We still need ritual!

In his wonderful book  ‘The Sacred and the Profane’, famed historian of religion Mircea Eliade observes that even modern people who reject the tenets of religious belief and practice are unconsciously nourished by the memory of the sacred. As he observes in the Introduction, “the wholly desacralised cosmos …is a recent discovery in the history of the human spirit.”(p 13)

He makes the point that we still need ritual, even in this materialist culture of ours.

He says “What is found in the profane (ie non-religious) world is a radical secularisation of death, marriage and birth; but, as we shall soon see, there remain vague memories of abolished religious practices and even a nostalgia for them…” (p 186)

The Sacred and the Profane

The Sacred and the Profane

I had a very powerful and moving experience of this last week, when with my husband I attended the funeral of a much-loved member of his family. The morning after the funeral, just before we returned home, we were fortunate to be able to take part in a modern, but very moving, rite of passage. It was intended largely for the benefit of the many grandchildren in the family who had been too young to gain much benefit from the previous day’s church service – but was shared by us all.

I took some photographs of this ritual as it was being enacted. That evening, I put up a post on Facebook, with the permission of  our deceased cousin’s wife,  which was very warmly received both by the bereaved family and many Facebook Friends. I decided to write a blog post around the experience for two reasons. Firstly, to demonstrate that in our secular society there is still a vibrant need for ritual, especially to mark the great rites of passage of birth, marriage and death. And secondly, to inspire anyone who reads this with a wonderfully uplifting way of affirming the passing of the spirit of  a loved one.

Here is what I wrote to accompany my photographs:

‘May your soul fly high!’…my husband Ian’s last words to his dearly loved first cousin David, written on a slip of white paper, attached to a shiny magenta balloon, joining all the messages of love and farewell sent skywards today in a wonderfully colourful ritual of celebration of David’s life following his funeral on 10th October 2014. We were privileged to join David’s wife Liz, their five children and partners, and their ten grandchildren as everyone wrote personal messages to David, sending them soaring into the blue. Goodbye, David. You are much loved and will be much missed…

Into the blue...1

Into the blue…1

Into the blue...2

Into the blue…2

Into the blue...3

Into the blue…3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

450 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

 

Into the Deep: Uranus, Neptune and Pluto cross the I.C.

I’m often asked about what clients/students can expect when the biggies, ie Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, cross the Imum Coeli or I.C. Well, here is an account of one person’s experiences, ie mine! Do not worry, those of you in the throes of one of those heavy duty, life changing transits. I’ve had all of them cross my I.C and I’m still here…( as far as I know…)

Although this article was written and published in the mid/late 1990s I thought it was worth posting on “Astrology: Questions and Answers”.. It’s been the most-read-ever article on this blog.

It would be most interesting, and educational for other readers, if any of you felt like sharing YOUR experiences regarding any of those great collective planets crossing the I.C. point.

http://astrologyquestionsandanswers.com/2014/10/03/what-happens-when-uranus-neptune-and-pluto-cross-the-i-c/

The Underworld: Ancient Egypt

The Underworld: Ancient Egypt

150 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Autumn: a Scottish poet’s take in words and images – with optional fairy…

“…And I rose In rainy autumn And walked abroad in a shower of all my days…” How I love those lines from Dylan Thomas’ magnificent “Poem in October”. On the first rainy, cooling, leaf-blown October day each year – that’s today, where we live! - I dig out my battered old copy of Thomas’ Collected Poems to read “Poem in October” to myself, whilst gazing out of our third floor window into the Botanic Gardens below, just beginning to unfold its autumn glory.

This year, I also have the pleasure of presenting a new, vibrant autumn poem, Mabon Moon, from Scottish poet Carole Bone, whose work I have featured several times before on this blog. Carole’s poetic senses express themselves visually as well as verbally; I’m delighted to be accompanying the poem with some of her autumnal images.

Woodland Sprite

Woodland Sprite

And the optional fairy? Chainsaw Creations have just recently spirited her into delightful Cairnhill Woods, near Glasgow, Scotland, UK, where Carole takes many photographs.  “If you go down to the woods today…”

 

 

 

 

MABON MOON

Gaudy Summer fades.

