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Samhain | All Saints Day | Dia de los Muertos

Today is All Saints Day for many in the Catholic and Anglican faith traditions. A celebration of the saints who have meant something important to them or their journey.

It is also the Dia de los Muertos in many Spanish-speaking countries (fyi, Dia de los Muertos is not ‘Mexican Halloween;’ it is a holiday all of its own with rich traditions, symbols, and context).

And, of course, last night was Halloween in America, a tradition that was originally about the acceptance of death and the very human desire to flee from it, or to dance with it in the dark.

For me, Halloween also represents the biggest step of the descent into darkness for the circle of the year. I know we are supposed to celebrate the shift into darkness at the Autumnal equinox, but it never feels quite dark enough or cold enough for me. So, yesterday was the doorway into death for this year. This phase is pretty much always the time of year where I learn a life-changing lesson and carry it both down into the depths of my dark heart and then grow up through it into the Spring.

And, in all Life’s wisdom and wit, we were without power for the last 2 days (it finally came back on last night). We have been sitting with pillars of candles on our table, reading and talking (and the kids bored out of their skulls), and noticing the dark and how it seeps in as the sun goes down.

Our electricity- and that of most of our neighborhood- went out with a storm on Sunday, Oct 29. A tree on our property gave its life to one final dance with the electrical wires and an explosive electrical canister. [fwiw, they give off spectacular, blinding blue sparks when hit.]

Yesterday the arborist came to chop up the tree. And while I was glad to have it off the power pole, I also cried as they cut her down, into massive chunks. Her life was truly done and over; the season of death deeply upon us.



I have been thinking about my perspective as an interfaith minister- what ‘interfaith’ means and if it is even a valid idea [I’ll share about that later]- and I don’t want to appropriate any tradition that isn’t mine, but none of the above traditions are mine and I still need a way to honor the darkness of this phase of the year.

Raised Protestant and now living something Tao-Pagan-Buddhist, I’m not sure how to honor this time of year. Samhain (SAH-win) is closest to me genetically (Gaelic…waaaaay back there in the double-helix code) and feels as close as I can get to a Taoist perspective (in harmony with Nature) that feels right with what’s actually happening in Nature.

But, because the veil between worlds is thin at this time of year, I also feel the pull of honoring my dead. And the weight of tradition that comes from honoring saints also appeals. But ‘appealing’ doesn’t mean I can steal it for my own uses.

Can I put these things into the tradition of Samhain? Because it is the end of the year in Nature, can I also give honor to that which as been dead for many seasons- my family, friends, and ‘saints’ of many stripes? If I could, I would expand the definition this way so that the celebration and recognition would encompass all that I need it to. I suppose I need a bigger container for all that I have experienced; perhaps that is why ‘interfaith’ appeals so much.

So today I wanted to honor the end of this year. To remember my dead. To let go of what’s done. And to welcome the dark, cold, fallow time of the year. And to bless those who have blessed me. The list…

My Papa who showed me how to make snapdragons talk and fed me snap peas from the vine.
My great grandma who loved to dress me up and take me out; who also discovered my diabetes.
My islet of Langerhans, dead nearly 36 years.
My great grandpa.
My father-in-law, who never met most of his grandchildren.
The tree from our front yard.
A gaggle of great aunts and uncles who I know watch over all the descendants of Margaret.
Our old house.

I also lay on the altar of death my ideas of who I thought I was.
The part of me who thought she always had to be kind to move ahead.
The belief that some savior is the net for this chaotic world.
My lack of belief in my intuition.
Guessing that I am strong; I know I am, even in my softness and vulnerability.

I name the saints of my life (no one you will recognize, but very important to my journey):
Ms. B who believed in my writing.
Mr. B who opened my mind and showed  me symbolism.
Steve B who gave safe boundaries to my budding soul.
Monica and Michelle who told me desire was okay, welcome, gorgeous.
Gabrielle’s son, for showing me how to sweat my prayers.
LMM and William Stafford for the way they wove spells with words.
Jennifer who pioneered self-care for white women.
The town of Exeter, Devonshire for red mud, one-footed ducks, and lessons out the wazzoo.
Seattle- I carry the memories of time that is dead and long gone.

Tonight I will light candles and recognize the dead ones, my own changes, and give thanks to those who have guided me, dead or alive. The end of the year is here and I am ready to lay it down. I will enter the dark with the support of tradition- and the delight of truth.




I am clearing a space.

