Proposing: Werewolf Day

wolf-1975823_960_720.jpgIo Lupercalia!

For those who don’t know, the Lupercalia was an ancient Roman festival of fertility and purification. It was, itself, something of a hybrid holiday, mixing together early-spring fertility rites, the Februa cleansing-of-houses-and-souls, and the founding tale of Rome, honoring the she-wolf who, according to legend, suckled and sheltered the abandoned infants Romulus and Remus. And I think we should bring it back.

Okay, I recognize (somewhat begrudgingly) that we no longer live in a society where we can celebrate a festival with handsome young men running naked through the streets flailing strips of recently-sacrificed goat flesh to bring good luck and fertility to the crowds. Yes. That is how the Romans celebrated it. Famously, Mark Antony ran the race in 44 BCE, and that was the day he perhaps-jokingly, perhaps-seriously, perhaps-as-a-test-balloon offered Caesar a crown three times, which he then thrice denied. The idea behind the goat-flesh thing was that if the priests of Lupercal, the guys doing the running, hit you with the strips of flesh, it would bring good luck — and particularly for women, it would help you conceive a child, so young wives and those who feared they were barren jostled for position on the streets to receive this blessing. Yeah. It was a weird holiday in a lot of ways.

But I still think we can bring back the Lupercalia.

As Werewolf Day.

No, I’m dead serious about this. I feel like this is a holiday we need. It could celebrate and honor things that need celebrating and honoring in modern life, but which so many holidays grossly overlook. And — it would be a holiday largely free of the commercialism that so infects most other holidays. We could do far worse than resurrecting a holiday based on the spirit of the wolf.

On Werewolf Day, celebrate yourself and the transformations you have made in life. Remember the pup you once were and think kindly even of her mistakes. Imagine the shaggy elder you will someday be and strive to earn her wisdom. Think of the strength and vigor of your prime years and rededicate yourself to making the most of them. Howl out your triumphs for the universe to hear and acknowledge.

On Werewolf Day, look up at the moon and stars and remember to have wonder at the beauty and scale of the universe we live in. Be awed and humbled, for you are a part of something immense, an eternal story that stretches out beyond you in all directions; be proud and assertive, for you are here, and alive, and your place in the grand scheme is critical.

On Werewolf Day, love your pack. Tell the friends, family, and mates in your life how important they are. Romp with them. Share your knowledge and experience, and learn from those who share theirs.

On Werewolf Day, feed yourself both physically and spiritually. Consume a hearty quantity of highly nourishing protein. I suggest a massive cheeseburger or a nice filet for the carnivorous among us, and an enormous cheese omelette for the vegetarians. Or a lot of nuts. Chocolate-covered, for preference. But feed your soul, too. Read a favorite book. Sing a favorite song. Wear the clothes that make you feel special.

On Werewolf Day, celebrate the wildness in you, what is yet untamed. Shake off the bonds of domestication and remember that something gorgeous and natural is inside you. Honor that indomitable spirit.

The Turning of the Year

Y’all. 2017 has been rough.

I don’t think that comes as a surprise to anyone. Almost everyone I know feels a bit beaten about the head by this year, and when you look at our political circumstances… Well.

It’s been rough on a personal level, too. In the spring, I made the difficult decision to leave a job I’d been in for seven years and a town I’d been in for almost a decade. There was a lot that I loved about being there. There was a lot that was increasingly giving me panic attacks. Change of some kind was necessary. It was also hard. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest, after all. Finding the energy to make that change required me to dig deep into reserves I hadn’t tapped for a while.

And at first, that change went well. Spending the summer at the beach was restorative. I love being there, I love working at that bookstore, and just being in that environment is excellent for my spirit. Unfortunately, I then undid all the good effects by making a move that I almost immediately came to regret. The past four months have been almost unrelentingly stressful, for a wide variety of reasons. I think with some frequency of a quote from The Handmaid’s Tale: “I feel like the word ‘shatter’.”

IMG_3698Today is the winter solstice, a time for reflection — and a time for hope. Yule is the holiday where I try to focus on shedding what is no longer needed from the previous year and on bringing in the light that will guide me into the next.

Oddly, the song that comes to mind isn’t a seasonal song at all — it’s from The Lion King musical, “Endless Night”. The refrain of I know that the night must end and that the sun will rise is such an appropriate sentiment for this holiday — and it’s a good thing to keep in mind during trying times.

I don’t know what 2018 is going to hold. My book will come out, but Juno knows that’s no guarantee of success. I have irons in a few fires, but who knows what will catch? I’ll be making another move, but will it be any happier than this one?

This is a year when… it’s hard to have hope. In a year when it’s felt like the very act of hoping for something is a jinx, it feels like a waste of effort.

But the night must end. The sun will rise.

May it do so for all of us.