Autumn ignites the soul

With fingers of fire

 

Lusty red and purple berries

Shamelessly plump!

Bejewel her slender branches

Luscious Berries

Luscious Berries

 

With wanton abundance

She scatters fruit and seed

Consummating the fertile earth

 

Soft mist and wood smoke

Spices cold sharp air as

The Mabon Moon arises

 

Like a ripe orange, sits

On a basket of naked branches

Crazy paving the October sky

Turning Leaf

Turning Leaf

 

Slowly she drops her gown

Of smouldering scarlet and gold

Fiercely blushing in coy embarrassment

 

Season of sensuous knowledge

Voluptuous in velvet colour

Honeysweet in her decay.

 

N.B.  Says Carole: “In Pagan or Wiccan tradition, Mabon is the mid-harvest festival at the Autumn Equinox when we honour the changing seasons.  It is a time of giving thanks for the things we have, whether  abundant crops or other blessings.  The full Moon after the equinox is called the Mabon, Harvest or Hunter’s Moon.”

Carole Bone

Carole Bone

To see Carole’s bio and her publications list, click

Carole Bone – Bio and Publications

Contact Carole at: carolebone@hotmail.co.uk

******

400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Inspiration needed! Find it here…

Today I have been most inspired and uplifted by a wonderfully accessible, lucid,  reasonable, rational and open-minded statement which puts that fundamentalism which has so narrowed the general scope of scientific enquiry firmly in its place – but without being the least bit offensive in the process of doing so.

Earth from Space

Earth from Space – from Mokko studio

It also reminds us that we live in an inter-connected, multi-levelled Cosmos; our knowledge both of what we now know and what we do NOT know, should be turning us away from narrow position-taking towards open-mindedly and co-operatively addressing the huge collective issues which we are increasingly facing.

We are one world. In this context, separatism of any kind – political, scientific or religious - has no valid place. Do take the time to read

Manifesto for a Post-Materialist Science

 It will provide an inspiring counterpoint to the dark, turbulent times we are living through at present…

SpaceSpace

160 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

The Scottish Independence Referendum: a Scottish astrologer’s view

Just posted on Astrology: Questions and Answers: To read my thoughts on the Scottish Independence Referendum, viewed through the lens of the larger, and extremely turbulent, contemporary world picture, click HERE 

Scotland's Horoscope

Scotland’s Horoscope

Chilling out with Moondark ( ‘what’s that?!’)

Chill out time....

Chill out time….

As I sit writing this, tucked away quietly in our Quiet Room with some soothing Japanese incense burning, it is approaching the end of Moondark. ‘What on earth is that?’ I hear you say.

Moondark is the last three days of the 29.5 day Sun/Moon cycle. At Moondark, the  Moon disappears. Full Moon is the high energy point of the cycle, fourteen days after the New Moon. A few month’s notetaking is sufficient to realise that life is more pressured and charged up at that time. Moondark is the low energy point. It is a time for rest and retreat, not a time to initiate new projects or demand great feats of one’s vitality.

“When I retire, I’m going to burn forty years of work diaries and run my life by the phases of the Moon!”

Yes, I said that, in a period of extreme work stress about twenty years ago. Friends laughed; but now in the post-career phase of my life, I’m working at just that. I find it comforting, helpful and useful to tune into the Moon’s cycle as far as possible in plotting the ebb and flow of my energies these days.

My long 2001-8 retreat  taught me that regular and adequate periods of rest are essential. The bill for rest deprivation cannot be evaded by anyone.We cannot abandon technology which has brought our world community so many advantages, but can – if we choose – begin slowly to step aside from the destructive 24/7 ism which it fosters. People need to stop going to the supermarket at midnight and sending emails at 3 am if they want to have a proper life!

I find now that up to an hour’s retreat time daily, and careful planning to avoid taking on anything very demanding at Moondark, (not always possible!) has provided a rhythm of alternating activity and rest which is stabilising and supportive of well-being. But it is important to be patient, realistic and gradual in any attempts to introduce lifestyle changes. It would be silly to suggest otherwise.

