The Seasonal Psychologist: On Winter Solstice

The Seasonal Psychologist is a year-long series by Pagan Psychologist Betz King.  Each piece corresponds to one of the 8 Pagan Sabbats, or holidays, while exploring ways to use the symbolism of the season for personal growth and in clinical practice.

I conceptualize both my personal development, and that of my clients, within the framework of our local 4-season landscape. Mostly this means a framework of trees, crops native to Michigan, and lots of plants, crops and flowers. wheelThe Pagan path is a seasonal one, hosting 8 holidays called Sabbats. They parallel the movement of the sun across a year. Each holiday expresses a facet of the relationship between Light, Dark and life. I use them as lenses of reflection, opportunities to contemplate the cycle of birth, growth, harvest and death that impacts all living beings.

As a Pagan psychologist, many of my clients have some form of an earth based belief system. This allows us to revisit treatment goals seasonally. The view from my office window is lush with trees. A simply glance outside provides the framework for our review; whatever the trees are doing becomes an invitation to consider the same within ourselves.  The Oak trees that were at the height of their strength in midsummer have been usurped by the Holly, whose strength peaks at Midwinter, and we are reminded that one season’s strength is another’s weakness.

Winter Solstice, also known as Yule, celebrates the return of the Sun.  It occurs on the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the sun’s daily maximum elevation in the sky is the lowest. Lasting only a moment in time, it marks the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days.  Of all the year, it is the day with the greatest number of hours of darkness, often called “the longest night of the year”.Holidays at the end of our calendar year and the beginning of the next often thematically involve light, both real and metaphoric. Legends and lore share thematic expressions of miracles, hope, luminosity and triumph. Whether the birth of Jesus on Christmas, the enlightment of Buddha on Bodhi’s day, the festival of lights during Hanukah or the lighting of Kinara candles at Kwanza, these holidays and many more invite people to gather during the darkest time of the year, to celebrate and give thanks for having conquered both internal and external darkness.

Imagine that your entire existence depended on the favor of the Sun.  With it, your crops would grow strong, and after the harvest, you could store food for the winter.  With it, the days would be warm enough for your livestock to naturally mate and reproduce, thus providing you with meat, milk and skins.  With it, there would be enough warmth and daylight to travel safely to distant lands for supplies and celebrations.  Prior to our “civilized ways” we depended on the Sun, its light and warmth, for all aspects of our survival.  Hence, the day that brought us the return of the sunshine was truly a day of celebration, as it brought hope to a time of darkness, and assured continued life

Psychologically, this is a time to celebrate that we have lived through the darkness, and are guaranteed an emergence into light. It is the dawn that comes after the dark night of the soul. Consequently, we give thanks for all that has sustained us. In Michigan, even though the days grow longer, we have at least two more months of cold snowy weather, and it’s easy to forget that each day brings another minute of light.Winter Holiday Altar

holiday altarAs both a professor and a clinical psychologist, December finds me surrounded by anxious students who fret over final papers and exams, with grades needing to be entered, and a new semester to prepare for.  Clients, cast back into family roles they’ve worked hard to transcend, often regress and need help re-stabilizing. The peaceful vacation I imagine rarely comes to fruition, while the ‘reason for the season’ is buried under social obligations and caloric intake.

This month, my clients and I will plot our way through these paradoxically stressful celebrations, while honoring the triumph of personal light over personal darkness. Like McCartney and Lennon, we acknowledge that “it’s been a long cold lonely winter”.  We trust that the lengthening days will show us how “that ice is slowly melting”, as we joyfully declare “here comes the sun”!  Another cycle of growth and harvest lays before us and the goals for spiritual growth and actualization that we named at Samhain are now articulated in greater detail.  Therapy becomes a time for thumbing through the seed-catalogs and plotting out the actual garden of our next growth cycle.

As your travels carry you past the seasonal displays of lights, I invite you to name the darkness you have traversed through and triumphed over. Name also the strengths that have served you, for they are tools that you can use again and again. As you negotiate parties, trips, family and gift giving, can you focus on the real reason for the season?  Can you feel, in your bones, heart, spirit or soul, the celebration that comes from overcoming adversity?

By reminding ourselves of what our ancestors knew – that it is always darkest before the dawn – we are able to wait with faith for the returning Light, and to give gratitude for what is illuminated.  Bright Solstice blessings to all!

Betz King, PsyDBetz King, PsyD, LP  is an associated faculty member in MiSPP’s master’s program.  About her new blog series, she writes, “The Seasonal Psychologist explores my intersectionality as a Solitary Pagan and psychologist, through an integration of teachings and tools from both psychological and spiritual traditions.”  Read more about Dr. King, including her American Priestess / Priest Training Program, here.

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The Seasonal Psychologist: On Samhain

The Seasonal Psychologist is a year-long series by Pagan Psychologist Betz King.  Each piece corresponds to one of the 8 Pagan Sabbats, or holidays, while exploring ways to use the symbolism of the season for personal growth and in clinical practice.

