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Perfect Moment Monday: the Gift

On the last Monday of each month, my lovely friend Lavender Luz at Write Mind Open Heart sponsors Perfect Moment Monday, a blog hop/writing prompt that offers an opportunity to notice and reflect on the "perfect moments" in our lives, rather than create them.  These moments can be ordinary, momentous, or somewhere in between.  Everyone is welcome to join.  


When I lived in California, once every few months I'd travel from LA to San Francisco to see friends and escape the sprawl for a while.  I often did the drive at night, to avoid traffic, and I have vivid memories of driving through the San Joaquin Valley feeling a little like I was hurtling through limbo, nothing but vast dark emptiness and flat farmland for miles in every direction.

One of those nights, when I was speeding through the darkness, something changed -- maybe I was driving in a new lane, or I'd noticed a new billboard ... who knows -- and I caught a glimpse of the sky.  I was stunned.  So stunned that I had to pull over, opening the sun roof of my little blue ford Escort.  Peter Gabriel was blasting, the cold air was rushing in.  I got out, despite the trucks thundering past, and gaped in wonder.  There must have been thousands, and thousands, of stars.  I stood there weeping at the side of the freeway, grateful beyond words that I'd been given such an unspeakably beautiful gift, an epiphany of belonging, a feeling of being held by the Universe, of being one of the stars.

photo credit: Jhenline, wikimedia commons
The other night, as I was driving back home from a meeting through a rural area of the county, something about the unfamiliar light from my husband's dashboard and the cold dark around me took me back to that night in the empty darkness between LA and San Francisco.  It wasn't about the stars, because we don't see nearly as many stars in NJ.  But really, neither was that moment in California.  It was, instead, about knowing who I was, and feeling I belonged.  I'd spent the night with intelligent, kind, thoughtful, generous women, and was thinking about them, thinking about how amazing they all are, and how lucky I'd been to be there with them.  And there in the dark, I had this thought: "this is who I am when I am my best self: a clever, kind, thoughtful, warm, funny, generous, loved and loveable person, who belongs with these other women."

I had to catch my breath; it was too beautiful for words.

If only we could all feel like this all the time.  It's a little like holding the stars, isn't it?  Maybe the most important thing is to notice it, and embrace the Universe right back, when we are lucky enough to find ourselves in the presence of that kind of a gift.

The LBRP for AFW Witches

This ritual is an adaptation of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram with influences from Aliester Crowley's Star Ruby ritual (itself an adaptation of the LBRP).  It uses forms of the Witchfather and the Black and White Goddess in place of the traditional Hebrew names of God.  It also replaces the Archangel guardians with the four Watchtowers of Celtic lore.

The purpose of the LBRP is to banish all undesirable forces from oneself and the local area and to create Sacred Space.  It is often recommended as a daily magical exercise to discipline the mind and create internal and external peace.

The Qabbalistic Cross

Imagine a ball of light above your head. Reach up with your right hand and grab the light. Now when you touch yourself with that hand part of the light will go into you.
Touch your forehead as you say “Coronis." (Crown) Let it fill with the light.
Touch your pelvis at the pubic bone and say “Serpentis". (Serpent) Let it fill with light.
Touch your right shoulder and say “Clementia". (Mercy) Let it fill with light.
Touch your left shoulder and say “Severitas". (Severity) Let it fill with light.
Hold your hands in prayer over your heart and say “Fortunia". (Blessings) Let it fill with light.
Feel your whole body fill with the cross of light.

The Pentagrams

Face East. Before you in the air draw a giant pentagram using your right index finger (or if you prefer use the whole hand) in the direction shown in the illustration. Now imagine that pentagram shining in front of you. Electric blue is a nice color to see it in. If you see it a different color that's fine.Take a step forward with your left foot. Just the left. Leave your right one where it is. The size of the step will be determined by your space. At the same time you step forward thrust your open hands, side by side, palms  downwards, into the pentagram, as if you are diving in. This is called the Sign of the Enterer. As you enter the pentagram you will say one of the names of the Witch God or Goddess.

