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The Goddess Selene Speaks

June 30, 2021

Behold the glowing Light, the sun at its height, the moon shining at night!

Here we are at Midsummer, gathered in our true form as energy, where you are closest to my own nature. The bright Light is you and you are it, electrons on the screen in front of you.

The sun plays tricks and stops with you, right now before it dives head first into darkness, inch by inch and day by day. Today is as much the day of Holy Dark as it is of Holy Light, which are forever in a dance with one another.

Litha 2021 Altar Designed and Photographed by Carol Boyer

The dance of green earth and night sky: the sun in its Chariot rides the glistening blue air in its daily travels and sinks below the horizon, not to disappear but so that you may experience His reflection in the moon’s mirrored surface.

The shadows cast by brightness are another kind of light, the illumination of the soul in its journey to perfection. The lessons this season are of the celestial bodies and the light they cast, you a brief speck in the oceans of their time, the vast expanse of their Universe.

And yet you matter in this instant as much as the Sun and Stars, fulfilling your purpose in your short human years as they do in their long epochs. For in your hands and heart the Light joyfully plays upon the strings of Planet Earth. And the shadows of your days flicker like candle flames, warming the empty cold expanse of outer space. Things so little and yet with such depth.

The stars are radiant specks to you, far away. So you are to us, radiant specks of indistinguishable time, forever part and parcel of the Universe outside of time where We live. As above, so below. As within, so without. As the future, so the past. A perfect reflection of indirect Light, the cascading God Force that enlivens every molecule of Creation. Not one atom is amiss, not one choice or action is wrong, but all part of the tapestry that always has been, is and always will be. For us, existing in one breath, the inhale and exhale, that encompasses the totality of all that ever will be.

From this long perspective, you commune with us today. Rest in knowing that all desires are truly met, all thought already reality. Step back from your human perspective and join the dance of the Cosmos in playful spirit and with open heart.

A Short Meditation in Honor of the Summer Solstice

June 22, 2021

I can’t help but associate Summer Solstice with freedom. This was the time of year when we stopped going to school and had a summer stretching ahead of us to do whatever we wanted. Even though many of us now work year round, there’s something delicious and open about the summer — wearing less clothing, being outside more, buying fruits and vegetables from farm stands.

This is the time of year that active, dynamic energy is at its peak, and the sun the strongest in the sky. It’s a great opportunity for us to feel powerful like the sun, allowing our rays to penetrate deeply into everything we do. Every time the sun is out, let it be a reminder of your own power and reach, of how your presence on this planet is an integral part of creation.

In the story of the Wheel of the Year, the God and Goddess are married and sitting on their thrones, surveying their domain. Take a moment to consider your domain and how you rule it. Sit peacefully for a moment and enjoy the world you have created for yourself. Let gratitude fill you.

If you’re looking around and not liking what you see, know this. Just as you created this life for yourself, you have the power to change it, to make different decisions, to choose again. The sun’s lesson at this time of year is that you are NOT stuck. Like the sun, you are all powerful.

This year summer solstice also falls on the full moon, a little extra light to clear our paths. The moon is like a mirror, reflecting the sun’s rays and illuminating what might have been lost in the dark. Now you can see clearly what might have been hidden previously. What do you see now, in the soft light of the moon’s glow?

If you enjoyed this introspection, please join us for our Litha ritual on Sunday, June 27 at 4 p.m. EST in virtual sacred space. Information on how to attend will be posted in our Facebook group, Meetup and emailed to our mailing list. You can join those through the links at the bottom right of our website, www.handsofchange.org.

Bright blessings!

Message from the Goddess at Beltane

May 2, 2021

We call upon Rhiannon, the Faerie Queen, at Beltane this year:

Photo by Celeste Horrocks on Unsplash

Rhiannon, great Queen of the Faeries,
Who grants sovereignty to the ruler of the land,
And to the internal workings of our hearts.
Golden Goddess of Springtime,
Call our spirits out of the slumber of winter
With the melodies of songbirds and
The rowdy kaleidoscope of blossoming impudence
That nudges the dead in their eternal sleep.
I call you, Lady of Wisdom and Rebirth,
To guide our transformation as we emerge again Rhiannon
From our cloistered hibernation as the monarchs we were always meant to be.

Photo and altar by Carol Boyer

Hear the words of the Goddess, the dust of whose feet are the hosts of Heaven:

The veil between the worlds grows thin once more. The elemental spirits peek out from behind trees, under rocks, through puddles and streams as Springtime brings new growth in a riot of color and a cacophony of life. Through the wildness of the teaming world, I am here with you, shimmering between the air waves and dancing through the night sky as the holy dark within.

