Kismet

While I have a friend named Kismet, this post is not about her. Rather this post is about all the little ways that things I’ve been encouraged to do as part of my ritual preparation come together without me noticing.

One of the major things I’ve needed to do as ritual prep has been to treat my body as a sacred vessel and care for it appropriately. While part of this is the cleanse and diet restrictions, another part revolves around how the various things I ingest, rub into my skin, and clean myself with affect me on a visceral level.

It starts with my skin. The skin is the largest organ of the body, and it is essential for preventing the spread of infection as well as all the other functions it serves. My skin is dry and sensitive to chemicals, so I have to watch what I use to wash and lotion up with closely. My scalp and hair are also dry, and I have a restricted diet from allergies and pancreatitis even when not on ritual austerities. So treating myself as a sacred vessel seemed a challenge, since Hekate let me know it means anointing myself as one.

Then the pieces fell together. I found a sulfate-free body wash that won’t dry my skin and smells like summer by the ocean. The main scent is pure jasmine absolute, which is heavenly, with notes of honeysuckle and gardenia. It’s even made with Greek olive oil and pomegranate, so it’s truly in tune with Hekate. Then as a bonus pack I discovered that this body wash also has a gentle exfoliating scrub, a body butter, and a body spray all in the same scent. So I can truly anoint my skin like a Goddess.

The next challenge was my hair. I had an acceptable cleaning regimen for it, but it smelled of Fresca, not my favorite thing in the world. While the body wash doesn’t have a matching shampoo (I wish!) I found something just as good, a cream cleanser and conditioner made with rose absolute. Bye bye Fresca, hello Goddess. So my outsides are being cared for per Hekate’s directives.

I won’t bore you all with the details of my diet austerities, since I’ve already discussed them, but one bit left me stymied. I had an urge to take up a kombucha regimen as a way to support my health and make my pancreas and GI tract happy. One problem, most kombucha that I tried tasted like vinegar or something else equally nasty. I was trying everything I could find to no avail. It was universally yucky, yet I still felt the need to keep moving forward. Then at last my local natural foods grocery had someone giving out free samples of a new brand of kombucha, and being up for anything once, I gave it a shot. Eureka! We have a winner! Not only didn’t it taste like vinegar, but it was delicious and thirst quenching. I grabbed a few bottles of the flavor I’d liked best and put them in the fridge feeling like Smeagol when he found The Precious. Well, I pulled one out tonight after dinner, and read the label out of curiosity, since the name of the flavor is Love, which doesn’t tell one much about the ingredients. Then I started laughing, deep hearty laughs accompanied by mirthful tears. The main flavor notes are jasmine and rose, with a bit of damiana and lavender for good measure. Well played, Hekate, well played.

Whirlwind

The next few days are going to get a little crazy. It’s now just over a week until I pick up one of the women who is flying in for Hekate Rising from the shuttle terminal in town. In those few days, I will: have drywallers coming in to do a second estimate after the first came in a bit steep; meet with my academic advisor and set my schedule for the next semester of school; go see my family for a reunion; do the last of the supply shopping for Hekate Rising; make the honey cakes for the Rites; order my college books; get my hair done; do all the packing and prepping to make sure that everything I need to take comes with me; go to the local bakery to get a quiche and some cupcakes; register my son for his junior year of high school; work several shifts at my job; and quite possibly meet with a music collaborator for a project. So in a word, whew.

I’m feeling just a bit overwhelmed with all that I need to get done, but writing it out honestly helps because I can see it and know how I need to schedule it. Tomorrow at 8am the drywall people will be here. Then I go to work. On the way home, I will stop at the bakery and order the cupcakes for pickup next Thursday evening. That night I will register my son for school. Friday morning I meet my academic advisor, then once I have my schedule, order my books and then come home to do more packing. Saturday I will work an extra shift I picked up so not working the day after Hekate Rising won’t hurt my next paycheck. Then we’re driving to South Bend to hang with my family for a while, grab some dinner, and have some quiet family time. Sunday it’s drive back and meet Nan here to do my hair, once that’s all done, I’m hoping to meet up with my music collaborator. Ok , going to stop now, feeling overwhelmed again…

Anyways, this next week is a bit crazy, but at the end of it all, oh so worth it.

Packing

Today I started actual prep for Hekate Rising. I’ve been planning, plotting, and possibly scheming my way through spring and summer to get to this point, counting heads and seeing what’s needed. However, today began the getting out of bags, boxes, and cases to carry the various accoutrements that come with me to the retreat as part of the portable Temple.