Now is the month of Maying

“And thus it passed on from Candlemass until after Easter, that the month of May was come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom, and to bring forth fruit; for like as herbs and trees bring forth fruit and flourish in May, in like wise every lusty heart that is in any manner a lover, springeth and flourisheth in lusty deeds. For it giveth unto all lovers courage, that lusty month of May.”
–Thomas Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur, Book 18, Chapter 25

Today marks the beginning of my favorite time of the year! We don’t have the best Beltane weather in Virginia today, but I’m sure it’ll perk up as May goes on, and from now til Midsummer — even through July — is when the world seems to resonate with me. It’s a good-luck time of year, warm and optimistic, as tender blooms grow into strong, vibrant greens. The world seems new and full of possibilities. And it is, as the songs says, a time for frivolous whims, for throwing self-control away, for divine mistakes.

Want to celebrate Beltane like I do? Indulge yourself. Eat something decadent. Wear heady perfume. Put on your favorite dress, or vest, or shoes. Listen to great music. Watch your favorite movie. Dance in the sunlight or in the pouring rain. Buy yourself flowers. Take pleasure where you can find it, in company or on your own. Spring and flourish in lusty deedsIMG_5241

Say hello to the world. Look at the sky and notice its colors changing moment to moment. Find flowers in different stages of blooming. Save a snail on the sidewalk. Watch the patterns birds make as they swoop and whorl. Breathe deep; seek peace.

Nourish joy. Be creative and courageous. Start a new project. Revisit one you haven’t looked at in years. Reach out to a friend. Take a picture of something beautiful. Write out how you’re feeling, or paint it out, or sing it out. Decorate your pathways with chalk.

Find someone or something to love today. A person, a moment in the sun, a flower blossom, a pet, a poem, a word, a wonder. Fill the world with love.

Celebrate. Because we’re alive and sharing this world. Because you have a soul and it strives. Because when the world renews itself, it reminds us that we can, too.

O, the rising of the sun and the running of the deer

photo (2)

The winter solstice has always been an important day for me. It’s my second-favorite holiday in the Wheel of the Year (which, as an eclectic pagan I kinda-sorta follow, though I’m prone to forgetting a few spokes, and I often insert other things stolen from the Romans as they feel relevant to my life), and it’s definitely the one I’ve most often celebrated with a group. Throughout middle school, high school, and college, I had a small group of dear friends that would congregate to see each other through the Longest Night. Some of my favorite memories are of those sleepovers, whether we were huddled around candles on a kitchen floor, holding hands and confiding our hopes and fears in fervent whispers, or, as we got older and spent less time together during the rest of the year, just catching up with each other, reviving our friendship, and eventually giggling ourselves into exhaustion. It’s been harder to get together the past few years — when you’re all adults with careers and significant others and such, it’s just not that easy to get together for a sleepover — but I always take a little time to remember those nights, and I apply that same spirit to my solitary practice.

Yule is, for me, a lot about clearing out the old and refocusing myself on the new. I use it as time to re-evaluate. It’s a sort of preemptive New Year, really, when I can look back on what I’ve accomplished and commit myself to trying harder, working harder, being better in the year to come. And, it’s a time to let go of the things and emotions that are no longer productive. I think part of why I’ve always liked Yule is because it’s a reminder that I can redirect myself, reinvent myself, even, whenever I choose, whenever it’s necessary. However dark things might seem, nothing lasts forever. The night will end; the sun will rise.

I often mark holidays with Tarot readings, which I keep record of in a journal. It’s a nice way to track where my head’s been at, month to month, and it’s a good contemplative practice for me. I don’t use it strictly as divination, but it does help me sort out my thoughts and make sense of my life in constructive ways. Last year’s winter solstice reading ended with the card Temperance in the Advice slot. My comment to myself at the time was “This is not awesome advice to give to someone like me.” Moderation has never been my strongest suit. I feel things intensely, and not just bursting out with everything I feel as soon as I feel it is a skill I’ve had to learn over a lot of years. So I wasn’t sure what to make of it then — it’s not a card that turns up for me very often. I couldn’t suss out what its message to me was. But looking back at 2014, I can see the sense in it now. A lot of this year has been about learning patience and about endurance through flexibility and resilience. There’s a difference between stagnation and fruitful development. I haven’t always had the good sense to see the difference between the two, but I think 2014 taught me a lot about that.photo (3)

This year’s reading, conducted lakeside at sunset, at a park near my parents’ house, ended with Strength. The card stands for courage, resilience, perseverance — an even more powerful message to receive today, considering that it’s always been one of my personal signifier cards. It’s particularly beautiful in my current deck, an image I always find inspiring. Perhaps this means 2015 will be a year to come into my own, to let my inner fires burn as brightly as they may. At least, I hope it will be — and the beautiful thing is, by living like that’s going to be true, I can make it so.

So, whomever you are, whatever you wish, good luck to you on this, the Longest Night. May it pass swiftly, and may you be safe and warm and loved in these dark hours. When the dawn rises, may it do so on a brighter and better year. Whatever you’re working on in the coming months, I hope you have joy in it. If you need to refashion yourself, may you find the courage to do so. If you need to be stalwart in who you are and what you want, may you have the strength to hold on. Happy Solstice, and here’s to the next turn of the wheel!