I am clearing a space
here, where the trees stand back.
I am making a circle so open
the moon will fall in love
and stroke these grasses with her silver.
I am setting stones in all four directions,
stones that have called my name
from mountaintops and riverbeds, canyons and mesas.
Here I will stand with my hands empty,
mind gaping under the moon.
I know there is another way to live.

| Morgan Farley |


Photo by Beat Schuler on Unsplash



my prayers.

I’m taking a class on reclaiming the Seven Deadly Sins. It’s fantastic. I have grown in new ways and really, deeply accepted some pieces of myself. I feel stronger.

One of the things the teacher asked us to do is name our prayers. That which we seek as a means of keeping our balance as we grow. Our prayers are our throughline. The thread that holds us together as we grow in a zigzag way.

I pray to this:

my journal of words and images

watering my plants (a new, simple, exquisite way I nourish myself)

facing my beloved, chest on chest, with hugs or kisses (or both!)

deep kisses with soft lips

curling up on down comforters

popcorn + rootbeer on Saturday nights


breathing into the orgasm and feeling it explode my whole body like a mandala

boot cut jeans

black leather boots. steel-toed.

rubbing my children’s legs as they fall asleep

English tea.

buying books. real, paper ones. reading them.

a dark wood with cedar trees and ferns

comfy chairs to curl up in.

magical things.

William Stafford’s words.

the feel of a good pen.

abstract art. art the size of whole rooms. 


lighting the candles for meditation + solstice.

listening to their stories + offering medicine.



Seattle. green moss. pine trees. mountains. streams. ferns. the smell of cedar.

my bed.


making things with my hands. wood working.

alone time. alone time. alone time. 

friends who hold me up. miracles.

the feel of writing. 
the feel of writing.
the feel of writing. 


“Prayer is what keeps us keeping on.
Prayer is where we allow for more.
Prayer is connected to what we are proud of,
what we covet, and our passion.”

– Renee Magnusson




New Moon in Taurus

Ah, can you feel the changes since Venus went direct? So good. And soon we will be out of Mercury in Retrograde (but I do sort of love it).

So here we are in the Taurus New Moon. I love me some new moon. Full moons are not my fave, but new ones, oh. so. sweet. This one feels like first inklings of desire to me; lighting me up, warming my chest, making me smile with wonder and attraction. And so it is…


From Chani Nicolas:

In Taurus, the moon can build anything. If it has decided something will happen, Taurus won’t give up until it is so. Taurus is stubborn AF. When Taurus applies its stubbornness to a course of action that isn’t in its own best interest, it ends up wasting all that precious effort. But, when that stubbornness is applied to healing, developing, and growing the best of what we’ve been given, we have pure gold to build with. 

May we learn that our ability to love is the marker of our wealth. May we learn that our healing is holy, necessary, and needed if this world is to thrive. May be learn that the most sacred act in life is to find a way to make use of the pain we have lived through. 


From She Who Is: 

The pure, unaspected energy of this new moon brings unerring focus to all issues related to earthly manifestations in matters ranging from the necessary pursuit of one’s financial path to the revelation and discovery of love. 

Use this new moon energy to sweep away everything that you do not deeply and completely love, and to draw forth the new beginning of what you have only ever hoped to find. 

The emanation of Taurean energy is both stubborn and sensual…To feel mediocre about any aspect of your life will reveal the cracks of what needs to leave. 



And Elephant Journal takes a Buddhist view of the New Moon:

Some lunar cycles wreck our plans, others are meant to encourage us to reap our rewards, and still others—like this one—are meant to push us toward the building of something new.

Something full of love.

This particular moon is asking us to take a closer look at the Four Immeasurables, or the four Buddhist virtues of loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. These components most highly reflect a state of enlightenment, and right now, as many are seeing spring begin to bud and grow around us, we are also feeling the urge to build something of quality and purpose.

We can make sure that we are building something genuine with a strong foundation or if instead, it already feels shaky beneath our feet. We can decide if what we are feeling is real, or if instead, it’s merely a figment of our own hopeful projections. And ultimately, we can discern if we’re truly content or only settling.

Nothing can begin without our decision, and no one in this life will make us happy if we haven’t decided to love ourselves as we are. This new moon is not only asking us to delve within but to stay awhile and see what is really inside.

What do loving-kindness, joy, compassion, and equanimity mean to us?

And more than that, what do each of these virtues feel like, taste like, and smell like? What would it mean to live a life that fully embodied these qualities on the exterior, because we have already mastered it internally?

