Moon Lesson • May we see the Beauty
In most parts of North America, flowers are abundant by the time we reach this month's full moon. Some native tribes have referred to this moon as the Full Planting Moon and others have called it the Full Milk Moon. But given the burst of color gifted by Mother Nature, many refer to this moon as the Full Flower Moon.
In our journey, we are stepping ever deeper into the realm of Earth Medicine. Our lives flow through cycles of dormancy and of growth. The full Flower Moon is the perfect time to acknowledge the first bursts of progress (the blossoms of your efforts) in your journey right now. And before your internal dialogue pipes in with "but I haven't x, y, or z"…pause. And remember the tree doesn't belittle the bud for only being a bud.
Let the small efforts be enough. Then take the broader view as you open to your inner Priestess this month. Your Priestess is the keeper of your divine. She tends to the magicks for the soul. She relies on both the elements of Water and Earth to create harmony for herself and those around her.
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The Priestess archetype is possibly the least understood archetype, especially in the present patriarchal culture which dominates our society. This is because much of the female divine has been destroyed, the temples taken over and the mysteries lost to us. Today, though, we are learning more and more about goddesses from around the world; their statues are being pulled from dusty old museum drawers, re-categorized and understood for what they are, priestesses of the goddess and aspects of the divine feminine.
It is interesting to note that the word we use today to describe a Christian woman of god, “nun”, is actually an archaic English word meaning “vesta”, or pagan priestess, a woman devoted to a spiritual life. Like most things once sacred to the goddess, even the word priestess has been hidden and reduced to minimal significance until recent years.
The Priestess archetype contains within it the secret or mystery that makes up the sacredness of the divine feminine. It is this divine mystery that causes Man to fear the Feminine Divine and it is this fear that motivated the destruction of our goddesses in the past. At this time in history, though, we are surging forward, unearthing our lost goddesses and finding our way back to the great mystery.
Cultural anthropologists such as Maria Gimbutas and others, have been unearthing goddesses and imagery and exposing them for what they truly are — representations of the Divine Feminine! For too long, any female imagery discovered in history has been categorized as “woman” or “mother”, then tossed aside without further inquiry into why this figures had been captured in sculpture, in earthen ware, on walls, etc. The two goddess priestesses we will be exploring in the grove this month are examples of this.
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Let’s start with a question or two. Where are the temples of the goddess? Where are the women fully embodied in their strength and power? The answer to this is as long as written “his-story”.
Dear sisters, remember that there was once a time where it was as common and normal for women to be priestesses as it was for men to be priests. The priestesses cared for the sick and dying, offered spiritual counsel, and yes, we drummed in the temples, channeling the goddess in our sexual, undulating hips, and yes, we were eventually killed for it!
In her book Shakti Woman Vicki Noble says this: “Everywhere in ancient times, women were shamans. They were always connected with divination and with the movements and currents of the earth, as if they could not be separated. Woman shamans and priestesses are frequently portrayed naked and grounded in the physical body, openly sexual, chanting, singing, dancing to make it rain, healing, birthing, playing musical instruments, weaving, planting and doing physical work of the world.”
She goes on to illustrate that figurines of these priestesses have been found all over the world, in every archaeological dig and that male scholars were befuddled as to what they were; their mystery was so beyond them that they labelled them “women playing” or “dancing girls. The closest they ever got to the truth was to label some “fertility dolls”.
Never forget that being a Priestess is our divine feminine right and a title that deserves to carry more weight then it currently does! We need to remain resolute and we also need deal with our wounds and shadows, so that when we go out into the world we project ourselves as the priestesses we have always been: strong, grounded healthy women.
You see, the Priestess as an archetype is a channel, a hollow bone between the ordinary and the spiritual, a connector of powerful spiritual, psychological and emotional energies that make up who we are as women. She is deeply connected to her bodily rhythms and her menstrual cycle and she knows that it is her blood mysteries that make her a sacred vessel.
A woman who is in the fullness of the Priestess archetype knows that she is the master of her spiritual and non-spiritual realities; she is in love with herself as the reflection of the feminine divine and when she embodies this feeling she puts forth a calm grounded confidence. She knows that there is no need to defend or justify her place and calling as a spiritual woman – she simply embodies it.
She carries with her a depth of presence and she knows how to detach from the inner and outer storms that others create around her by connecting to her own deep inner truths and resources. And, of course, she recognizes achieving this remembering, this connection, is a journey of a lifetime.