Sing with me of new life, of hope and expansion, of venturing out from your needed cocoon that this last year has gifted and enforced in the timelessness of a sneeze and the length of a mountain’s days.

You will begin again, stepping into the world, free and unfettered by all the skins you’ve shed and words you’ve heard. Here is the silence and the ringing of eternity, right here in this space of sacred Now.

This is the breath between two laughs. A yawn in the vast reaches of time, where the fairies experience the physical world through dreaming your bodies, and the ancestors remember a time when they walked the earth.

Here you come to experience the illusion of your world and the reality of mine. What you think you know, begone! Learn again today of what your spirit sings to you. Experience the world as my people know it: A vast and beautiful realm of joy and play.

We come today to dance with you in celebration of this season, in the freedom that you have learned in your captivity… if you were lucky. Take all you need today to go forward in the ways of men and gods, that you may know the truth of your own nature where all the world’s a stage and you its players.

Theme 2021 – Regeneration

January 21, 2021

Cycles are the natural way that the world expresses itself – the seasons, life and death, even monthly hormonal expressions. So too are epochs expressed, and every day I thank the gods that I was born at this time and place to experience the miraculous changes in our world today.

Astrologically, the planet Saturn will be in Aquarius, which began with the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction at the Winter Solstice, through March of 2023, an event that psychic Michelle Whitedove calls “the dawning of the Age of Aquarius” and that spiritual teachers have been referring to recently as “the Great Awakening.”

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

While there have been a few Great Awakenings in history, never before have they been focused on care for the planet we live on, Mother Earth. This is something we as pagans have always been aware of, our interconnection with the biosphere we call home. Finally, our time on this planet has become a necessity, as the world slowly wakes up from the Great Pause.

In honor of this grand cosmic event and the shifting of energy, Hands of Change’s theme for this year is “regeneration.” Last year, the Great Pause, was about old things passing away and the in-breath that humanity took together before embarking on our next great experiment in evolution.

The Hindu god Brahma teaches us that the three million years of human experience is the blink of an eye to the gods, and so the change of an age is not a day or even a lifetime but perhaps hundreds of years. Nevertheless, Saturn’s march through Aquarius is a momentous time, a time of rebirth of many outdated ways of thinking and doing.

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

How do we navigate this change? That is the question we will ask over and over in the coming year as we continue to meet and pray virtually in our Friday night Wiccan Prayer Gatherings, for esbats and sabbats, and in our Hands of Change virtual community on FaceBook and YouTube . Please connect with us as we explore what regeneration means in light of the big changes coming this year.

The Season of the Child of Light

December 8, 2020

It may seem odd to be celebrating the Child of the Sun on the shortest day of the year, when the dark threatens to overwhelm us, but the Child of Promise is the harbinger of longer days are to come. This is part of the dance of light and shadow that we have been dreaming together this year.

The Child of Promise, also known as the Child of Light, helps us see through the dark into the Light. This is the Spirit within, the higher self, the Divine spark. When we see with our physical eyes, the world around us seems barren and dark, but we know because we have experienced the cycle of the seasons time and again, that what seems dead is really resting and getting ready in a few short months to burst forth with the beauty of the green earth.

Photo by Mohammad Asadi on Unsplash

It is this season that can remind you the most that you are truly the Child of Light yourself, the Sun God reborn into the darkness. You are the light of the world, spreading and connecting with all the other God Cells on the planet to create a web of light.

Without the longest night, you would not know your true shining nature of peace, hope and love. The holy dark provides the medium for this cell of Light that you are, to know itself, for without dark, the light cannot shine so brightly.

In the concept of As Above, So Below, finding the indwelling Child of the Sun within you is tantamount to understanding the Truth that the Holy Sun/Son is not only the reflection of the Sun Deity (Mithras, Ra, Amaterasu, Horus, Apollo, etc.), but also the Deity incarnate.

Photo by Daoudi Aissa on Unsplash

This is the magic and Mystery of this season, the chance to know yourself as Divine. In the Charge of the Goddess by Doreen Valiente, we are told,

“To thou who thinkest to seek Me,
Know that thy seeking and
yearning shall avail thee not
Unless thou knowest the Mystery.
If that which thou seekest
Thou findest not within thee,
thou wilt never find it without.”