I’ve started sorting through altar cloths and other items to see which ones are needed. The candles and other items are getting wrapped and ready. The last item will be the Presence, a gorgeous piece of original art by Jeff Cullen which has been ensoulled and carries the energies of the Lady within. Until next Thursday night, the Presence will remain on the main altar in the Temple.

I’ve also been packing things for our other festivities including the Mothering Rite and the Baby Blessing. Little things like gifts for the new mother and infant, ritual items, and some fun bits and bobs are in neat stacks, waiting for their turn to go into the bags.

My ritual clothes have been freshly laundered and are hanging in the closet of the Temple, ready for my suitcase. I washed them last year after getting home, but I always wash them again prior to packing. I wear this outfit once a year, on one particular day, and at no other time, and one day I will wear it as my earthly remains are returned to the soil. There are no photos of me in this gown, and there never will be. It is only for the eyes of those who come to participate in the Mysteries.

It raises the sense of anticipation, all this prep work, and the desire for the next week plus to be over, so I can be with the Sisters and celebrate Her Mysteries as well as our shared community. My life has many high points, as well as general ups and downs, but Hekate Rising is the weekend where I feel most alive.

 

 

Balancing

Today was about staying on track, both personally and as a Priestess. This started with me taking a couple days off since my husband just returned home from a long business trip, so I could give him all my attention and reconnect. This was essential for me to refind center, and so he could adapt to the various changes in routine due to the approach of Hekate Rising.

First was letting him know about the diet restrictions. While I don’t hold either him or my son to my restrictions, they are both sweet enough to adhere to them as well, at least when I’m present, to make it easier for me and to smooth such things as meal planning. Since the restrictions vary from year to year, and this year is fairly strict as compared to others, it was a bit for him to process. Fortunately, he did return home basically in the home stretch, so he’s only going to have to be a good sport until the end of next week.

I also let him know about the writing, and informed him that I wished to get back to it, because it does help me keep focused during this preparation time. It’s fine to want to chill on the sofa together in the evening and have a bit of us time, but my spiritual practice is important to me, and that includes keeping up the writing. I value this time near the end of my day to reflect and think about how my sacred life and mundane life intersect and co-mingle. Today they intersected mostly in my reminding my spouse that my spiritual work is a priority, even when he’s home.

The final piece of the balancing puzzle came with work. As a home-care nurse, I can be called and asked to pick up work at all hours, and have families asking me if I can come in on days when I’m normally not available. My giving nature makes me want to say yes, but if I said yes every time I was asked, I’d never see my family, and my spiritual practice would get lost in the work shuffle. I’ve done that before, and I nearly lost myself in the process. So one of my sacred challenges as an active Priestess is learning to say “no” and preserve the balance between the needs of my patients and my own needs. It’s easy to feel guilty when saying “no” to a patient’s mom who wants time to go work extra hours, or go to a family event, but it is part of making my connection with Hekate a priority in my life.

I did my devotee dedication and pledged myself as Her priestess many years ago, and it’s not something I take lightly. It’s why, when I teach students who wish to follow this same Path, I let them know right off the bat that it’s a commitment that must be taken seriously. It’s more than possible to follow a Pagan Path and be devoted to a deity without taking on the commitment of being a Priestess or Priest. In fact, if you don’t have the time or the energy to commit to the study, then you definitely don’t have time to commit to the Work.

Sisterhood

Today I was up preparing for the arrival of our refugee kitty when I got the message that she wasn’t ready to come yet. She was too frightened and traumatized to be transported again so soon. Turns out the man trying to control her cat momma had started abusing her, too. She’d been locked in a rabbit cage outdoors without any real shelter in the nasty weather we’ve been having. She managed to escape the cage and get into the neighbors’ attic, and they were kind enough to make sure that she got to the rescue. So her arrival is on hold while she calms down.

This opened up my day and it was quickly filled. A temple Sister and friend called needing a ride in the afternoon. I’d been planning on taking my car for repairs to the brakes once I knew the kitty wasn’t coming, but I wanted to help. Fortunately it was made possible for me to do both.