Here, at the first pentagram you will shout “Lucifer".  Lucifer is the Light-Bringer, the Lord of Illumination of the World and the Mind.  He is called in the East as the bright aspect of Tubal Cain, and the lord of elemental Fire.  Lucifer is called with a jubilant shout to celebrate the rising of the sun in the East.

Now step back with your left foot so it is once again beside your right foot. Touch your right index finger to your lips like you are making the “Shhh no talking" gesture. Point your right index finger to the center of the pentagram and make a quarter turn to your right. As you do so, draw an imaginary arc of white light around to the next direction.

Now draw a pentagram in South. Enter the pentagram singing “Goda". Goda is the White Goddess, the Queen of the Seelie Court, and Lady of Death-in-Life.  She rules the Southern quadrant, the place of elemental Earth.  Her name is sung for she is the Lady who shall "have music wherever She goes".

Make the “shhh" gesture and turn to the right drawing an arc.

Draw a pentagram in West. Enter the pentagram intoning “Azazel" in a low voice. Azazel is the Lord of the West, the place of elemental Water.  He is Tubal Cain in his aspect as the Lord of the Dead, and is both the angel who taught magic to the daughters of man and the angel who collects our souls for their great rest.  The West is the place where the sun goes to die, and it is to the West that we all must travel upon death.  Azazel's name is intoned in a low voice of mourning and respect.

Make the “shhh" gesture and turn to the right drawing an arc.

Draw a pentagram in North Enter the pentagram whispering “Kolyo".  Kolyo is the Black Goddess, the Weaver of Fate and the Lady of Life-in-Death.  She rules the North, which is the home of elemental Air.  Her name is whispered for she is an ancient mystery.

Make the “shhh" gesture and turn to the right drawing an arc.

The Watchtowers

You are now standing in the center of a circle of white light. At each quarter there is a giant electric blue pentagram. Now we post a watchtower between each pentagram. Open up your arms. Stretch out like you are a cross: feet together, arms out at shoulder height. Call the watchtowers to their posts. Stand in the cross position and say:

Before me stands The Castle of Stone. Behind me stands The Castle of Glass. On my right stands the Castle Perilous. On my stands the Castle of Revelry."

These are the four castles of myth and legend.  The Castle of Stone is Caer Bannog, the Castle of Glass is Glastonbury, the Castle Perilous is the silvery Grail Castle, and the Castle of Revelry is the Golden Castle of the Beacon of Awen.

Stand in pentagram position and say: “Around me flame the pentagrams. Above me shines a six-rayed star, and below me spins a three-armed triskle.  I stand within the Spiral Castle.  I am the World Tree." This declaration places you in all three realms, and allows you to traverse shamanic space.  It states that you yourself are the World Tree, and that you ride the stang to other realms.

The Qabbalistic Cross  (Closing)

Now repeat the Qabbalistic Cross as you began.
Imagine a ball of light above your head. Reach up with your right hand and grab the light. Now when you touch yourself with that hand part of the light will go into you.
Touch your forehead as you say “Coronis." (Crown) Let it fill with the light.
Touch your pelvis at the pubic bone and say “Serpentis". (Serpent) Let it fill with light.
Touch your right shoulder and say “Clementia". (Mercy) Let it fill with light.
Touch your left shoulder and say “Severitas". (Severity) Let it fill with light.
Hold your hands in prayer over your heart and say “Fortunia". (Blessings) Let it fill with light.
Feel your whole body fill with the cross of light.

Long Red Meat !

Hijacked: or, Why I'm a Better Parent When My Hand is Up a Puppet's Butt

Let's face it.  I'm not a very patient person.

Which, as you might imagine, makes having a highly intelligent, verbal, opinionated two-year-old female around you all day a bit of a challenge.

Enter the Plague Rat.

My son got the Plague Rat hand puppet as a third birthday present from his aunt, long before N. was born.  It wasn't a terribly cuddly creature, so like most of his less-beloved stuffed animals, it lived in one of several baskets, making an occasional appearance in home puppet shows.  And to be perfectly honest, we were probably a little embarrassed about it.  What good parent wants her child to become friendly with a plague rat?  Maybe we buried it a bit deeper in the basket than, say, the fluffy elephant, or the furry monkey.