And so we have to ask ourselves if that isn’t what our lives currently reflect—are we ready to start over?

::: ::: ::: :::

The question is, do you have the ovaries to do it? Can we refrain from lying to ourselves once again? That’s hard for INFJ’s like me to do (we hate lying!), but other folks seem to be able to with ease. If this moon is pushing you to love, it’s also pushing for truth- your truth. Go and plant that tonight.

G’night, fellow travelers. See you in the dark of the moon.
Joanna :: xoxo




On grief.

A few months back, I was asked to help a friend create a ceremony to bring her grief ‘home.’ (For those of you who know her, I received permission to share her story.) Her mother had passed in the last few weeks, but in a different part of the country. Her life was here now, in Rhode Island, and she needed a way to bring that grief home, she told me.

I have performed very few memorial services. Usually when someone dies, we seek the familiar, so the old church, whatever it may be, is where we turn. But this was not a memorial service, per se. It was not a way to remember a person, or commune in shared grief, or to connect as a tool to banish grief, but a way to bring grief home, to live with it- to bring it to those who love my friend, so that they could know her better and support her. And that is such a different perspective than most of us take on grief.

Grief is a tricky thing. We have those models, the Stages of Grief, but very few things work as the model suggests, most definitely grief (and if you’ve ever had an amazing design idea at IKEA and tried to make it work at home, you know of what I speak). Grief is a lonely walk, so often, because we see the person, the life, the choices, so differently from anyone else. And this doesn’t only apply to the death of people- it is equally true for the death of relationships, jobs, the ways we see ourselves. Grief, in a counterintuitive way, sprouts anew each time, different flowers from the same root.

For me, grief has been best described by symbols.

There is the initial grief that is like an Egyptian pyramid. A sacred, dark place, vast. It is beautiful- full of gold, memories, resources, things we can actually touch and see and smell. Even when it is cold, the darkness of the passageways of grief has a weight that I welcome. I have walked in the tunnels, admiring all of it, touching the walls, running the fabric of memory through my fingers, even as I knew that it was dead. The warmth of the gold was only because I stood near it, only because my fire gave it light. All of it was dead, even if it was so beautiful that I would be happy to live there forever on some days.

When I think of grief I am reminded that it is not just for dead things that we grieve. It is for what is lost- even if that job, that person, that idea lives on. The connection is lost or radically changed and we grieve for that. Sometimes we cannot let go, even though we know we must. The spiritual practice of grief is opening our grip, by tiny degrees, until our hand is free to move again. We cry and rage and gnash, but eventually, we must let go, or we will die, too. (But also, take your time. That’s the only way to do it.)

As I have accepted the death of things, the way they would never return to ‘normal,’ grief has been a garden of the dead, dead flowers and trellis’ and sculpted hedgerows. Some days the wind blows cold, and others the sun shines. But everything is obviously dead here. And I walk along, letting my hand touch the fragile leaves, watching the memories waft away in the wind, pieces crumbling simply with my walking by them. Here are all my delights and aliveness and growth, returning to the Earth. It is falling apart, and I can do nothing about it, because should I plant again, it will never grow the same. I surrender and accept.

All along the path, grief has been a whack-a-mole. So often I would jump up and try to whack it back into something (whack it ‘away,’ whack it into a particular shape, whack it just to whack it). But then, I slump beside the machine and refuse to play. Let grief do what it will, I will wait for the time to run out, and then decide what do to next.

I have wondered if The Stages of Grief are something that happens inside each of these places. Inside the beautiful pyramid of memory and desire, we bounce between denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Inside the dead garden, we do the same. Perhaps the whack-a-mole is simply these five things repeating themselves until our lessons are learned.



There is no answer, of course, because grief is a similar::unique path for each person, each time they encounter it.

Grief is one of the most difficult human emotions, I think. It is so painful. It involves so much of us- not just body, mind, spirit as we are now, but all of those things and the depths of our history to the present moment as well. Grief cleans us out.

Perhaps that is the best metaphor, grief cleans us out. There are several rooms in the house of my heart that have been invaded by grief (and sometimes I have welcomed it, but not usually). And it is only through the process of grief that I have had to clean out those rooms. But by cleaning them out, leaving what’s most important (memories, lessons, boundaries), have I been able to move on, to leave the space and energy for new things to come along- sometimes new things in the same room, sometimes new rooms all together.

Grief changes us. That is really all I can say. And that to engage with it is an act of bravery. To bring our grief home is one of the deepest forms of courage of the heart.