Riding Out the Storm

storm gif

 

For some reason, I have never really been afraid of storms.  I can remember, as a child, when a storm would come, my mother would gather us up (kids, dogs, cats, everyone) and run to the middle of the house.  She needed for us to be as far away from windows and doors as possible.  We would all huddle in the hall next to the bathroom and she would sit and rock and cry.  My inclination was quite the opposite.  I wanted to run toward the door, fling it open and be right in the middle of it.  The lightning was fascinating.  My grandma would tell me stories of the Cherokee Thunderers…they were fierce beings, but I was never made to feel afraid of them.  I saw them as something otherworldly and magickal.

Still now, when I feel the electricity that comes with a thunder and lightning storm, I am drawn to it.  I feel the need to be right in the middle of it.  When I hear storms brewing, it brings to mind what I learned in school…”the calmest place is in the eye of the storm.”  Right there in the middle of the storm is the calmest, most still air.  It is funny to think of it this way, but right there in the middle of what may be a hurricane, is the lowest amount of pressure.  That area is where there can be an opening for light to come in and where the breezes are light.

I have been surrounded by people this week enveloped in storms.  It is like I have said before, people are attracted to the magick they see in others.  I have been called on by folks in the midst of breakups, depression, anxiety. My advice?  Learn to ride the storm.  The one thing that I have noticed regarding humans, is that they always want to fist-fight the wind.

Watching people weather the storms in their lives reminds of the rodeo.  It is much like bull riding.  Why in the world would anyone want to climb on the back of a bull and see how long they can stay on? A sense of accomplishment?  Maybe.  To prove that they can? Possibly.  They reason that cowboys will climb onto the back of a bull to see how long they can stay on…the prize at the end of the ride.  So you just climb on the back of that bull, sit down and do nothing but wait for the ride to end, right?  No.  Your body has to follow the motion of the bull.  You must be aware of the movements the bull is making and mirror that to some extent.  You definitely have to be flexible.

bull ride

I was walking Friz through the complex this morning.  Again, we were greeted by the sight of green dusty cloak and a familiar mop of dirty brown hair.  He sat in the same spot he was last week.  It tore at my heart to see him sitting alone.  Isn’t that how most of us try to face the challenges and hurts in our lives, though?  Alone. His face lights up when he sees little Friz saunter up to him.  Friz’s whole body shook with joy seeing our friend against the early morning darkness.  The green wizard scooped him up and leaned into the thousands of licks that invaded his cheeks.

We walked and talked as he carried Friz close to his chest.  He talked about how hard the past week has been for him….like a part of his heart had been ripped out.  He said that it felt like walking with one leg and no staff.  Sleeping was hard because he had always fallen asleep listening to Calliope breathing.  I looked in his eyes and noticed that the sparkle that is normally visible was faint. His eyes looked weak.  As we moved closer to the center of the woods, he seemed relieved to see the canape of branches and leaves above us.  He lay down in the midst of the leaves and pine needles.  Friz took the opportunity to crawl up onto his belly and nestle.

I never know how often the green wizard gets to eat, so this morning I had made a cottage cheese carton full of grits and eggs and cheese. I handed it to him with a bottle of juice.  He laughed out loud, “Who would have ever thought that I would have run into another magickal being here in the middle of this condominium complex…much less two?”  I saw him wink at Friz as he said it.  He ate slowly….savoring every bite.  He shared a bite with Friz here and there.  We talked about magick.  We talked about animals.  We talked about friendships.  We laughed about unlikely friendships.  I sat there as he rode the winds of his own storm.  I watched as he released the pain of loss.

It amazes me how much magick is contained in the things that we seem to take for granted.  The Hedge witches of old knew this.  Most of their magick involved the things found in everyday life.  Herbs, animals…the things that were right outside their doors.  Who would know that tears could be such a powerful potion.  It is the magick that stirs inside of us that could very well bring healing, peace of mind, understanding and courage.

I was taken back to my childhood today.  I have written about Crazy Mary…the local homeless person in my hometown.  Everyone was afraid of her…they always went the other way.  I remember her smile as a five year old Weathered Wiseman hugged her.  That memory washed over me today.  As I wrapped my arms around the green wizard, I could feel the magick working.  How many had turned the other way when they saw him?  How many had kept from making eye contact?  He had his own storms to ride out just like everyone else.

In all my years working at a vet, I have seen dogs with storm phobias out the wazoo.  Thankfully, my dogs have never been afraid of thunder or rain.  This afternoon, however, I was sitting on the sofa when a huge boom of thunder rang through the house.  My cat, Merlin, sat straight up on the dining room table….I could see his eyes dilating.  I began talking to him.  “What’s wrong, Merlin?  Everything is fine.  Do you want to come and sit beside daddy?”  With those words, this seventeen pound cat, who most of the time seems fearless, climbed onto the sofa beside me…leaned hard into my side, closed his eyes and purred.  In the midst of his fear, he found that calm place….right there in the middle of the storm.

Blessed Be!

2013-02-07 19.25.04

Epona: Dancing Through the Stables and Riding Toward the Sunrise

epona2Epona: “Divine Horse”; “The Great Mare”; Goddess of horses; Mother Goddess. Fertility, maternity, protectress of horses, horse-breeding, prosperity, dogs, healing springs, crops.