I conceptualize both my personal development, and that of my clients, within the framework of our local 4-season landscape. Mostly this means a framework of trees, crops native to Michigan, and lots of plants, crops and flowers. The Pagan path is a seasonal one, hosting 8 holidays called Sabbats. They parallel the movement of the sun across a year. Each holiday expresses a facet of the relationship between Light, Dark and life. I use them as lenses of reflection, opportunities to contemplate the cycle of birth, growth, harvest and death that impacts all living beings.

As a Pagan psychologist, many of my clients have some form of an earth based belief system. This allows us to revisit treatment goals seasonally. The view from my office window is lush with trees. A simply glance outside provides the framework for our review; whatever the trees are doing becomes an invitation to consider the same within ourselves.


Pagan wheel resting against a tree.

Holidays at the end of October and the beginning of November often thematically involve death, darkness, atonement, endings and reflection. All Saint’s Day, All Soul’s Day, All Hallow’s Eve and Dios de los Muertos have all lent influence to the most secular and widely celebrated Halloween.

My holiday, Samhain (pronounced  SOW-in) honors the end of the harvest season, the darkest, coldest time of the year and the influences and gifts of our ancestors. It is believed that the ‘veil between the worlds’ is thinnest at this time, which allows communication with ancestors who have crossed into the Summerland (a sort of Pagan heaven). Our Halloween ghosts and goblins are very watered down expressions of this ancestor homage. Given that the next Pagan Sabbat, the Winter Solstice, is when the days grow longer and the light returns, some Pagans (including myself) consider Samhain to be the Spiritual New Year.

Psychologically, this is a time to contemplate one’s accomplishments from a big picture, year long perspective, as one might contemplate the health and bounty of the crops after the harvest has come in. It is a time to set new goals for the coming year, and to give thanks to the ancestors for their many gifts and blessings. As a chill comes to the air and the days grow shorter, this is also a time of surrender and endings, as we in Michigan pull out our winter clothes and begin to spend more time indoors. Some years the trees are completely naked, having dropped all of their leaves with grace and ease. Other years they are full still. I remind myself and my clients that we get to choose how we let go of things that no longer serve us. We can surrender and accept, or we can gnash our teeth and fret. Leaves falling outside the therapy room window are lovely teachers. They remind us that even in seeming death, there are the seeds of new life.

Pumpkin carved with Samhain star lit within by a candle.

This week, my clients and I will talk about their entire past year of treatment goals. We will celebrate goals met, assess those still pending, and if appropriate, explore and honor the influence and gifts of the ancestral family tree. I will remind them that the next 6 weeks are the darkest of the year, and we will discuss strategies to cope. We will also contemplate the darkness of our unexpressed shadow parts, our own inner demons and gremlins that have so much to teach us. Lastly, as part of the Spiritual New Year, we will make amends to those we have harmed, and set goals for spiritual growth and actualization for the year ahead.

As the daylight grows shorter and Halloween offers it’s pageantry of costumes, I invite you consider the costumes that you wear. Do they still fit or have you outgrown them? Would you like to try another? Is there a Halloween costume that you are drawn to, and if so, what might that mean? Could it be a message from your hidden and powerful shadow side?

Carl Jung (1945) devoted much of his work to the exploration and excavation of the shadow, and his words are particularly potent at this time of the year:

“Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness.

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.

The later procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.”

How can you use this reflective time to learn more about the relationship between your ideal and shadow parts, in service of illuminating the sweet spot where polarities are integrated into wholeness?

Altar with photographs and candles.

When the ghosts and goblins come to your door, take a moment to consider the ways that you are like those people and animals who are no longer part of your daily life, but remain in your heart. How are you keeping their energy alive in the world? Light a candle next to their pictures and be grateful to stand on their shoulders.

By becoming more familiar with both internal and external darkness, and by considering ourselves as an extension of all who have come before and left pieces within us, we meet the year’s end with enough grace and courage to begin another trip around the Sun and the seasons.

To all celebrating, Blessed Samhain and Happy Halloween!

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The Seasonal Psychologist: On Mabon

mybackyardfallThis is a new series I’m writing for the Michigan School of Professional Psychology – a blog for each of the Pagan Sabbats: http://mispp.edu/the-seasonal-psychologist-on-mabon/

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Rainstorm Ritual

I took 2 weeks off from everything at the end of August and broke my foot 2 days into my vacation. My long imagined adventures and accomplishments came to a grinding halt as I came to a hobbling halt. In what seemed like no time at all, and yet took forever, my vacation came to an end with the Labor Day weekend.  It held no fun, just chores, food and naps, over and over.  My return to the classroom loomed just ahead.  Hours before bedtime, I tackled long postponed work items; billing, bills, banking, a to-do list for the week ahead.  The sky darkened and it began to rain.  Then it rained harder, and harder, until I could not stop myself from taking a seat on the deck, overlooking the forest and river.  The wind through the trees was audible, a loud white noise.  Thunder growled from the West.  The rain beat its rhythm on the earth, slow at first, then faster and faster, harder and harder, until the world was wet.  Wet air, wet ground, wet trees, wet beings…. And the wet was good, it was warm, it did not sting, it was benevolent and kind.  “Wait a minute,” I thought to myself… “when water is benevolent and kind, it is not a rainstorm, it is a ritual,  a consecration, come to make holy all that has forgotten holiness,  and just in time for the beginning of the academic year, and the end of the Pagan year!”

rainI smiled to myself, and gave words to all that I wished to surrender: cynicism, doubt,  judgement, generalized fear, procrastination, broken bones, dog drama and head-spaces that are not mindful… Then I sent the cleansing waters to others in my life, like if a shower and a telegram had a baby.  I had no doubt that it worked.