I hardly think the bosses of the land would take kindly to staff’s announcing that all work from now on was going to be run by the phases of the Moon!

You don’t need special tables to work out when Moondark is. Most diaries indicate by a small black circle next to the day and date, when the New Moon falls.

For example, you will find this year (2014)  that  Monday 25 August indicates the day of the New Moon. I am writing this in the last couple of hours of Moondark. Wednesday 24 September is the next New Moon, and so on … Thus Moondark this month is 23,24 and part of 25 August. Next month, it is 21, 22 & 23 September.

It is easy, as I do at the start of a new year and a new diary, to go through the year putting a red line through the days when Moondark falls.

A pattern of  daily rest and retreat time, and observing Moondark as much as I can each month, has given me a sound support structure from which I have now returned to a reconnected life. Observing Moondark is a regular reminder, also, that we belong to Mother Nature.

New Moon

The New Moon in Virgo – in the UK time zone – begins at 15.14 today.Virgo is an earth sign, its energies strongly service oriented, practical, and good at managing detail. It is also extremely hard working, and analytical.So – the Virgo new moon would be an ideal time to start that blitz on your admin system which you’ve been putting off all year, or for putting special effort into re-organising and cleaning up the garden.

I’ve noticed that people with a strong emphasis on Virgo in their horoscopes or birth charts seem to be very fond of stationery shops, and of acquiring stationery. So, why not use this new moon to acquire next year’s diary, go through it and mark off Moondark each month? Or set your smartphone to send you a reminder of when Moondark begins?

Why don’t you try working with this lunar rhythm for a while, trying to chill out and wind down a little at  Moondark ? Don’t forget to let me know how you get on!

700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

A psychological approach to the Tarot, Part Two: the clients’ perspective

This two-part article is an attempt to explore the Tarot. The first installment, ‘Introducing the Tarot: a psychological perspective’ should have given the reader some idea of the depth from which the tarot can be approached, of issues raised by its practice, and of how it can be used as a valuable aid to self-development.

Here, the second part presents feedback from two clients, one female – Anya – and one male – Marc. They were chosen for the way in which they brought together, in their respective accounts, elements of most people’s responses to the tarot creatively and responsibly used.

I was also interested to show how Marc wove his experiences of very different symbol systems ie tarot, astrology and the I Ching as well as more conventional psychotherapy, into his long struggle to arrive at a place of reasonable balance in his life again.

Both names are pseudonyms.

 In preparing this article I asked for, and received, very helpful feedback from various clients. I could have used short extracts from all their contributions, but in the end  chose this longer, thoughtful piece from Anya, a female client in her late thirties.

……This felt like an extremely powerful experience and I could hardly believe the cards which were turned up. A number of the cards made a direct impact on me as I realised their significance. Some of the other cards were more difficult to connect with at the time, but have since shown their relevance. All in all, it was an extremely affirming experience and offered me the support I so badly needed at the time – gave me something positive to hold onto.

Meaning continues to unfold as time has progressed, and I feel (six months on) that I am shifting into another phase, having embraced each of the cards’ messages in turn.

This experience has underlined for me a sense of being part of something much larger and greater than myself.

The Sun

The Sun

This is awesome! I take faith from this. I found the pictures on the cards most evocative and enjoyed looking around ‘within’ the pictures.

The experience remains with me as an affirmation of my life over the last six months. In many ways I can see that I am at the place of ‘final outcome’ in the reading, certainly having lived through and faced that which I most needed and feared.

Without the reading, I feel that I would have gone through the experience in much the same way. However, holding on to the most positive aspects of the reading offered me vital support and helped me make connection with my inner strength. Furthermore, the element of warning and caution in the reading helped me to be extremely aware of my need to protect myself. This helped sustain me during a most harrowing time. I look forward to my next reading very much!’

Marc‘s response is an extract from written feedback he provided:

‘…..The best way I can think of to approach this, is to answer the question ‘why did I go for astrology and tarot readings at all, especially bearing in mind my previous contemptuous rejection of such things?

