), and I have my very first presentation on the Kabyle that weekend. Plus readings. Plus stock. And I have to finish a set of Stones and order a couple of fresh copies of the books.

– The cats keep crawling all over me at night, because Daddy isn’t home and Daddy’s girl wants love. I adore them both, but I wouldn’t mind a full night’s sleep, especially since I’m now getting up at 5:30 or earlier to get to work on time. 🙂

Imced, The Fool, and The Tower

Homecoming came at 11:45 on Monday night. I miss the mountain – the gorgeous weather, the people, the fellowship – but there is serious relief in being home as well. My Kit, my kids, my cats, my bed… yeah, there’s a lot to be thankful for at home.

My clan this year was Camel, focused on yoga. Yoga is many things, but much of it is breath. Yoga is the mind surrendering to the breath and the body, quieting the chatter and focusing on maintaining the flow.

Much of yoga is balance. Balancing the body in the pose; balancing the breath with the imcedmovement. And when I drew a tile for my weekend goals, it was imced. The weaving comb represents, among other things, balance, or a need for balance. I was surprised. In hindsight, perhaps I should not have been.

That’s hindsight, though. In the moment, I was surprised.

My favorite depiction of The Fool, from the Shadowscapes Tarot  by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

From Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

Sunday night’s ritual continued the theme, but added a wrinkle. There were dark places during my walk, areas where I could not see the terrain below. In order to continue, I had to trust the darkness, the unknown. Imced was needed… as was The Fool. Be ready to fall in the pursuit of your answer, and embrace the fall.

I did the walk twice, focused on my questions. In what form or manner do I find imced? I wondered during the first walk. I was asked, “Why is this your question?” and suddenly found myself in tears. When asked, “Did you find your answer?” I could only nod, because the tears were pouring down my face. To speak would have meant complete breakdown; if I needed the breakdown, I promised myself, I would have it later.

My answer was chaos.

I touch on it a lot, but don’t detail much about my day-to-day life. First thing: I adore my family and would not change my life in general. That said, I’ve mentioned a few of my Kit’s various challenges, which have only gotten more so over time. We both have day jobs, and then the household has to be managed as well (including cats, a teenager who shows signs of fibromyalgia, bills, and so forth). Kit tries hard to help, but because of his various conditions, much of it falls on me. I knew it before, but somehow this weekend it hit me that much harder that I have caregiver fatigue. For months I’ve been teetering on the edge of actual burnout. And no, I haven’t sought the support that would help me cope, nor have I taken the time to take care of myself. My mind has been in complete chaos trying to keep up with everything, and I have felt entirely helpless to change it.

This weekend, I was shown that I am not helpless.

Imced is order. The Fool is, to some extent, chaos. One cannot exist without the other. I cannot impose order in my life and expect it to stick – it’s neither realistic nor desirable for me. So it came time to determine my next question: “How do I balance order with chaos?”

Again I walked the circuit. Again I was asked the questions. This time, I did not find my answer. This time I was Told, “This is what you must learn. This is your winter Work.”

For eight years, I have had the tool to find that balance. Yoga.

Have I mentioned that I’ve always loved it? There are a million excuses as to why I haven’t pursued it more, but with encouragement from my clan, my friends, and my family, those excuses are fading.

16-Tower

Close to the exact print I received.

I finished the Sunday ritual feeling sore, but accomplished. I had my Work; I had my tools. I sang with the Covening and prepared for a good dinner.

And then I received my tarot card.

Ouch?

I don’t know tarot as well as I know my Stones, but there are a few cards that have stuck with me. The Fool is one; the Tower is another. It means change – dramatic change, out of which one does not escape unscathed. Per the Shadowscapes deck I have:

Upheaval and sudden change, crisis, releasing all emotion, suffering a blow to the ego, revelation and seeing through illusions.

It doesn’t mean bad change, nor does it mean good change. But dramatic.

My immediate reaction was fear. Now that I have a little distance, I can see where it would apply to my winter Work. I can see pain and some upheaval on the path ahead. Finding balance is never easy, and with yoga in my toolbox, I can imagine a complete deconstruction of my ego. (This is not a bad thing, but it will not be easy.)

Monday morning brought gentle yoga to restore from the night’s hike, a little sunburn, and a delightful ride home. I have brought home that gentle yoga routine and continued it, ten minutes or so every day, to keep from seizing up or losing my groove. Meanwhile, an awesome friend (who is a certified yoga teacher) will be helping me set up a daily practice, and for that I am crazy grateful.

Today is my second day back at my day job, headed back into my daily routine. This time, I feel more prepared to cope.

I am a Camel. I have resources to get through the changes ahead. I am not helpless, and I am certainly not alone.

camel2013

My clan, and the gorgeous lake at the mountain.