Only in giving up the illusion (maya) of separation within us is the Child of Promise born into this world. This co-identification of Sun Deity Within is what brings forth the miraculous turning of the earth and change of seasons, the ebb and flow of the tides, and the dance of the stars in the heavens as co-Creators of All That IS. Only in realizing that the object of our spiritual quest is within can we regain the crown of spiritual sovereignty as the Child of Light.

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

In this season of Yule, we celebrate the dance of light and shadow, of life in death, and of the star in darkness. As a Child of Light, I greet you with light, and may you shine your light as a beacon of hope to the world.

Dancing with Light and Shadow at Samhain

November 3, 2020

When Hands of Change picked the theme of “dancing with light and shadow” this year, we didn’t have any idea of what was in store for us. We hold a coven divination at Samhain each year, but I don’t think we were in any way prepared for the amount of shadow coming our way.

At the beginning of the Great Pause, I remember thinking that by the end of it, we will all know someone who has passed beyond the veil. This year has certainly been filled with many shadows, from the incredibly polarized political climate to unrest and conflict to illness and deaths.

In order not to be paralyzed by the shadow, we have to remember and rekindle the light. This is our dance as lightbearers, healers, and magical people. The dance of creation is the dance of the phoenix, rising from the ashes of immolation. The dance of rebirth is the shaking down of the old to create the new. Courage comes to us from the fires of creation.

Photo by Juan Encalada on Unsplash

At this time of year, we often descend to the Underworld to commune with our honored dead and to say goodbye to those we have lost in the previous year. It is a time when we as Wiccans remind ourselves that those who have passed beyond the veil are not really lost to us, but waiting for us on the other side.

We’ve had what amounts to a month of Samhain ritual, starting with a procession to the goddess Ereshkigal in the Underworld at Ishtarfest to petition her on behalf of our beloved dead, then a last rites Wiccan Prayer Gathering called Holy Mud, then our small coven-only Samhain and coven divination for next year, and finally the public Samhain scheduled on Sunday Nov. 8 at 4 p.m. EST. (see our FaceBook event or join our mailing list for details).

Right now I feel more in tune with Demeter wandering the earth, bereft of her daughter Kore than with Persephone, the queen of the Underworld. The land has been blighted by the events of 2020, and Demeter has left her mark upon our souls.

It is in this dark time that we reach deep inside to find the light, to be a beacon for those in our communities overshadowed by death, discouragement, and disease. For those who are able, we dance the dance of the New Year as the wheel turns, spinning joy into our lives and beaming that joy to those around us. No one benefits from remaining in despair. Even in her own sorrow, Demeter tried to grant immortality to her host’s son (through fire, I might add) as she sought refuge in Eleusis.

Photo by Pablo Orcaray on Unsplash

It is in this spirit that I hold out my Light to you. Take my hand and dance the new year into being with me. Whirl hope and joy into your community. Through you, the light of Spirit is made manifest on this plane. Be the Light of the world and stand with me, casting light into the darkness and illuminating the shadows with our love.

Good news about some of our animal siblings

October 26, 2020

Here’s a little good news about the environment:

The Gulf of Mexico whale, which numbers fewer than 50 individuals, received endangered species protections.

The global summit on endangered species created stronger protections against the trade of Asian otters, giraffes, sharks and vaquitas.

A California court upheld a state ban on ivory sales that aims to help save elephants by reducing global demand for ivory.

(Source: NRDC)

Offerings to the Gods

September 30, 2020

From the many tablets and artifacts left behind by the ancients, we know quite a lot about the way that Sumerians practiced their religion. Many ancient cultures made offerings to the gods as a way to celebrate or appease them. Mesopotamia was no different.

In ancient Sumer, daily offerings at the houses of the Gods pleased them and made them comfortable. In fact, at one time, gods could expect four meals a day with multiple courses!

Statues could be votive offerings and could also contain offerings, in the case of a beautiful cup or plate. First fruit offerings might include wine, beer, barley and dates.

Different gods preferred different kinds of offerings. If it pleases you, gather some offerings to give to the gods at Ishtarfest. General offerings that any of the gods would like include animal and vegetable foods and libations of water, wine and beer, as well as the burning of incense. Beer, bread, lentils, olive oil, cheese, cream, butter, honey, and tropical fruits like dates are all good choices. Jewelry and statues also make good offerings.

