Voice Your Values: VOTE

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I live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the United States of America, and my company’s Pittsburgh Office is two miles away from the Tree of Life Synagogue in an adjacent neighborhood.  I woke up from a nap in my home in a further away Pittsburgh neighborhood that Saturday afternoon to a text from the director of my office alerting us to the active shooter situation in Squirrel Hill. Many of my colleagues live and worship there, and I was worried for them as I am sure we all were.  None of our number were among the dead and wounded, but soon I would hear a good work friend’s husband’s voice on NPR talking about the shooting, the same voice I have heard at parties and events, including their annual Hanukkah party, over many years. That night at the 22nd Annual Halloween party thrown by a friend who grew up in Squirrel Hill and whose family still lives there, I learned from another friend that her husband’s friend’s father had been killed there that day.  We carried on the tradition even as we comforted one another and marveled at how so very close to home tragedy had come to us.

I was napping that day because I was sick, and I hadn’t been able to attend any of the vigils or protests that had been held in Pittsburgh–until today.  I heard a Jewish coworker of mine, a woman I had hugged in solidarity and disbelief on November 9, 2016, talking in the bathroom about going to a vigil on the lawn of the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning. I made the spur of the moment decision to walk the two blocks to “Pitt Together:  Stronger Than Hate” and found great comfort in the solidarity of the crowd, the music of the students, and the words of the speakers.

The words that touched me most deeply were from Rabbi Daniel Schiff of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.  He remarked about the T-shirts so many were wearing that included what he said was usually erroneously called the “Star of David.”  He said the proper name was the “Magen David,” or “Shield of David,” and that we ourselves should be a shield for those who need us.

Voice Your Values--Vote

Let your vote be a shield.

These are terrifying times.  But they are much scarier for some of us than for others.  The outcome of this election may not further embolden those who would kill you as you practice your religion.  It may not empower our federal government to erase you as a human being because of your gender identity or encourage police officers to shoot you first and ask questions never because you have dark skin. Your employer-based health insurance may continue to cover you just as it always has regardless of your medical history, and you may not worry about seeking assistance for your children through the taxes you pay for fear you will be torn from them. But many of us rightly do fear these things.  So to expound upon Rabbi Schiff’s charge to us today, I charge us all make our votes be a shield for those who are most vulnerable, who are in most need of protection.  Be awake to our common humanity, take the small amount of time out of your day, and give voice to your values.  On November 6, 2018:  VOTE; because we truly are stronger together.

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Crocuses in the Snow

Spring began today in the Northern Hemisphere at 12:15 PM EDT.  I had met a friend for lunch at noon, making the 15 minute walk from my office in a chill winter’s rain. By the time we left the restaurant an hour later, it had begun to snow; fat, fluffy flakes falling up the awakening Earth.

Countless coworkers in the hallways and contacts on Facebook bemoaned the weather, complaining that it should no longer be snowing now that it is spring.  They were wrong, of course.  Thirty degree temps and billowing snow storms are exactly what spring weather looks like in the northern half of North America, especially in early spring.  It can also look like 80 degrees with blazing sunshine, and anything in-between.

That’s what the Spring Equinox, Ostara, whatever you call it, is all about.  We celebrate this liminal time, of perfect sunny days leading into blizzard conditions, the chaotic tug of war between the lion and the lamb.  Spring is crocuses in the snow.  New life emerges with the lengthening days, and it holds on no matter what the day’s weather may bring, because warmer days are on their way. Today I honor the tenacity of the crocus and ask for its hearty blessings to stand fast through what comes and await better days.

Crocuses in the snow by me

“Crocuses in the Snow” (photo taken 3/20/2018 by the author)

Brighid Aspect Healing Prayer Beads

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Since early in its history, my local ADF Grove, Sassafras Grove in Pittsburgh, PA, USA, has been working with nine aspects of their patron goddess Brighid at Imbolc (what they typically call “Brigantia”).  They honor and work with one aspect each day leading up to their Brigantia rite and share this work with the greater community so others can participate if they wish.

I have been somewhat successful in creating prayers and prayer beads for various purposes, and last summer a friend reached out to commission a set of Brighid healing beads from me for a loved one facing a health crisis.  I turned to the nine aspects for inspiration, and I created these prayers to go with the beads.  As today is Healing Day in the Brighid “Novena,” I thought it might be appropriate to share them here in case others may find them useful as well.