On Being a Shamanic Priestess
It is not really a leap to see the connection between women and spirit and how some of the priestesses of the past would have communed with the spirits of the land on which they lived. As we know, not all priestesses were called to do this work, but many of them did, and this is an important thing for us to keep in mind for ourselves. As you move more deeply into learning about yourself in this journey and healing your relationship with those individual archetypes within, this becomes more embodied. And it is from this place that we can move forward into the realms wherein we explore our blood mysteries.
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I have dived deep into building relationship my menstrual cycle. I’ve regained balance with coping with pain and discomfort. I’ve developed a bodily awareness that allows me to tap into the more subtle aspects of my cycle.
I noticed there were times in the month when I simply could not journey – my guides did not seem to be there and there was simply no connection. This was troublesome to me, as often this time was preceded by an intense period of journey work, where many powerful messages were revealed and then... as if a switch was turned off, I was unable to journey at all and felt extremely disconnected!
Slowly, through trial and error, I came to realize the week before my moon blood comes, I am at my most connected and it’s almost difficult to come out of my journeys. Whereas, while I’m bleeding there is no use trying to do any journey work, my body craves the pause.
These things, sisters, are some examples of my personal blood mysteries, my attuning to my deepest core of my body and soul, my feminine ways of being, and some of my deepest, softest secrets. This is shared only with my sisters and my daughters and as a priestess I know this is part of my core power as a woman. Some of the deepest work you will do as a priestess begins now, as I ask each of you to return to tracking your moon time but noticing more specifically how connected, or not, you are with your guides and with the moon at each time of the month.
If you no longer bleed, you are now holding your power within and you are no less affected by the moon. So I ask that you follow her rhythms and see what comes up for you.
Note how you are feeling, what sensations arose with your moon cycle, what you ate, or how stressed you were. Notice when you are feeling at your most sexual or when sex is the last thing on your mind, and importantly, how long each of these rhythms last for you. If you are in a partnership right now, this information can possibly change the look and feel of how you relate to each other, especially if you choose to share it! Note how your journey work feels, depending on where you are in your cycle - when you feel the most connected, and when journeying just simply is no use. These are YOUR blood mysteries, these are your inner divine feminine ways of being and are sacred!
Hold these mysteries close to you, allow this information to guide you into self care and nurturing, and understand that your body is literally the Temple at which you worship the goddess!
When we take the time to see ourselves as a reflection of the “goddess divine”, how can we not hold ourselves with grace as we walk through the world, in service to the divine, and caring for ourselves, our children and our community to the best of our ability?
Still need some inspiration? Let’s take a look at some priestess examples.
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The Snake Goddess and priestesses were found all over the world, and show us that the handling of snakes by priestesses was extremely important in many of the ancient female cults. The snake’s symbolic importance is derived from its ability to shed its skin, and the belief of its ability to move between the worlds. Ancient women took a lesson from the way a snake moves and coils its body into one of the oldest and most ancient symbols, the spiral. Representing life, death, and re-birth, the ancient spiral of life resembles the umbilicus, the-life giving cord that attaches us to our mothers, the women who give us life.
“[Shamanism and Priestess work] is an ongoing shedding of false selves in favor of the active development of more authentic forms of expression. The snake is the ancient totem of women all over the world and speaks of the lunar nature of feminine biological evolution. A woman’s natural timing is cyclical, circular, spiral, non-linear, and non-rational.” Vicki Noble, Shakti Woman
Hundreds of discovered statues from ancient Minoa depict a woman holding a snake in each hand, and were found during excavation of Minoan archaeological sites in Crete, dating back to approximately 1600 BCE. These figurines were found only in house sanctuaries, where the snake appears as “the snake of the household”, and they are probably connected with the Paleolithic traditions regarding women, the divine feminine, and priestesses. If we look closely at these images, we can see that the snake is always depicted as coiling around the priestesses’ abdomen, as a girdle representing the womb and its “shedding” of menstrual blood with the turning of the moon, the same way the snake sheds its skin.
All over the world the snake has been an important symbol, from ancient Crete to Egypt, India, China, the Celtic lands of Ireland, Scotland and Wales and, of course, in the native Americas.