When my cast became soggy, it was time to say goodbye to the magnificent rain forest in my own backyard.  It smelled of clean wet air with a base note of mud.  Hands to heart, I thanked the Elemental ruler of Water, Nixa, and her subjects the Undines.  I thanked them like sisters thank each other after tackling a difficult task.  We sort of high-fived. I returned to my dwelling, grateful and thrilled for the sudden ‘drive-by’ consecration, compliments of a rain storm and a bit of intentionality.  A clean slate to begin the school year, and a clean slate to enter the season of darkness in the Pagan year, as the days grow ever shorter, and the Light more precious.  Alpha and Omega, cleansed and returned to center, to balance, to receptive presence.

I could not have created this intentionally, for obvious weather-related reasons.  This ritual required me to realize it in the moment that it showed up, not as a rainstorm, but as a consecration. Thankfully, I recognized the difference, because I’ve been working hard to remember the language of the land.  The elements don’t just talk to people who have special abilities to hear them, they talk just the same as birds or bugs or people.  With time, their expressions are as easy to guesstimate as any other foreign language.  We can practice anytime we experience earth, water, fire or air in a glorious setting; just by sitting still, breathing deep and listening.  We can simply use our intentionality to allow the fire  to burn away, the wind to blow away, the water to wash away and the sweet earth to ground all that no longer serves us.    We can trust ourselves and our imaginations. We can release forgetfulness and remember our holiness.  It’s all available in our own backyards.

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Contacting the Priestess / Priest Within – A ritual skills workshop series

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American Priestess / Priest
Training Program – Ritual Skills:

Link to brochure here

Workshops conclude with a formal ritual or ceremony,
to assure experiential learning.

February 4, 2016 – 1pm-4pm – Sacred Space: Principles of Sacred Space Creation and Maintenance, Symbol Systems, Intentionality and Ethics.

March 18, 2017 – 1pm-4pm – Ritual & Ceremony: Types of Rituals, Ritual Recipes, Use, Clearing and Charging of Magical Tools.

May 6, 2017 – 1pm-4pm – Intermediate Ritual & Ceremony: Metaphors in Magical Work, Attributes and Correspondences, Embodied Ceremonial Movement.

June 17, 2017 – 1pm-4pm – Energetic Intelligence: Chakra Balancing, Aura-work, Self Protection and Energetic Frequency Management Skills.

July 29, 2017 – 1pm-4pm – Intermediate Energetic Intelligence: Divination & Oracles, Reiki I (initiation included).

September 16, 2017 – 1pm-4pm – The Self of the Priestess / Priest:  The Tarot “Fool’s Journey” as a template for Spiritual Awakening, Personality & Magical Work, Self as Instrument of Healing.

October 28, 2017 – 1pm-4pm – Shadow-work & Ancestors: Integration of polarities, Anima & Animus in Ritual, Family Constellation Work and Altars.

December 9 – 3pm-8pm (note time change) – Winter Solstice Ritual:  Previous trainings will be synthesized into a formal initiation ritual for those who have completed all 7 previous trainings & the Capstone Project.  Each student may bring one guest to this potluck Winter Solstice Ceremony.

Feb 4-Dec 9 – Capstone Project / Independent Study: This is an opportunity to enter into an independent study of an area of interest.  Comprehensive readings and a course project exhibiting mastery are required.


Workshops occur at:
Betz King & Associates – 26105 Orchard Lk Rd #207
Farm. Hills, MI 48336
(248) 788-5798

Link to brochure if paying by check here
O
r pay using Pal Pal below

Pay Pal – session dates & prices



Please direct questions to betzking@gmail.com or (248) 788-5798

 

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four questions:

  1. what are you trying to keep?
  2. what are you trying to get rid of?
  3. what are you trying to deny?
  4. what would happen if you stopped trying?acceptance-revised
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Ofrenda de mi Perra (Altar for my Dog) – Detroit Institute of Arts

Rescue pup Morgaine died during a routine surgery that appears to have been both negligent and covered up.  In pursuing justice for her, we’ve learned that animals are considered property, and their human companions have no legal protection.  This Ofrenda expresses the heartbreak of Morgaine’s sister-pup Willow, and honors our commitment to secure justice on her behalf.

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EcoJustice & Activism – Eastern Michigan University

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Red Tent Movie: Things We Don’t Talk About

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Gestalt-Collage: A projective self-inquiry intervention.

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