Hints from Hera: Make a Mandala Garden for the Spring Equinox

Today I made a mandala garden.  My son outgrew his swingset, so we got rid of it and I had a nice empty 10 x 13 enclosed space with a gigantic hemlock tree in one corner.  I cleared it out and started putting stuff in it – a lawn chair for reading, two metal café chairs, a bust of a Greek Goddess, a Chinese pillar, a little cement rabbit, a plastic owl, and two angels on sticks.  This was on one side of the space.  On the other was a little sculpture of tree branches and composting leaves.  I just randomly placed things from the house and other garden areas around the space.  Later, when the weather improves, I’ll decide what plants to put in.   When I finished, I realized I had made a mandala from my garden.  The space isn’t round, but it is full of things of symbolic value placed in the four directions and elsewhere in ways that spoke of my relationship to them.

Mostly the term “mandala garden” means a round garden with a specific design.  Other mandala gardens are very formal and meant to be symbolic and meant for meditative practice.  When I draw mandalas, I make a circle and then just start creating with lines, shapes and color and figure out what it all means later.  I have created my mandala garden the same way.  No one will mistake it for a formal garden or even one that is well-planned. 

I plan to continue to create my mandala garden over time – adding things that are meaningful, taking away what is no longer reflective of me, moving things as their importance in my life or relationship to one another changes.  When the weather is warm enough for me to sit in my mandala garden for any length of time, I will do that and contemplate what I have put in and why I placed it where I did.  Just as with my drawn mandalas, I will no doubt learn something about myself, where I’ve been, and where I’m going.  I’ll gain some new metaphors for my life.  However, unlike with the drawn mandalas, where I can only look at them from above, with my garden mandala, I can  participate from the perspective of being inside it (though, interestingly, my lawn chair, the symbol of my Self since that is where I will be sitting, is off to one corner, though under the big mama tree).

You can make a mandala garden anywhere – in a large new space, in a corner of an existing garden, even in a container if you want.   You can make one or as many as you want and remake them often.  You could even make this your Spring Equinox celebration if you are choosing to celebrate alone (or even if you are with friends!).
 

                                                                              ~ Carolyn Lee Boyd

Hints from Hera: Celebrate Spring with Brigid

And now for a crafty interlude…

Spring is just starting to come to my part of the world here in New England and so it is time to celebrate Brigid.  Brigid (pronounced “Breed”) was the great Goddess of the Celts.  Her name means “Bright One” and she ruled gold-crafting, poetry, creativity, and healing and she was associated with spring.  She shares many characteristics with St. Bridget who is still honored in churches bearing her name all over the world.  Brigid was  venerated by nineteen priestesses, then St. Bridget by nineteen nuns, who have tended a perpetual sacred fire for millennia.  The fire was doused for a time, but is now lit and tended again.

One of the traditions of Brigid and St. Bridget is fashioning a “St. Bridget’s Cross,” traditionally made on St. Bridget’s Feast Day of February 1st but always a wonderful way to welcome in the spring.  This description of how to make a St. Bridget’s cross is much better than anything I could come up with, so I will just link it here.

Perhaps as you make your cross you will want to sing this song that was traditionally sung to St. Bridget.  You’ll have to make up your own melody.  “Brigid, excellent woman, sudden flame, may the bright, fiery sun take us to the lasting kingdom.”

Sources:

Monaghan, Patricia.  The New Books of Goddesses and Heroines.  St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2000.

Walker, Barbara G.  The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1983.

                                                                              ~ Carolyn Lee Boyd

Hints from Hera: The Wisdom of Red Peppers

The more time I spend in nature, the more I believe that its essence contains all the wisdom and truth that exists.  All we need to do is look for it, listen to it, and align ourselves with it enough to know what is all around us.  Most often what I find in nature are reminders of the bigger picture, that my small problems are really unimportant compared to the grandeur of what is outside in my garden, a gift given to me for no real reason other than that I was born, or of the overwhelming power of hope that comes with realizing that every morning the sun will rise.

But, I think that we can also find smaller truths in tinier pieces of nature.  I am forever looking at pieces of art to see what messages it holds, what I can learn that I had never even thought of before.  If all of creation is the Creator’s art, then what would happen if I did the same for those creations that I have in my everyday life?  What if I asked what was in my own kitchen for insights?  I am at a crossroads in my life and work.  What answers will my vegetable bin hold?