Ancient Mesopotamians and Semites believed that snakes were immortal because they could indefinitely shed their skins and appear forever youthful in a fresh guise every time. In the later Greek temples of Asklepios, healing powers were attached to the snake’s ability to change skin and snakes were associated with the oracles, such as Pythia, the oracle of Delphi. The Greek oracles were always women and it was said that they were all priestesses for the Earth goddess Gaia before they became the servants of Apollo. In Greek mythology, the gorgons were female monsters with snake skins and fangs, and they were immortal. Among them is the snake-headed Medusa, the prototypical witch. Gorgons and snakes were depicted in the temples of the oracles and said to be their protectors.
In Egyptian mythology, there were numerous snake goddesses, such as Renenutut, the goddess of the true name a person received at birth. The true name was an aspect of the soul, granted by the goddess. Her name meant “Snake of Nourishment” or “She Who Gives the True Name/Soul”. Another Egyption snake goddess was Wadjet, the protector of Egypt, who had the head of a Cobra. The cobra on the crowns of the pharaohs were portraits of Wadjet. Renenutet and Wadjet were often confused with each other, so that they might have been two names for the same goddess. The snake is always associated with a female deity in Egypt.
In India, the Great Goddess was seen to be incarnated within the soul of the people as the Kundalini Shakti, the primal energy to creation that lies coiled like a serpent within the root chakra. When wakened she moves like a snake, in a spiral up the spine towards the crown chakra, causing enlightenment.
In Scandinavia, the serpent was a being of the Underworld in which souls were received after death, and from which all life emerges - life, death, and rebirth, all from the great spiral. The Scandinavian Goddess of the Underworld was depicted both in art and myth as handling snakes, and was, much like the Cretan Goddess mentioned above, a symbol of primal energy and creation.
This great-serpent, snake-goddess, mother-of-creation, sexuality-kundalini energy of the divine feminine is a great inspiration for us as women, for it represents the deep essence of who we are as women and as modern-day priestesses.
The Melissae, Bee Priestesses:
It is said that the precise identity of the bee goddess is still a great mystery, much like the snake goddess above, but there is still enough information out there through archeological pieces found and the written word, that we have a pretty good idea today of what the ancient bee priestesses did, wore and practiced.
The priestesses that were dedicated to the goddess Artemis were called Melissae, and they used a fermented sweet honey wine, sometimes referred to as soma, which is similar to what we call mead. This sweet honey drink was consumed in large quantities during their rituals, along with extensive playing of hand drums. Together, the priestesses played their drums, dancing and drinking soma, to invoke a deep trance-like state that involved the whole community evoking the goddess Artemis. Often, while in this trance, the priestesses would bring back messages for the community from the Goddess. It is said that having mastery over the frame drum was an essential task of the Melissae priestesses.
From the ancient Mayans and Aztecs, to the temples in Egypt and Greece, the bee goddess has prevailed, and left us with much to muse on as we ourselves create sacred ceremony and take on the role of modern day priestess.
This, my sisters, is a beautiful and sacred thing. Our ancient temples may be gone, but we have become them, within ourselves.
Before you begin the work of journeying to gather this piece of your soul, your inner Priestess, I must introduce you to your anchors for this month:
Willow tree and Jasper
Willow trees, also known as “water trees”, have rich magical lore surrounding them. The Willow is the tree most associated with the moon, the Goddess, and the divine feminine. It is a tree of deep dreaming, intuition, and watery emotions and is connected deeply to the work of the Priestess.
Symbolically, Willow belongs to the beginning of spring, when all of life is stirring in the depths of the Earth and beginning to shoot outwards once again. In the Ogham (tree alphabet), the willow is Saille, which became anglicized to “sally”, meaning a sudden outburst of emotion, action, or expression (to “sally forth”).
The willow has much to teach us through its association with our feminine aspects. By spending time with willows, using willow wood to make a talisman or wand, or using willow medicinally or as a Bach flower remedy (this is a type of tincture), we can deepen this connection. Spending time with willow trees at the full moon also can increase the potency of the insights and understanding there to be gained. Working with the willow in the early spring, when the willow energy and the Earth’s energy are aligned, is also a particularly potent time to explore its aspects.