Offerings for some of the gods that are mentioned during the festival (there are a thousand gods, so the list is not exhaustive) are as follows:

3Qtr Right

An, the Sky God: Feathers, incense (particularly cedar, anise, and lemongrass)

Dumuzi/Tammuz: any vegetation

Enki, God of Water: beer, spring water, cucumbers, apples with stems, grapes, fish, poem or other writing

Enlil, Air God: Food, land and precious objects. For this festival, some soil from your yard will do. Also, anything related to air, such as feathers, music or the breath.

Ereshkigal/Irkalla, Goddess of the Underworld: mortuary offerings made to the dead (bread and water), fasting, weep for her

Geshtinanna,  goddess of agriculture, fertility, and dream interpretation: vegetation, dreams

Inanna/Ishtar, Goddess of Love and War, Venus: incense, wine, artisanal beer, baked treats, cedar oil or incense, rose petals, lapis lazuli

Ki, the Earth Goddess: sand or earth, jewelry or precious stones

Nammu, Goddess of the Primeval Sea: salt water, seaweed

Nanna/Sin, the Moon God: Reeds, linen

Ningal, Goddess of the Reeds & Moon: olive, fig, and apple, along with nuts such as the pistachio, walnut, and almond.

Ninkasi, Goddess of Beer: toasting with beer

Ninshubur, Messenger Goddess: anything you would offer to Inanna would also please her vizier

Shamash/Utu, the Sun God: wheat flour (especially einkorn or emmer wheat, burn a candle or incense, the bill of rights or the constitution

Siduri, the Goddess at the Inn at the end of the World: toasting with wine

To find out more about the Sumerian gods, be sure to show up for Ed VanDerJagt’s class on Sumerian Deities on Saturday Oct.10 at 11 a.m. EST on Zoom.

The devotional ritual to Inanna and Dumuzi is another good choice for exploring the magic of offerings. On Saturday Oct. 10 at 5 p.m. EST, Valerie Vogt and Ivan Richmond invite you to bring food and drink offerings, which may be eaten afterwards. Traditional offerings include lentils, olive oil, bread, cream/milk, beer and wine.

Temple of Inanna & Dumuzi will lead a devotional involving offerings at Ishtarfest 2020.

Feel free to make offerings during the other rituals as well. Water will be appropriate for the Friday night ritual Procession to the Underworld, at 7:30 p.m. EST with special guest Elspeth. Traditional offerings will be appropriate for Saturday night’s main ritual The Sacred Marriage of Shadow and Light at 7 p.m. and Sunday’s Oracle of Inanna at 8 p.m.

If you want to make a meal for the gods, check out the Sumerian cooking shows on Saturday at 12 noon and Sunday at 9 a.m. and 12 noon. See our schedule for more information at http://www.handsofchange.org/ishtarfest.

 

Why Ishtar?

September 15, 2020

This is the 5th consecutive year that Hands of Change has offered a festival celebrating Sumerian mythology, religion and culture. What we seek to do with Ishtarfest is to help bring back the worship of the elder gods in modern day Paganism.

Greek thought can be directly traced to Mesopotamian/Sumerian societies. Both Hesiod and Homer relied extensively on Sumerian sources for their writings, and strong similarities exist between the two culture’s mythologies. These works were central to the development of Greek thought, which influenced European and American structural and cultural development.

The influence of the Mesopotamian city of Uruk reached as far as Egypt, where similarities can be seen between Sumerian and Egyptian artwork, as well as between their pantheons.

Growing up in our culture with Greek and Egyptian mythology taught in our classrooms, modern Paganism has taken on the flavor of those and more Celtic influences. We believe that it’s time to trace our roots back even farther to the Fertile Crescent to learn about the birth of pagan civilization and its influence on our world today.

The history of the festival, which occurred 6 times in this century, is as follows:

2003 – Shapatu of Ishtar, Two Nights in Babylon

2016 – Ishtarfest, featuring the play The Shapatu of Ishtar

2017 – Ishtarfest’s Sumerfaire, A Sumerian Renaissance Faire

2018 – Ishtarfest, Journey Through The Goddess (centering on the Goddess Chant – Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna)

2019 – Ishtarfest, to the Kur and Back (Sweat lodges and descent ritual)

As we move into our festival, we encourage you to find out more about the links between more modern pagan cultures and the inspiration that they derived from Sumerian religion and mythology. Our presenters will shed light on why Mesopotamia has relevance for Paganism today.

We are very honored to have some amazing speakers this year.