She is a horse goddess with fertility connotations. A popular equestrian goddess closely allied with the Celtic trade in, and domestic use of, horses. Concerned with healing, and with the fertility of domestic animals.  She is arguably the only Celtic goddess to have been worshipped in Rome itself and her popularity was spread throughout the regions of Roman occupation.

Epona is typically with mares and foals, usually riding sidesaddle or merely in association with horses. She also holds cornucopiae sheaves of grain and other fruits suggesting an ancillary role as a vegetation goddess. Epona is also, on occasion, linked with dogs and birds. 
 

Last night, I went line dancing for the first time in eight years.  I have to admit, it stirred some wonderful memories.  As I shuffled and glided across the dancefloor, I was taken back to a time in my life when cares were few and far between. 

Growing up on a farm, you often helped other farmers during the spring and summer.  I have worked pig farms, chicken farms, dairies….but one of my favorite was spent helping a neighboring horse farm.  It was one of the first times I ever got a glimpse of the true magick and power inside of an animal.

I have to confess before I get too far in that I had never really heard of the Goddess Epona until I was introduced to her by a friend this past year.  This friend embodies everything that a goddess to the equine population should….she is beautiful, strong, graceful, and quite a bit of a spitfire.  Her passion for Epona started something ruminating in me.  I had to find out more about her.  I had to know this Goddess who showed herself so evidently in my friends love and passion for horses.

As I studied and meditated, I was often drawn backward in time to my own contact and work with some beautiful animals.  My first contact was with a horse named Coal.  Coal was, of course, jet black.  He was the horse I learned to ride on.  My friend, Nancy, lived on a farm in South Carolina.  I was very young and she was very persistent that I should learn to ride a horse.  Coal seemed to me to be the biggest horse I had ever seen.  She also had a Belgian Shepherd name Beatrice.  For some reason, Beatrice did not like anything about me.  It was her goal to make sure I didn’t make it off that farm alive.

I had finally given in to learning to ride Coal on an overcast Sunday afternoon.  Beatrice was put into the house to keep her away from me.  I was taught the correct posture for riding and how to ‘steer’ Coal.  He was so gentle.  It was like he knew what I wanted and needed before I did.  As we rode, I could hear Beatrice barking wildly in the background.  I was fine as long as that barking stayed in the distance.

We had been riding for about 45 minutes and were working our way around the horse ring when suddenly Coal came to a dead halt.  I had a weird feeling in my gut when I heard Beatrice barking five feet in front of us.  She snarled and growled and I saw my friend’s sister running toward us.  Beatrice had broken a window to get to us.  As scared shitless as I was, I remember hoping that she hadn’t hurt herself leaping through the window. 

Coal never reacted to Beatrice at all.  If she started toward us, he would turn as if to initiate a body block.  He never bothered to try to kick her.  He never got spooked.  I look back and think that I could not have had a better teacher in that first riding session.  It is because of him that I continued to learn.  He became a trusted friend over the years, and as I think back, I can still feel the sadness that I felt the day I watched him ride into the summerlands with Epona guiding him.

I also remember the summers of rodeos and time with the horses.  I know that many people do not like rodeos.  I absolutely love them.  It was on the rodeo circuit that I got to see the true human/equine bond.  Some of those men and women treat their horses better than they treat most other humans.  It was not unusual to walk around and see a cowboy or cowgirl conversing with their horse…and to watch the communication of the horse with the rider.  You haven’t experienced the power of the Goddess until you have looked into the eyes of a horse.  You can see fire and passion, but you can also see strength and peace.  You look at him and you know that he honestly had the strength and power to crush you, but the control to keep himself from doing that.  Wild-Horses-Harvest

This one thought came in an epiphany…..it is in my time with horses that I did learn control…it was in the teaching I received while learning to ride….it wasn’t so much about learning to control the horse…it was about learning to control myself.  Isn’t that the way it is about most things in life.  It isn’t about the situation, but it is about how you handle it.  It is in reigning in a horse that we learn to reign ourself in.  Horses mirror us in so many ways.  That wild part of us longs to go at full tilt.  We push and we push until we are forced by our own body to relax.  The reigns of everyday life move us left and right into decisions and circumstances, but that wild part still lies underneath….that fire.

I have heard the phrase used regarding “breaking a horse.”  Most horse trainers that I know would disagree with this terminology.  It once referred to breaking the horses spirit.  Putting that horse under your control.  It is not about “breaking the spirit” at all, but learning to work with that spirit. It is that same spirit in the animal that excites us.  It is that spirit we long for when we climb on and feel the motion of that magnificent being beneath us.

For Christmas this year, I gave my partner a romantic horseback riding afternoon ending in wine in a pastoral setting.  Just me, him and the horses.  I have longed for and needed that contact with these magnificent creatures.  I can feel Lady Epona stirring that wildness and calm all at the same time.

When stress seems to take over, I go back to a vacation 10 years ago in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  I was allowed a very special gift.  I got to watch the wild horses on the island run.  There is nothing quite so spectacular as seeing a creature unburdened by the cares of the world run at full tilt racing the wind.

Lady Epona, help me to leave the cares and stresses of day to day living behind and feel the wind caressing my cheek as I call on your strength.

Blessed Be!Alone-a24173267[2]