Persephone’s Departure, To Her Throne Beyond The Veil

“Persephone (aka Kore) was the Greek goddess of vegetation, especially grain, and the wife of Hades, with whom she rules the Underworld…According to mythology, Hades, god of the Underworld, fell in love with beautiful Persephone when he saw her picking flowers one day in a meadow. The god then carried her off in his chariot to live with him in the dark Underworld…Meanwhile, Demeter (Persephone’s Mother) searched the earth for her lost daughter and though Helios (or Hermes) told her of her daughter’s fate, she, nevertheless, continued her wanderings…it was decided that Persephone would be released but that she would have to return to Hades for one-third of the year…The story of Demeter and Persephone was perhaps symbolic of the changing seasons and the perennial change from life to death, to life once more, or in other words, the changes from summer to winter and the return of life in spring.”

-Ancient History Encyclopedia

I asked Persephone, “How could you grow to love him? He took you from flowers to a kingdom where not a single living thing can grow.”

Persephone smiled, “My darling, every flower on your earth withers. What Hades gave me was a crown made for the immortal flowers in my bones.”

– Nikita Gill, Conversations With Persephone

The autumnal winds of change have returned, and so we are called like a sweet song of decaying leaves on the wind, to the last frolic of fall before we descent once again into the underworld. That deep, dark, expansive death where nothing grows, called Winter.

Before we heed the call, we fortify our hearts agains the cold and dark, and prepare our minds by breathing the last remnants of summers bounty deeply into the depths of our beings. We frolic with nature, enraptured and in touch with our most youthful maiden selves. Innocence, playing at the flirtations of the sensuality of womanhood, and childlike wonder before life enters its next phase. We give endless thanks and gratitude for her gifts and wonders, and revel in her glorious display of colour and beauty. It feels as though she saves the best for last. A party of such elaborate decoration as to befit a Queen’s departure, back to her throne beyond the veil, sealed beneath a thick blanket of pure white snow.

As I sit here now, two days before All Hallows Eve, by the light of a beeswax candle, the tips of my fingers and nose cold with the newly arrived chill from an early onset of winter. I turn my mind back to this day of revelry. With it’s moody autumn skies and earthen scent of organic decay and a cacophony of colour exploding like yellow, red and orange fireworks in celebration from the roots, a parting gift to us all. The scent of wild sage and poplar leaves on the air, women lift their long skirts to romp in tall grasses, playful and natural, wearing boots made for a journey of adventure. Tucking the memories of summer away inside their travelling trunk, filled with peculiarities and earthen wonders to keep them company on their journey inward and down to the soul dark depths.

The day before this photoshoot, I embarked on a harvesting task with my two young sons in tow to carry on an autumnal tradition of building a besom (broom) made of sustainably harvested plants that have meaning and medicine for it’s maker. Traditionally it is hung above a doorway in your home for protection, and continued connection to all that grows, throughout the frozen days ahead. We found a beautiful fallen branch from a gnarly oak tree for the base, and gathered plants from one of our favourite nature haunts, with Persephone, sweet Goddess of vegetation in my thoughts. That night before the shoot, I added the harvested plants to other dried flowers with bits and pieces I had been collecting here and there during the summer. I wrapped all of them lovingly and with intention for the year to come around the oak branch with twine and white crocheted trim.

The next day, for our photoshoot, I took down the broom I had wild-crafted the year before and we used both the old and the new for our photoshoot. The shoot itself served as a ceremonial send off, a beautiful farewell to our old broom that graced our home for the previous year, as well as a consecration for our new broom that would live with us for the year to come. After the photoshoot, I lovingly untied my old broom and released it to the flames of a bonfire in our backyard, bathing in it’s sacred cleaning smoke. I then hung my new broom up above the door in place of the old one.

“The broom had been associated with female magic and the social contributions of the wise-woman ever since ancient Rome, where sacred mid-wives used special broomsticks to sweep the threshold of the house after childbirth, to repel evil influences from mothers and their babes. The broom was also associated with the ceremony of marriage as conducted by priestesses. Among Gypsies, whose marriages continued to be performed by wise-women, jumping over the broomstick was an essential part of the rite.