Oberon Zell, the father of modern Paganism, will present Mysteries of Mesopotamia. The Dawn of Civilization began around 10,000 years ago, in Mesopotamia— “The  land between the rivers” (the Tigris and Euphrates). Ancient Sumeria gave us the earliest writing (cuneiform) as well as origin myths that have come down to us in the Book of Genesis. But was there an actual “Garden of Eden”? And if so, where was it located, and what happened to it? And what of the legend of the great flood of Noah? Did that really happen—and if so, when, and how? And what was the Sumerian Underworld told of in the story of the “Descent of Inanna”? Oberon will reveal some of “Hystory’s Mysteries” from his current book project.

Jason Mankey, Llewellyn author and writer of Raise the Horns at Patheos Pagan, will be sharing information about the god Pan, who may have had his roots in Sumerian Dumuzi. Few ancient gods have captivated the modern imagination as much as the Greek God Pan. This workshop follows the history of Pan from his humble beginnings in the mountains of Arcadia to his rise into the pantheon of the ancient Greeks to his re-emergence in the 19th century. Find out what has made Pan so popular and ever-present for the last three thousand years.

Ancient Near Eastern echoes of the Astra Planeta and Greek Mythology will be addressed by Hercules Invictus. The gods and goddesses of both Mesopotamia and Greece have associations with planets in our solar system.

Michael Law will regale us with Hellenistic Astrology that was heavily influenced by Sumerian thought.

James Jacob Pierri of Auset Gypsy will discuss Isis, Ishtar, and the knots that bind. The goddesses Ishtar and Isis have much in common with one another, similarities in myth, image, ritual and magic! At the center of it all is the “Sacred Knot” that both Goddesses possess. His talk will provide visuals and a light meditation ritual.

These speakers and others will begin to unravel the mysteries that Mesopotamia beckons us as modern-day pagans to learn.

Cook Like a Sumerian

September 8, 2020

Have you ever wondered what people ate 4000 years ago? Well, it turns out that we actually know a little bit about that. At least four clay tablets from ancient Sumeria contain recipes for food from the time.

The earliest known cookbook was engraved in clay around 1600 BC by Babylon’s version of Wolfgang Puck. Even though there are words missing, it’s in Sumerian, and it doesn’t have any listed quantities, it provides valuable clues to our culinary past.

For you pagan foodies out there wondering why Sumerian food would have relevance to your modern palette, have you ever eaten Middle Eastern food? Yummy, right? Mesopotamia is modern-day Iran and Iraq, and the food from that advanced civilization is just as delectable. Modern Iraqi stew seems to be a direct descendant from the stew recipe found on one of the culinary tablets.

Sumerians might eat barley flatbread and honey for breakfast. The ordinary Sumerian’s evening meal might consist of fish mixed with cucumber, onions, apples, cheese, watercress, mustard, turnips and eggs. More wealthy locals added wild boar, venison, lamb, and water fowl to their diets. Milk, butter, and cheese came from cows, goats and sheep. Meals after a hard day of work could contain a grain cake cooked with diverse fruit, along with dried fish and a pitcher of beer. Vegetables were plentiful and added color to most meals.

Attend one of our FREE Sumerian cooking classes at Virtual Ishtarfest 2020 Oct. 9-12.

Come, feast your eyes and soul with recipes from the cookbook of Siduri, the Innkeeper at the End of the World. Learn to cook Gilgamesh’s last meal on earth. Maeve will conjure up Fesenjan, a walnut pomegranate stew. Traveling back in time she will breathe new life into this time-honored recipe using the slow cooker of a modern-day chef.

Conny Jasper will be creating a simple and delicious dessert using Sumerian spices. She’ll be exploring ancient food with nutritious and medicinal properties. Conny will discuss some of the delicious and health boosting Sumerian and Mesopotamian ingredients and recipes.

Not unlike other ancient cultures, Mesopotamia had its own version of fermented beverage – beer! They even had a goddess dedicated to this nectar of the gods named Ninkasi. Cernunnos will share a brief history of beer in Sumeria, as well as the role the brewing goddess played in the culture. Best of all this class will serve as a practical introduction to ancient brewing methods as our brewmaster demonstrates how to make an ancient Sumerian beer.

Dedicated priestess to the Goddess Inanna, our resident Sumerian expert Enheduinanna will recreate an ancient bread and date spread in her cooking segment. If you were at Ishtarfest last year, you know it was delicious!

We hope you will join us. Gates open at 4 p.m. on Friday Oct. 9. Be there or be a cooking pot!