A Fable

It was the night of the Visioning Ritual, and she was nervous. The water spirit before her clan was speaking about burdens, both her burden and the burden of the participants, and in her hurry to be ready, she was not paying full attention.

Taking her place in line, she took a sharp rock from the basket. Her burdens – rough and sharp and demanding. She clung to it as they moved down the path, made unfamiliar by the dark. Her clan was lined up on the shore of the lake, and instructed to throw their burdens into the water. She reached back and hurled with all her might, and felt a great weight lift from her shoulders.

Suddenly, there was a nudge from her left; a large stone was being passed to her, and she took it in confusion. She hadn’t heard anything about this, and she didn’t know what to do with this sudden weight. In her confusion, she held on to the stone. It was much larger than the one she had just thrown, but not terribly heavy.

The clan was instructed to cover their eyes, and she felt her hand guided to a rope. She hefted the stone to her other side, cradling it while the clan was pulled along by the rope, falling into step with her fellows.

Step, step, step, step… she barely noticed the ache building in her arm as she marched in darkness, feeling her clan around her. They were stopped, separated, instructed to remove their blindfolds, and shown to the next doorway in the path, one by one.

Now she was alone. Now and then she would catch up with a member of her clan; sometimes she would encounter another spirit with instruction; at times she would find the member of another clan on the path. She shifted the stone in her grasp now and again, first to one arm, then the other, then both. The night was warmer than expected; she stopped once, setting the stone down while she removed a layer, fastening it to her waist before picking the stone back up and resuming her path.

Roots jutted out from the ground to stub her toes; rocks rose up beneath her feet, some steady, some slippery. The stone in her arms seemed to be growing heavier, her arms aching to hold it while steadying herself on the steep, rough path ahead. She tried to concentrate on the path, but the growing weight was distracting.

She reached another spirit, who held out another basket. “Take a stone,” she was instructed. It was the same size as the first, smoother by far but still holding edges that bit into her fingers. “Your burdens returned,” she was told, “smoothed for their time in the water, but not gone. You still must face them.”

The path continued ahead, but now she was upset. None of the spirits she had met that night had addressed the large stone she still carried. No word, no deed had given her any hint of what to do with it. Now she was carrying two stones, and she was getting warmer still.

Again she stopped, to think and catch her breath. As she pulled off another layer, she felt her arms scream with the weight they had carried for who knew how long, felt the new stone in her pocket. “Why am I carrying this rock?” she asked herself.

She couldn’t answer. With one last look at it, she left it on the ledge, continuing on with only her own small rock secure in her pocket.

The next day, she told the story to her clan. The leaders exclaimed, “You stole the water spirit’s burden!”

“I seem to do that a lot,” she replied. “I take on the burdens of others – even when they do not ask – and never ask myself why. Last night I asked myself, ‘Why am I carrying this rock?’ When I couldn’t answer, I put the rock down.”

So… why are you carrying that rock?

True story. This occurred during my second Twilight Covening; I was the one who stole the water spirit’s burden. I found out later that I was not alone – I found at least one other person who carried the larger stone through the entire ritual. It is now a source of much humor among my friends, who (rightly) laughed out loud when I told them the story. It is also a fantastic metaphor for taking on burdens that are not ours to bear, and we now ask each other: Why am I carrying this rock?

Expect Nothing.

The Wheel turns back to autumn; next week I run away from “civilization” to the top of a mountain. Twilight Covening is here again, and as ever, my existence is being turned on its ear.

When signing up for Twilight Covening, one chooses four clans in order of preference. This year, mine were Deer, Camel, Sow, and Lynx. I signed up early, bounced along with the friends who I will see there again, and started making packing lists.

I expected this:

Google/Wikimedia

Google/Wikimedia

And perhaps a little of this:

meditationuk.blogspot.com

meditationuk.blogspot.com

Well, I got my assignment on Sunday, and true to form, that’s not what I’m getting. It’s more like this:

treehugger.com

treehugger.com

With a big side order of this:

healthmaven.blogspot.com

healthmaven.blogspot.com

A quiet meditation clan choice gave way to a clan of activity. Yoga is spiritual and contemplative, but it is so in the context of physical activity. Talk about a surprise! And with barely two weeks to prepare, I’ve had to completely rework my packing list and start picking up more fitness clothes to get me through a weekend that will be much more active than I expected. The fun thing about TC: One has to think in layers, so I’m looking at getting practically a new wardrobe.

I really should have seen it coming. Every time I get ahead of myself and start expecting things, the Universe goes, “Nope!” and does a 180 on me. I haven’t yet learned to expect nothing and prepare for everything.

PLOT TWIST!

Although this is lots of fun.