So closely connected were the wise-women and their brooms that medieval authorities naturally supposed the broom to serve as a magical steed able to carry a witch to her sabbats. Hence the image of the broom-riding heretical women:

“So witches some enchanted wand bestride/ And think they through the airy regions ride.”

Many superstitions attached themselves to this basic idea.” – Barbara G. Walker, The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects

“While it does not usually touch the ground, it is used to “sweep out” the negative energies in a room, and is often held a few inches above the ground to do so.” -Wikipedia, Besom

With our hearts warmed by the nurturing company of women, meaningful tradition in harmony and connection with the earth, we prepare. We embrace the natural life-death-life cycle, syncing up with the rhythms of the sun, moon and earth. Like Mother Nature herself we flow without resistance through change and transformation again and again through the seasons of our lives. Our homes, now warmed by bringing some of natures bounty and medicine indoors for the cold, dark months ahead, we fortify our spirit for the most challenging season ahead.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Joey Senft Photography

MODELS: Kitty Berns (Freshair Boutique), and Tara Cole-McCaffrey (Patron of Dreams)

HAIR & MAKEUP: Each model did her own hair and makeup, although it should be noted that Kitty is a phenomenal hair stylist!

STYLING and ARTISTIC DIRECTION: Tara Cole-McCaffrey(Patron of Dreams)

WEARING: Vintage wardrobe (Coats, dresses and boots) for sale at Patron of Dreams Shop

The Future is Feminine

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“I want to thank everyone who broke their silence this year and spoke out about abuse and harassment. You are so brave. So people out there who are feeling silenced by harassment, discrimination, abuse, Time’s Up! We see you, we hear you and we will tell your stories.” – Reese Witherspoon, 2018 Golden Globe Awards

“Today I will wear black in solidarity and gratitude with all women in all industries, acknowledging our mutual power and vulnerability. #TimesUp on silence, on imbalance of power, on inaction.” -Susan Sarandon

“What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I am especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories.” -Oprah Winfrey, 2018 Golden Globe Awards

We live in a Man’s world. Designed by Men, for Men. I know that for some of you, that elicits a defensive response. I’m sorry it’s hard to hear, but it doesn’t make it less true. Some find it hard to relate, or understand when hashtags like #MeToo and #TimesUp are made popular by Hollywood, a demographic of society which many of us can’t relate to. It’s important to understand that the struggles, inequalities and horrors that Hollywood is only now blasting a spotlight on, on TV’s, phones and computer screens all around the globe, happens everywhere, to every girl and woman, for all of our written history. Those with power and position in Hollywood who choose to use their platforms to bring the truth to light and make change, should be commended. Their experiences aren’t different than ours, they just have the world’s attention.

I am just a regular woman, living a regular life, but I too have a story. Too many stories to share them all here, but none of them are new or exceptional or special in any way, that is what makes them significant. The fact that they are common-place enough that even I have been programmed to accept that this just how it is to be a woman in this world. I had become complacent about my own numerous experiences with inequality and sexism, simply because they were just a normal daily part of being a woman. Well, as the world has said loud and clear, TIME’S UP!

I have been groped, sexually assaulted, and cat-called by Men on many, many occasions. Too many to remember all of them, but enough for it to have damaged my self-worth. I’ve been pulled away at parties, cornered and aggressively held against my will at least 3 times by 3 different Men during my teen years. When I was a pre-teen, I slept over at a friends house when her parents were having a party. Her very drunk Uncle cornered me in her bedroom, had me backed up against the wall and started trying to touch me. My friend ran from the room and went to get her teenage brother, who got his Uncle out of the room and slept in a sleeping back on the floor against the door all night to keep us safe. I fear for what may have happened to me on any one of those occasions, had good friends not come for me. Far too many are not so lucky.  I learned from those experiences that I was not safe in this world. I had to always be vigilant and guarded and keep an eagle eye of protection on my female friends when we went out into the world. If I am alone at night, I fear for my safety. This is the world we live in.