The willow has always been known as a tree of dreaming and enchantment and is associated in Celtic legend with poets and with spells of fascination and binding. This is the willow moon energy, which puts us in touch with our feelings and deep emotions, and it is the gift of the willow to help us to express these emotions, let them out, own them, and change them, in fantastical leaps of inspired eloquence and understanding! Willow’s weeping stance reflects its association with grief. This movement on the emotional level, the allowing of the emotions to come through to the surface, is the power of the willow’s essential energy. Deep emotional pain blocks the energy of the body and can cause many illnesses. Willow may allow a person to move through many levels of sadness, express the pain though tears and grief, and thereby facilitate healing. Willow may help with movement out of this negative state to a greater interest and involvement in the present.
Our deep, unconscious thoughts speak to us through our dreams. If you have lost touch with your dreams or wish to increase their potency, make yourself a willow wand and sleep with it under your pillow. You will find your dreams will immediately become more vivid and meaningful. Studying your dreams, writing them down, opening your intuition to interpreting them can lead to emotional balancing and the release of tensions in your life.
The willow will always enhance inspired leaps of the imagination and is recommended to be used when seeking to assimilate the teachings of a wise woman or master because it becomes easier to understand another person’s enlightened place. Willow is also useful when seeking to understand ancient ways. It can help with the assimilation of past levels of information and allow us to quickly move through the underlying emotions directly toward appreciation of humanity’s patterns – and, ultimately, utilize this information for change.
When one of the willow’s branches or twigs becomes disconnected, it will easily grow into a new tree if it finds some soil and water, teaching us that, contained within a loss is a new direction and with it the capacity for growth and healing.
Talismans and wands may be made from a responsibly gifted or fallen limb of Willow. Consider using the natural shape of the wood to suggest and inspire a carving. Talismans may be worn round your neck or as a brooch or carried within a pouch and kept close. They may be magically carved with symbols relevant to their use. This month you may choose to make a willow wand or to simply work with a piece of it as a talisman. Do what you are called to do with Willow this month and remember to journal on your experiences.
Jasper is like Nature itself offering golden sunshine, a nighttime sky, poppy fields or a deep green forest, desert sands, the undulating ocean, red rock canyons, and sweeping mountains. Each stone is a masterpiece of the Creator, bold and primitive in style, solid and earthy in form, with a warm, harmonious energy that resonates with the primal self.
An elemental Earth stone, Jasper’s frequency is slow and constant, aligned with the electromagnetic energies of the planet. It enables one to be more present in the physical body and conscious of Nature and one’s surroundings. It encourages one to celebrate moments of isolation to absorb, reflect, and connect with these energies and enkindles an awareness of the spiritual connection we hold with all living things.
Known as the “Supreme Nurturer,” Jasper is a stone of grounding and stability, providing comfort and security, strength and healing. Its presence balances the aura to a level of wholeness and peace, and acts as a reminder that one is not here on the physical plane simply for oneself, but to bring joy and substance to others.
Historically, Jasper is traceable to all ancient peoples and civilizations. Worn by shamans, priestesses and nobility, it was considered sacred and a powerful protection stone, for both the physical world and in the spiritual realm. Amulets of Jasper were carved by the Egyptians with symbols and inscriptions from the Book of the Dead and buried with mummified remains for safe passage in the after life. It was highly utilized in many cultures for engraving cylinder seals, signet rings, and special talismans depicting astrological and religious images. It was the twelfth stone in the Breastplate of the Jewish High Priest, and the apostle Peter is supposed to have derived his name from Jasper, the rock upon which Christ would build his church. To the medieval world and the Native Americans, Jasper was “the rain bringer” and highly regarded as a stone for dowsing.
source: The Crystal Vault
Connect with Branch & Stone
Gather your Jasper stone, if you have one, place it in your right hand (or place just inside your bra cup near your heart if you’re doing your own drumming), get comfortable and close your eyes.
Your intent in this journey is to ask the tree for any messages or information/wisdom it has for you at this time, regarding yourself as a Priestess. This could be gifts you bring to your community or things you are working on to develop within yourself at this time.
TO DO: Remember to write down everything you see in the journey, even if it feels insignificant, as patterns can arise that help us to understand our symbolic language better. Speaking of symbolic language, one of my online mentors, Christina Pratt, has a whole podcast dedicated to helping us understand our symbolic language, if you care to listen to it.
Return to your moon cycle calendars (downloadable). What have you noticed?