I am learning to take such surprises in stride, but my initial reaction was one of slightly terrified OH HOLY WOW WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO? (That seems to be a theme in my life.)

Where is my dear, quiet Sir in all of this? Laughing His head off, of course. He loves when curve balls come my direction, even if they aren’t of His making. It keeps me on my toes, keeps me Awake and jolts me out of my comfort zone.

The very nice thing about this, though, is that I won’t be alone. One of my old clan-mates is going to be in Camel with me, as will one of my best friends for the past decade. (Which reminds me – if you haven’t read her blog, GO READ IT. She’s on a completely different path from me and is totally awesome.) Yet another good friend is my carpool to and from the mountain, and it’s his first year going. It’s going to be a fun year at Twilight Covening.

But, as usual, PLOT TWIST!

Humility vs. Reluctance

A concept caught my eye today that sparked off a thought in my head: the concept of humility in service. Further to that, the concept of humility versus reluctance. This might ramble a little bit, because the whole concept is clear in my head, but hard to explain.

We all know by now that I walk an unusual path. It’s one I must walk in public as much as possible. It’s one which I have to be able to discuss calmly, intelligently, and reasonably, one to which my name will be attached. The dialogue about religion, spirituality, and the various paths within them – including controversial ones like mine – continues, in some cases grows, and puts the people following them right in the center.

Look! Attention!

Yeah…

That is one aspect of my path, and my geas, with which I continue to have a hard time. I’ve learned to like a quiet life. I grew out of much of my “look at me!” needs a few years before my Motherhood Ordeal. I like to be heard when I have something to say, but otherwise, my quiet corner is a very attractive one. Now I am being, with increasing frequency, evicted from my cozy spot and shoved onstage. Every time a little something happens – a jump in blog hits, recognition on the business, a compliment on my Work or my art, another idea for a workshop – Kit says, “Shine on, Rock Star.”

My initial, visceral reaction to this?

Aw HELL naw. “Not a rock star,” I grumble.

And that is where humility crashes into reluctance.

Humility is defined as “the quality of being modest and respectful,” to be grounded, to be humble. I am in service to Cernunnos and, through the Work given to me by Him, in service to my community. If I am meant to be be nameless and given no thanks by the community I serve, then I would do so because that is His desire for me. If I am meant to be known, however much or little, for the Work I do in His service, then I will do so – not for acclaim or recognition, and without animosity or complaint – because that is His desire for me.

But humility does not mean disclaiming one’s responsibilities or role, and that is precisely what my visceral reaction is doing. I have been reminded – more than once – that I am meant to shine. That’s not to say I get to act like a total raging entitlement bitch. No thanks. But I also don’t have the luxury of hiding in my comfortable little hole just because there’s a spotlight out there. I have to make the best of it, be responsible about it, and do my Work with people watching. To disclaim it, to grumble about the light, is insulting and even hurtful to Him, to what He has given and what I have earned.

This is especially fitting because today I lead my first ritual, in front of practitioners I respect and call friend. I have resisted this for a long time. I’ve never wanted to be a leader, either in mundane life or in spiritual life. I’ve never wanted that responsibility, or to face the embarrassment of screwing up in front of others. Deep down, long ago, I knew that one day it would catch up with me, but I still ran, not realizing then that I had The Master Hunter on my heels.

I’ve been caught. One day, you will be too – you crazy diamonds in the rough, you.

So shine on, rock stars.

Twilight Covening, here we come!

Tomorrow morning, my friend M and I leave for Twilight Covening. It will be my third year, and like every year so far, I’ve got that lovely jangly combination of nerves and excitement bubbling up in my stomach. (It bubbled WAY up this morning, thanks to some help from allergies and cough spasms. But I digress.)

First year, my clan work centered on Gratitude.

Second year, my clan focused on Dark Eros.

This year, it’s all about Transition.

There’s a pattern there, a journey, even in just the words. I certainly haven’t missed it. It’s my journey, my spiritual path, in a tiny little nutshell. I have a massive transition just behind me, several ahead of me, and I need a way to process them. Twilight Covening has always been where my processing comes to a head, where my realizations solidify, where my path becomes clear.

It has become tied into my Ordeal Path as well. I attended my first TC on the heels of my first Ordeal. My second TC was where the preparation for my second Ordeal began, and this one is where I will finally finish processing it. It is also where I will finally be able to discuss The Conundrum.

I’m afraid, yes. The Conundrum is a scary, scary thing. I might be able to finally talk about it a little more when I come back – maybe. But I’m also relieved. I can finally talk about it with other people. People who might or might not know me, but people who are in transition themselves. People who have all come together, from all over, to work on those transitions on the top of a gorgeous mountain in the middle of nowhere.

I can’t wait.