Bright Blessings of Brighid,

Diane “Emerald” Bronowicz

Brighid Watertaking framed

Healing Waters (photo by the author)

Midwife

Hail to you, Brighid the Midwife!
Careful tender of mother and child.
You lead ready souls back into our world,
Helping the new-born draw their first breaths.
May your skillful hands soothe my fears.
May your knowing mind guide me back to health.
Brighid, Goddess of Midwifery, I honor you.

Foster Mother

Hail to you, Brighid the Foster Mother!
Loving nurturer to those in your care.
You teach the children their ancestral ways,
Strengthening bonds of kith and of kin.
May your wisdom guide me to fulfill my potential.
May your example help me to care for myself.
Brighid, Goddess of Fosterage, I honor you.

Initiator

Hail to you, Brighid the Initiator!
Discerning guide through life’s dark pathways.
You bring the worthy to the heart of the flame,
Immersing them down in the depths of the mystery.
May your key unlock the secrets of my soul.
May your magic renew me and give me new life.
Brighid, Goddess of Initiation, I honor you.

Blacksmith

Hail to you, Brighid the Blacksmith!
Powerful artist of iron and steel.
You temper and shape us to bring out our lustre,
Transforming brittle weakness to supple strength.
May your work give me resilience to recover my vigor.
May you create in me a lasting masterpiece.
Brighid, Goddess of Smithcraft, I honor you.

Poet

Hail to you, Brighid the Poet!
Eloquent crafter of music and words.
You move our souls with your compelling phrases,
Weaving imagery and verse into spellbinding speech.
May the power of your poetry renew my persistence.
May the beauty of your song inspire my strength.
Brighid, Goddess of Poetry, I honor you.

Warrior

Hail to you, Brighid the Warrior!
Stalwart guardian of the vulnerable.
You shield us from the harshness of the world,
Defending us as you teach us to defend ourselves.
May your fierceness spark the courage within me.
May your power feed my will to fight.
Brighid, Goddess of Warriors, I honor you.

Mistress of Sacred Wells

Hail to you, Brighid of the Sacred Wells!
Keeper of ancient and holy places.
Your waters bestow deep wisdom of the land,
Connecting us to ancestral memory.
May your waters refresh and replenish my spirit.
May your magic grant me miracles of healing.
Brighid, Goddess of Sacred Wells, I honor you!

Hearthtender

Hail to you, Brighid the Hearthtender!
Protectress of the living flame.
You warm us through the uncertain night;
Illuminating truths of the realm divine.
May your fires burn away all sickness and fear.
May I bask in your restorative light.
Brighid Goddess of the Hearth, I honor you!

Healer

Hail to you, Brighid the Healer!
Learned master of prevention and cure.
You quickly discern by your insight and knowledge,
Curing and mending our illness and hurts.
May your healing powers strengthen my physical self.
May your remedies return me to perfect health.
Brighid, Goddess of Healing, I honor you.

Winter Solstice Night

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On this second night of Yule we call out in darkness.

As the Sun stops descending in the southern sky

And the Earth turns its northern face away from its rays,

We stand in the silent stillness of the Winter Solstice;

Taking time away from the holiday bustle to contemplate

The miracle of our planet’s life-sustaining tilt

And the majesty of the changing seasons.

Winter Solstice Night, we honor you.

Mothers’ Night Prayer

I finished up this prayer last night just in time for Mothers’ Night.

On this first night of Yule we call to the Mothers;
Those who bore, loved, and raised us and all those who came before;
Those women of our Ancestral lines who watch over us still;
The Three Sister Rivers who bring life to this land we call “home;”
And the Three Sisters of Fate who weave the threads of our lives into our family tapestry.
At the Yuletide we carry on the sacred and secular traditions you handed down,
Bringing peace, warmth, and cheer into this darkest time of year.
Great Mothers: We honor you!

Into November

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Hermes Pompaios, Blessed Guide;
Lead us through the veil of grim November,
Shepherding us into the increasing dark of the waning year.
Guide the souls of our Beloved Dead
That they may join us at the Feast of Remembrance
With places set for the Living and the Dead.
While candles light the early night
We welcome. . .
We dine. . .
We remember. . .
Listening for Their voices in the joyful and solemn silence.