As I got older and pursued a career, I experienced an entirely new form of sexual discrimination. Working as an Environmental Consultant at an Engineering Firm, I was sexually objectified out in the open, publicly on job-sites by both co-workers and clients alike. One time I was asked on the sly by a co-worker for the details about what was going on between me and another male co-worker. I learned that a rumour was going around my office that I was having an affair or at the very least, fooling around with one of the only friends I had at work. Keep in mind that there were only about 5 women in my entire office at that time. Yes, he was a Man and was happily married, I might add. I was also happily living common-law with a Man, who later became my Husband. Of course nothing happened between us. It didn’t have to. Just being friends with a Man was enough to arouse suspicion and start a vicious rumour that damaged my reputation at my workplace. On another occasion, I was asked to provide a character reference for an old school-mate who was applying for a job at my company. I told them that yes, he’s a great guy and a hard worker, and they should definitely hire him. I later found out that although I had been there for years already, had more experience and authority than him, and the same level of education, he was making more money than me. When I addressed it with the Office Manager in confidence, he told me that the new co-worker and his wife had a baby on the way, so he needed the money more that I did. I think that this was the first time I truly understood the nature of sexual inequality, and that it was indeed still alive and well.

Despite these experiences, I went on to work at a much bigger and more significant company, in a more responsible role. All went well, until I got pregnant with my first child. My intentions were to go back to work after my 1 year Maternity Leave, so through my pregnancy, I worked harder than ever to make sure all my ducks were in a row to ensure things would run smoothly in my absence. A few weeks before I was to leave, I brought some concerns to the table in a meeting with my department as well as several consultants I was responsible for managing. My Boss, said that since I was to be leaving soon, I “shouldn’t worry my pretty little head about it.” My concerns and suggestions were dismissed without further discussion. I was devastated, and humiliated in front of my peers and subordinates.

About 6 months after leaving for Maternity Leave, I spent hours on the phone to Human Resources about the daycare that was supposed to be going into my building for employees kids, that now wasn’t going to happen because the company had decided they could make more money renting the space for events. This left me in a very difficult child-care situation, where 1 year waiting lists for daycares was the norm. I also tried to negotiate more flexible hours, or the possibility of job-sharing, but alas, they told me my position held too much responsibility, required too much travel and wouldn’t allow for that flexibility. In addition I asked HR where the designated room is for returning Mothers to breast pump. I fully expected that for a huge company in a brand new, multi-million dollar state of the art building, full of women of childbearing age, that they had taken that need into account and provided a room for those returning from Maternity Leave who are weaning their babies from nursing. To my dismay, they had no such room, or fridge to store the breast milk until the end of each day, and a mini fridge at individual desks was not permitted. It’s important to note that at the time, Maternity Leave was 1 year long, and the Health Canada recommended duration for breast-feeding was also 1 year. For anyone who has never breast fed a baby, it isn’t like a water tap that you can just turn on and off. A woman’s body produces enough milk to meet the demand of the baby, so weaning your milk production down until you no longer produce milk can take weeks, sometimes months depending on your baby’s needs. So, if you plan to breast feed for a year as recommended, you will likely still need to pump once you’ve already returned to work at the 1 year mark. That’s not to say anything of the choice to breastfeed for longer if you wanted to, which I did. Currently the Canadian Pediatric Society recommends,  “…exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. At about 6 months, your baby will be ready for other foods, but you can continue breastfeeding until your child is 2 years of age and beyond.”  My employer expected me to sit in a bathroom stall on the toilet to pump my breast milk, so my baby could eat and my breasts wouldn’t end up engorged, painful, or worse, with a mastitis infection. So, needless to say, with so many frustrating obstacles to face, in addition to the stress and emotional nature of returning to work after a Maternity Leave, I quit. It was just one more example of how the world I was living in was not designed for women. I payed back my Maternity Leave top-up money and I never looked back.