And so it lived in relative anonymity, until my daughter became a curious toddler.  On one of her ransacking missions around the house, she discovered the rat.  And of course, because it's an awkward item, it quickly became her constant companion.  That's just how she is.

She calls it Mousie, which is probably a name she got from me, much as I tend to avoid the diminutive toddler-speak version of the animal kingdom.  "Mouse" is a bit less demented-sounding than "rat" when you're trying to explain that no, your adorable two-year-old is not holding a squirrel, and "Mousie" makes it sound ... almost ... cute.

Little did I know, though, when that creature made its appearance on the scene, how grateful I would be.  Because, you see, Mousie has power.

For example.

My daughter isn't much of a fan of eating.  It's not that she doesn't like to eat, so much that it doesn't really interest her like it interests me, and she wants to do everything on her own terms.  She would snack on Cheerios all day and be perfectly content.  Though she'll eat fruit and vegetables, they're not as high a priority as, say, beans.  Or meals with several different courses.  Mealtimes can be a battle.

"N., eat some more carrots."

"I don't like carrots."  (Which, for those of you playing along at home, means "I don't want them.")

"One more bite."

"No."  (Pushes plate away.)

But.  If if I put Mousie on my hand, and squeak, "N., yummy carrots!  I love them.  Eat another carrot!" my daughter will obligingly pick up the carrot, make comments about its deliciousness, and crunch away with gusto.

Or yesterday, when N. yanked her gaudy pink and purple flowered one-piece bathing suit out of her closet before you could say lickety-split and demanded to wear it RIGHT NOW.  It was barely 40 degrees outside, and though we were mostly done being outside for the day, still: it's March.  Because she was so insistent, and finally asked so sweetly, I caved.  But I also asked her to throw a zip-up sweatshirt over her shoulders.  I had to pick up my son from a play date down the block, so without something else on her under her jacket, I'd have to get her undressed and dressed again.  Not convenient.  She wasn't buying the sweatshirt.

"But N," I coaxed, "aren't you cold?"

"No," she said, certain, continuing her scantily clad dollhouse play without missing a beat.

"How about if we put on this nice pink sweatshirt?"

"No," she repeated.  "I don't like it."

I reached for Mousie, wiggling my fingers into its hands, and waved them to intervene.  "Brrr, N.," he said, shivering.  "It's cold.  Don't you want to put on your pink sweatshirt?  Ooohhhh, yesyesyesyesyes.  Sweatshirt!"

"Okay," she said, amenably, walking over to the closet and holding out her arm so that I could help her.  And then promptly threw herself into a full-body Mousie-hug.  "AWwwwwww, I love you, Mousie," she thralled.

Or today, we wanted to get the kids outside for a walk.  N. wanted to zip her own jacket, was unable to do so, and threw a fit when we zipped it for her.  She was still wailing when I put her down on the sidewalk, and Mousie squeaked "see you later, N! have fun!" from her room.  She looked up, tear mid-spurt.  I asked her what we would bring back from the farmer's market for Mousie; she ceased crying immediately, looked up at me with complete composure, and answered: "applesauce."  Then she waved to our house, telling Mousie she'd be back soon.

I'm not sure how to analyze this. There is certainly something about Mousie that both diffuses the difficult situation for me, and motivates my daughter to do my bidding.  Is it Mousie's high-pitched voice, which appeals to my daughter more, and therefore, she'll do what it tells her to do?  Is it that I am better able to rein in my anger and frustration when I'm speaking Mousieze?  Is it that a neutral figure seems less threatening and more conspiratorial than a parental authority figure?

Mousie makes me a better parent.  It's true, it's hard to scream when you're squeaking pleas in falsetto.  It's hard to be impatient and frustrated when you're concentrating more on making your movements look authentic, when you're covering your puppet-eyes with your puppet-hands in a game of "GAH I can't possibly see what I think I'm seeing."  It's hard to feel rage when your hand is covered in a mass of fur and fluff, and your two year old is gazing sweetly at you, completely in love.

And it's hard to take yourself, and the little things, too seriously when your authority--and your arm--has been hijacked by a plague rat.
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