Hermes-Dead 11-1

 

Aphrodite Patronage Prayer

Aphrodite announced her presence in my life when I was 23 years old, and I have been her worshiper and Priestess ever since (see “Remembering Morning Glory” for that story).  Today is Thursday, the day I typically honor her specifically in my weekly worship cycle, and I felt compelled to recite the prayer I wrote many years ago pledging myself to her service.  As I haven’t shared anything here in quite some time, I felt it would be appropriate to share it today.


Heavenly Aphrodite, beloved from afar; ever chaste, always longing, glowing pure but ever burning with a needful desire. Golden Aphrodite, shapely and enchanting; the curve of your hips and your breasts and your lips, whispering words wickedly wondrous, setting pulses racing; entangled, entwined, enraptured by your whiles, at your whim as you beguile. Black Aphrodite, Mistress of Night, when lovers meet with shades drawn and lanterns low; indulging in your gifts of love, laughter and sweet fulfillment, finally falling exhausted into sated sleep.

Beloved Goddess, I cherish your many blessings and I pay you due honor. I pray you accept my words as an outward sign of my love and devotion, but ever know that I will always hold you fast within my heart.

In The New Year: Back To Reality

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Like most people, I see the start of a new year as providing an opportunity to make a fresh start in some areas of my life. I haven’t made any official resolutions this year, but I did sign up for a 365 day meditation challenge, I mean to finally get back to exercising regularly, I want to eat more healthfully, and I’ve been planning on picking up an instrument again.  This morning I had cookies for breakfast.  Yesterday I took two naps and exercised not at all.  I have this feeling that the New Year hasn’t really started yet, that I’m still on “holiday time.”  And holiday time is permissive.  Holiday time is for napping and feasting and slothing.  Holiday time is not for starting new projects and working on healthy habits.

I realized that I do this every year.  I make some positive plans for the New Year, but when the New Year starts, I don’t start, too.  I have this vague notion that the New Year will really begin when I go back to work, but I’ll still come home to a festive house stuffed with booze, cookies, and cheese.  I know I’ll snuggle up with a plate of leftovers amid the glow of the tree and watch a Christmas special I hadn’t gotten to yet.  And before I know it I’ll find myself in the third week of January with a dead tree, another 10 lbs of holiday weight, and broken dreams of healthy habits and time spent productively.

I’m decidedly not one of those people who drags out the Yuletide decorations right after finishing their Thanksgiving pie.  And I would enthusiastically vote in favor of a public ordinance prohibiting Christmas lights on all buildings before December 1.  But when the Yuldetide really gets going for me, I do love it.  And like many Pagans I know, I celebrate it as a true 12-day tide, starting with Mother’s Night right before the Solstice and ending with the secular New Year.  I know a good many people who take their Christmas/Yule stuff down on New Year’s Day, but that’s always seemed way too early to let go of it for me.  Granted most of those who take it down so early are the Thanksgiving decorators, so I can understand how they have gotten their fill of the merry twinkling and sparkling by January 1.  Years ago I decided that waiting until the Epiphany, Christian Twelfth Night, to take down my decorations seemed a reasonable amount of time to leave things up (regardless of the fact that I wasn’t Christian).

But having the Yule up that far into January (let’s face it, I never actually get it down on January 5 or 6; I just start to think and feel guilty about it still being up), delays for me the onset of the New Year.  Most people I know are no longer celebrating the Yuletide at this point. Almost everyone is back at work, the kids are back at school, and the gyms and Weight Watchers meetings are packed with those who have accepted that Christmas is over and the New Year has begun.  But as long as my Yule is up, I’m still in that permissive holiday time, and I can’t take advantage of the enthusiastic New Year’s élan permeating my social sphere.  I remain stuck in the hedonistic past instead of advancing toward the healthful new day.

So today, January 2, 2017, I am taking the Yuletide decorations down.  The tree will lay in my back yard, providing shelter for the birds a few weeks earlier this year. I’ll pack up the leftovers to take to work for my coworkers (on a different floor than mine). And instead of Christmas lights, I will bask in the glow of the year’s new dawn.  May it light my way as I create a more prosperous and productive me.  And I’ll start right after this last cookie. . ..

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Happy New Year!