Consider how your body is feeling now as the days grow longer and longer and the weather continues its shift into spring. If you live in a place that is still locked in snow, note how your body is feeling. Is it still feeling the long dredges of wintertime or is it beginning to feel impatient, waiting for the season to change? As the days grow longer, also note how, if at all, this affects your menstrual cycle. Often in the spring, without even realizing it, we begin to cleanse, which can sometimes mean darker menstrual blood, and more cramping as your body rids itself of any excess it may have been holding onto during the long, quiet, and still times of the winter.
We are all deeply connected to our bodies and to the earth as she changes and flows through the seasons and periods of weather. Take notice and honor the shifts.
Try this: If you feel up to it, harness the intuitive spring time stirrings brought up for you by the changing season and channel it into a creative activity. Perhaps a poem is calling to be written or a piece of clay to be molded; perhaps it’s your paint or a new vision board that is calling you to put action into your feelings. If you have children, there are so many wonderful springtime activities available online to celebrate the spring. One such practice is to pick small flowers, gather small seashells, feathers, stones, or anything that sings of spring to you and bringing it all back to create a mandala in your front yard. That way, everyone walking by could enjoy your creative endeavors. I also feel that sacred sexuality is a deeply creative endeavor. You could practice Earthing which is to walk naked, or at the very least barefoot, upon the Earth to truly become one with Sacred Earth. Or if you have a lover or want to make love to yourself, a sacred place outside may call to you. As you explore the wonderful smells in the air of the springtime and as you enjoy the feeling of your body as woman, you are connected again to the Earth herself. Truly anything creative that is calling you and connects you to Earth is the right thing!
Consider this: The ways of the priestess are fluid and not stagnant nor static. Everything we do is a ceremony – every action from cooking a meal for ourselves and loved ones to doing laundry. And so it is fitting that we consider any creative endeavor we do to be altar work.
All this means is that we are bringing the everyday sacred into our practice and our bodies are the altar at which we worship! This thought may be radical for some of you, but consider this: if our body is our temple then does it not deserve to be cared for, listened to, and loved? How can we care for others if we can not master the task of caring for ourselves? If we follow our creative impulses – and yes, this includes keeping a tidy house or cooking and even how we dress ourselves – then this is altar work.
One final touch: We haven’t touched on altar building much and I’d like to introduce it in more detail here. An altar is your personal healing work space. It stands as a reminder of your good works and a focal point for your efforts. An altar can be place to honor and recognize your ancestors, your living family, and your greater community.
It should be a space you rest your eyes when your brain needs to calm. With that in mind, it is best to place an altar where you can see it and interact with it daily. In my home, I have three alters — one in my office for the work I do with and for others, one in my living room for the work I do for my family and one in my bedroom for the work I do for myself. These are living entities and change with circumstances and seasons.
To create an altar, consider beginning with a focal point or a theme that can be represented by one large central item or figure. Then you might include something to represent the four directions or the four elements. You might include a representation of your Animal Spirit Guide. You might include an item from your bundle. You might include an herb or a piece of the season (branches, flowers, etc). Altars don’t need to be “fancy”, although they can be. The possibilities are endless.
This month, if you don’t already have one begin to create an altar. Set a small container of herb infused honey onto your altar and sample it daily, as reminder to yourself of the sweetness of life and an offering to the divine feminine within you as a Priestess. Here is a link to instructions for creating your own herb infused honey.
Journey for your Sacred Object
Your sacred object this month will represent the Priestess in all of her forms, wild and loving, fierce and destructive, sexual and virginal. Journey as you have been with your animal guide, to sit near the Willow tree and ask for information on your object this month. If you feel called to go into the tree, then allow yourself to go there.
Once you have your object in your hands, as in, you have found it in this real world. Take another journey with the object to ask for any information you need at this time regarding yourself as a priestess. Continue to journey with your object as much as you feel called to this month.
Remember that you have the whole month to make a sacred bond with your object before it goes into your medicine bundle, so take that time and sit with it as much as possible.
Another journey question to consider is to ask your object the following: What ceremony can I do to consecrate you before you go into the bundle?
Consecration of your sacred objects: The word “consecrate”: To consecrate something is to make it sacred. Often times when we consecrate something, we make an offering of sacred smoke, or oils; sometimes milk and honey are poured upon the item. In the past, I have been moved to bury something for a full moon cycle or to place it in water under the full or new moon.
So, take this time to ask your object how you can create ceremony and consecrate it. If you would like to go back and do this with all of your items to date, this would probably be a good idea, as well as to continue to do so with all future objects.