So yes, we live in a Man’s world, that has not been designed for women and all the changing roles they may have within their lifetime. A world where in the past women have had to use their physical beauty and manipulation to get what they needed or wanted because asking directly was not an option. We evolved into a time where women had to be quicker, smarter, have a thicker skin and more aggressive ambition than the men around them just to play on the same field, let alone be successful at the game. We have had to prove ourselves, being tested again and again to gain permission to play, and once we make it into the game, we have needed the resilience of a warrior to carry on through the sexism, objectification and the endless justifications required for our ideas to be heard, and our needs to be accommodated. Not to mention the sexual harassment, belittling and disempowering. Even in this environment, women have stayed their coarse. We have gained legal acknowledgement as “persons” instead of property.  We have won the right to vote and own property. Despite the horrors of watching our sisters burn for their knowledge of the cosmic cycles, plant medicines and the natural processes of birth and death, we have gained the freedom to practice our crafts and arts, love and marry who we wish, and the right to keep our own name if we so choose. We have come so far because we have rallied together and not given up. We have learned to hold each other up, cheer one another on, and be companions and comforters through dark and difficult times. We have shared our knowledge, experience and gifts with one another through the generations that Her Story did not make it into History. We have been each other’s strength. A secret sisterhood. Keepers of the divine feminine, nurturing, protecting and blowing gently on the embers to keep the warmth and light going until the time comes to build a fire the likes of which the modern world has never seen. A fire that will cleanse all the pain and oppression and fear that has kept our world imbalanced for so long. A fire that will draw the women and men back together like moths to a flame and restore the balance.

Until then, women of the world, we must continue to rally together. We must gather and share our personal stories. We must honour one another and celebrate one another’s efforts and successes. We must support and sing one another’s praises. We must shed light on all the characteristics we have always had that have not been recognized in the past. We must cheer women on for their intelligence, creativity, innovation, and ingenuity. We must celebrate our intuition, emotions, sexuality and motherhood as divine. We must reclaim our sovereignty. We must love each other and hold one another up so fiercely that our love and encouragement resonates so deeply between us that it shatters the glass ceiling. We must fill future HERstory books with the power of love and compassion that make the history of war, fear and power struggles look like primitive child’s-play. Above all, we must love ourselves and stop looking for external approval and validation. There was a time not that long ago, that our sister ancestors were owned as property. The time has come to look that ugly past in the eye, allow it’s pain to rattle our bones and then step past it into our empowerment. Stop looking for a permission that will never come. Own yourself and take your position. The future is ours. The future is feminine.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

MODELS: Leanne Sanders and Tara Cole-McCaffrey

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP, ARTISTIC DIRECTION: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

CURRENT FASHION: Embroidered parasol from Prairie Sky Books, and sunglasses and glasses from Urban Waves.

VINTAGE: Lace dress on Tara by Precious Threads Vintage and embroidered elephant vest from Metal Physical Moon (Found on Corydon).

Be a Queen

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“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” –  Oprah Winfrey

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You’re the type of woman a man should never let go of

you’re the type of woman men regret losing

nothing about you is ordinary

choose someone who knows this…

never settle for less than you are…

– r.h. sin

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She has the mindset of a Queen and the heart of a warrior

she is everything all at once

and too much for anyone who doesn’t deserve her

she is you

-r.h. sin

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Being a Queen is a state of mind. It’s about hearing all the noise around you; the opinions, the criticisms, the suggestions, and considering them all without allowing them to sway your truths and values, or rattling your core.  A Queen makes difficult decisions every day and understands the flow of give and take to maintain balance and order.  A Queen knows that she is ultimately alone and responsible for her own happiness, and at the same time she is a part of everything and everyone. A Queen knows her worth and holds herself in high regard so that others may do the same. She understands that a deep respect for herself and unwavering values commands the same from others.  She is all women.  She is maiden, lover, mother and matriarch.  She is goddess, and servant, and witch and warrior.  She is your screams and tears and fear and anger.  She is your love and compassion and tenderness and joy.  Through all things, she is serene.  Although the depths of her heart may rage and churn like angry waters through all that she must do, and the choices she must make, the surface of her soul stays calm and clear like glass.  She does not shatter.  She is strength and peace personified.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams.  Hair cut and colour by Kitty Berns of Berns & Black.

VINTAGE FASHION: fur hat, wool coat, fur stole and boots all from The Ruby Slipper Vintage Shoppe.  Purple sari from Value Village Thrift.

NEW FASHION: Indian mirrored vest and tunic top from Shakti, layered necklace (VEGAS & MAX) from Mirina Collections (USE CODE: “tara” at checkout when you purchase anything from the site and receive 20% OFF!!!)