I love red peppers.  I have always craved red peppers more than anyone should adore a vegetable.  If I stop looking at it as lunch, and instead view it as philosophy, what does it tell me?  Well, first of all, it is chalice-shaped, hollow inside.  It is a tiny little pepper cave, a perfect place for being a hermit.  Being a hermit is my dream job – the hours are flexible, the commute isn’t long, you can wear pretty much what you want to work.  Of course, few people are real hermits anymore, going to live in the wild somewhere, always in contemplation.  And hermitting is not what would be considered a high prestige job.  It is, however, I think, a “Goddess-y” job, by which I mean one in which encountering and respecting your entire inner being, especially your Sacred Feminine, is essential (I mean, there really isn’t anyone else much to talk to if you are a hermit :)).  Someone who is a hermit in a positive way is someone who has as her profession entering into the flow of life, listening to what it says, and reflecting it back to the world.  Positive hermits are the chalices of our world, they take into themselves what the world gives and offers it back, transformed into a nectar that nourishes those who partake of it, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  Sometimes our hermits are poets or musicians or novelists, sometimes the person on the block in whose kitchen everyone sits when they are unnerved or in despair, sometimes just the person who chooses to work alone but who is therefore able to speak or write or act more truthfully and powerfully without compromise.  The value of being a “hermit” in a chalice-like place is a powerful message; one I had forgotten and needed to hear as I think about my next few steps. 

Within the red pepper cave is great fertility — all those seeds just hanging around, waiting to be planted and grow into more red peppers.  A red pepper’s seeds aren’t hidden or protected.  You do need to ask for them by opening up the pepper, but once you have asked, they are there, revealed to you.  Once we have entered our hermit-like place, creativity is like that – abundant, present for the asking, but we do need to ask.  Sometimes, that can be hard.  Sometimes we are afraid to hear what we will say if we let ourselves express what we wish.  We need to crack that shell of the pepper, that shell we cast around our own creativity, but when we do, the gifts we receive are as numerous as those pepper seeds.  Another lesson I needed to hear; my creativity may seem to be lagging, but I need only enter into myself and ask to find it again.

Red peppers are both sweet and peppery.  Always good advice to be a little of both, especially when you are being a hermit who is in pursuit of those seeds – sweet because we really do need other people, even when we are being hermits, and peppery to keep the world on its toes around us.

And so I have my answers – pursue my inner life, alone if need be, and do not be afraid to gather those abundant seeds, but remember to always be a little sweet and peppery, too, along the way.

And so we end this hint about fruit and vegetable divination with the advice that you do not need exotic symbols or special talents to find meaning, just what Goddess has placed all around you.

Hints from Hera – Be a Tree, Parts 1 and 2

Some of my recent posts have been a bit heavy, so I thought I would try some lighter ones for awhile.  One series I would like to try is “Hints from Hera” (you know, like “Hints from Heloise,” except from one of the traditional goddesses of the hearth) – not of the “baking soda as cleaning product” variety, but of the “bringing the sacred into everyday life” type.

Here’s the first one.  Many of you probably know this one or something similar, but it is spiritual and energetic “first aid” of the finest kind.  I learned it in a women’s circle, but if anyone knows who first envisioned it, please let me know.  It is great for when you are feeling overtired, overstressed or anxious.

Stand up straight, with your arms pointed towards the ground at a 45-degree angle.  Visualize that you are a tree. You feet are the roots,  your body is the trunk and your arms are the branches.  Visualize that you are connected to the deepest level of the earth.  The fiery earth’s core is sending energy up through your roots/feet, up your spine/trunk and throughout your whole body, then back down again through your hands/branches into the earth.  Visualize that this creates a circle of energy moving from the earth to you and then back to the earth.  When the energy moves through you, it perfectly balances you so that you have neither too much nor too little energy.  If you are experiencing anxiety, visualize that moving into the earth to be purified along with the other energy.  Allow yourself to enjoy this visualization for as long as you like.

Here’s the second one.  Visit an arboretum or forest or even just take a long walk in your neighborhood. Try to find a place that has as many types of trees as possible.  Really look at each type of tree.  Notice the many shapes, colors, and designs of leaves.  Look at how different the bark is on each tree.  Follow the tree up from trunk to branches with your eyes and notice how each tree is unique in how it grows.  I recently did this while helping my son with a school project.  Even though I have loved trees all my life, I was amazed at how little I really looked at the trees around me and how abundantly Goddess has created the trees that I see everyday, but never really noticed.  It was one of those moments when you realize how deeply infused with beauty our world is and how uplifting feeling gratitude about that can be.