Well, as you know, only a catastrophe got me there! My previous, very rational, world view having collapsed in some considerable disarray, I had a desperate need for some other source of ‘meaning’ in my life – or rather, some other ‘meaningful’ way of understanding myself and what had been happening to me. I don’t think I was too interested in prediction, only in gaining insight.

As you know, I graduated to the tarot reading from several astrology readings and from participation in your astrology classes. Astrology was powerfully attractive for me – after I had crossed the Rubicon of ‘letting go’ of my previous contempt – because within its own terms it is in fact another vast rational system of understanding the universe. What I mean is, even if you think the whole thing is nonsense, it is nevertheless internally consistent, rational nonsense. Hence it rapidly became acceptable to me.

Moving on to the tarot was perhaps my way of travelling further down the road away from rationality, just to see what it was like. By April last year, my worst times were over and I was feeling the green shoots of recovery – much like Norman Lamont! (note: the then UK chancellor of the exchequer). Psychologically, I think I had come to terms with what had happened to me and was beginning to look to the future. I had sent the divorce papers to my estranged wife, but she hadn’t yet returned them, and I was experiencing pangs of doubt about what I really wanted.

Before, with astrology, I was looking for insight; now, with the tarot, I was looking for a method of choosing – but one that was different from what I had done before, one that involved some kind of surrender on my part. That’s not clear. What I mean is – all my therapy with you brought home to me how much energy I have always devoted to creating a picture of reality inside which I then lived. But it turned out that my reality wasn’t reality after all. By relying so heavily on my rational powers, I had created a faulty picture of how things really were.

Tarot seemed appealing because it involved allowing the universe to show you what reality was. If you made an initial commitment to the ritual, surrendered control, the turn of the cards would show you where you stood. I see the I Ching in essentially the same light, and the notion has a ‘thrilling’ aspect to it precisely because I have been so controlled in my life so far.

What was the experience of the reading like? Given that I was dipping my toe in previously uncharted waters, it felt slightly unreal. I couldn’t ‘believe’ in the tarot as easily as I could in the more ‘systematic’ or ‘rational’ astrology whose terms of reference, unlike the tarot, arise from physical bodies we can actually see in the night sky. But it was thrilling.

I would have to say that I hadn’t fully committed myself to the outcome, but I was much more open to what was going to happen than I could ever have been in my life before. It was an experiment.

It was a valuable experience – it helped me to work out my real feelings about my ongoing divorce and about career choices. But it was the talking stimulated by the cards that did that – they were a mechanism for releasing talk and thus feelings.

My experimentation with both the tarot and astrology has led me to an appreciation that many aspects of our lives are ‘fated’ – but that does not obliterate free will or personal responsibility. On the contrary, it seems that everyone has the responsibility of understanding the purpose of his or her individual life – which will depend on his or her inheritance at the start – and has the freedom to choose to make the effort of understanding, then the freedom to do something with the knowledge – or not.

My response to the pictorial images on the cards? You know, for a Presbyterian Scot, I’ve decided I could go in a surprisingly big way for all kinds of pictorial religious symbolism! The allure of forbidden territory? I got the same reaction recently at the temple at Samye Ling (a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the Scottish Borders). My senses were drenched in gold, red, blue, green and in accompanying sounds and smells! Seriously – perhaps a slightly infantile thrill at ‘surrendering’ my destiny to pretty painted pictures with supposedly magical powers.

I am intrigued with the idea of ‘drawing lots’ either via the tarot or the I Ching, and I think it’s something I’ll probably do again. The idea of choosing by some kind of ‘drawing lots’ ritual is powerfully attractive to me because, if done with full commitment, it could of course represent the placing of trust in something outside myself. But it remains an aspiration, not an accomplishment.

My tarot reading suggested that I needed to consolidate choices I had already made in my heart, and move on to new commitments on the basis of the wisdom I had achieved through experience.

The Lovers

The Lovers

I did in fact go ahead with my divorce, not without further emotional upset, and have in fact consolidated my relationship with my girlfriend. My energy level has improved greatly, as predicted, though not  without ups and downs.

Well, there you are! That’s the best I can do to recall my reactions to the experience…..‘.

Tarot Deck

1500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page