It was good to see my friend and hang out. Her helping hands made quick work of some temple chores related to getting copies of some tarot decks out in the mail. I had planned on doing this work today, but it was fantastic to have assistance. The process of boxing decks also gave us time to talk about Hekate Rising and other events upcoming for the Temple. Time quickly flew as we discussed the upcoming retreat. The time is swiftly closing in for this year’s festivities, and it’s going to be a busy weekend.

Going over it all with Rena helped me sort out what needed to be done yet in prep for the retreat, and I got some useful ideas from her as well. There’s always so much to be done, but this year seems especially packed. I was honestly starting to feel overwhelmed by it before discussing it with her, but now it’s good. I have to remember that my Temple Sisters are there to help, and it’s not my job to do it all. I’m terrible at delegating, but if Hekate didn’t wish for me to do so, She wouldn’t have sent so many talented and capable women my way.

Wild Asphodel

One of my tasks as Priestess of the Flames is making the offering cakes for the Temple, both for daily use and at the Mysteries. Makes sense, I work with Hekate’s Flame, hence I get to be the cook. There are a couple different recipes I’ve found that have been used successfully as offering cakes for Her altar. One involves using steel-cut oats to shape an unleavened cake that is nutty and chewy. The other involves using flour and (optionally) a leavening agent to create the cakes, which are fried in olive oil. The one thing they have in common is honey.

For daily offering cakes, I’ll use whatever honey happens to be in my kitchen, but for the Mysteries, a little more effort is required. When I prepared for the first Mystery rite we did several years ago, I researched far and wide for recipes that would have been used in ancient Hellas or its environs. While doing this research I came across mentions of asphodel honey. This caught my attention, since asphodel has many associations with Chthonic deities, including Hekate. I decided to see if it was possible to get actual asphodel honey here in the U.S., and was pleasantly surprised to discover that I could get it imported from Sardinia, an island in the Mediterranean. Ever since then, I’ve used the same importer to obtain asphodel honey for the offering cakes each year.

However, this year I found that my importer was out of stock. With only a few weeks left until the Mysteries, I had to look around to find more. In the process of finding another supply, I came across several articles about asphodel honey in medical and scientific journals. This intrigued me, and after placing my order through a new supplier, I decided to check these out. It turns out that asphodel honey and ONLY asphodel honey contains a fair quantity of an important compound which inhibits the formation of certain toxins in improperly stored foods. Apparently this is striking enough where a test for this compound is a definitive confirmation that the honey is in fact asphodel honey. The nurse in me was impressed at this, and the priestess in me simply grinned.

How fitting is it that this wayside flower, this bloom of the fringes, produces a honey which can prevent the forming of nasty toxins in foods, which no other flower does? I think it’s pretty amazing, and just oh-so-fitting.

 

 

Home Fries

Not the most spiritual topic of conversation, but the making of homemade potato wedge fries for dinner tonight is its own small symbol of the changes made during the month run-up to Hekate Rising

As I discussed in the first post on this time, my diet has changed quite a bit as part of a physical, mental, and emotional cleansing of Self to prepare to be the receptacle of the divine in the rites. Dinner was already planned to be salmon burgers, and I’d been jonesing for French fries something hard. Store bought fries are out during this time because there is a heavy emphasis on going back to unprocessed foods and cooking from scratch, turning the act of eating from a mindless consumption of calories into a deliberate process of choosing and preparing foods as part of nourishing the physical being. So yesterday I grabbed a large bag of Yukon gold potatoes, knowing any satisfaction of the fry craving would have to come from my own kitchen. Tonight those beautiful tubers were carefully sliced into long wedges, tossed in olive oil and various herbs and spices, then baked in my air fryer/convection oven until crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The air smelled amazing from the cumin, pepper, celery seed, and other bits seasoning those heavenly wedges as they cooked.

Making fries like that at home, they tasted like nothing I could have bought at the store, and they were so worth it. That’s the reward for following the restrictions, rediscovering the joys of making things from scratch and exploring how flavor and texture can be combined in fresh and tasty ways to turn what could be hardship into sheer delight. The fact that they will be healthier as well is a nice bonus. Hekate’s final instruction on the matter, that I could “eat nothing that you would not find fit to offer up unto me” was a bit daunting I admit. Once She made it clear that didn’t mean eating only foods traditionally offered to Her, but that the food itself must be good enough to serve the Gods were they guests in my home, turned even the mundane act of shopping into a sacred task.

As I go deeper into this time, more and more of daily life has become a deliberate, sacred act, something which I truly needed. Thank you, Boss.