Tag Archive | ritual

Transformative Alchemy

CatalinaStateParkA traditional Pagan invocation that has been edited and adapted through the years has most often aligned Fire with Spirit as: By the Fire of Her Bright Spirit.

Since moving to the Sonoran Desert, I’ve been seeking other words aside from Spirit that resonate with my personal sense of Gaia’s Fire. Living in the desert is a unique opportunity to become more familiar with Fire, more familiar than I ever desired to be, and this closeness continues to work within me as a sometimes unnerving or overwhelming changeability.

Spirit is all the elements of Air, Fire, Water, Earth, and including Ether/Space. Spirit is Shakti; Spirit is everything we sense and do and are that is manifested through Soul Journey. Fire is another element in our Biospheric journey that metamorphoses, transmutes; it is not only the light but also the invisible firing of neurons and the digestion of food and experiences. Fire is our chemical processing; it is often a mysterious force but still elemental, not solely Spirit. All the elements are Spirit, are derived from and infused with Spirit, and to align Fire as Spirit’s representative feels out of context in my prayer to Mother Earth.

And so, for now, I feel more aligned with shifting my language toward this metamorphic energy that is Gaia’s element of Fire:

By the Air which is Her Breath

By the Fire of Her Alchemy

By the Waters of Her Living Womb

By the Earth which is Her Body

We are One

As Above, So Below

As Within, So Without

 

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Hestia at Winter Solstice

Flame Pendant

Morning, December 21, 2012, meditation: 

Soft, subtle music plays in the background as I sit in contemplation, welcoming the Light of dawn.

In the recesses of my mind, I find myself crouched in front of an old, soot-tinged fireplace made of rough-hewn stone, a modest fire licking birch logs. The room is dark, but I know it is a cozy log cabin far off in a mountain forest, familiar and safe. I take a twig from the crackling fire and light three candles, clockwise, for the other directions; I face the fireplace, which is South.

Within the circle, Hestia comes to me. “Keep the home fires burning.” Her voice is crisp and raspy like the crumpled paper I use as tinder when wood is wet or kindling scarce. Hestia shows me that part of Her ‘homing’ is in the aspect of ‘frequency holder’ and that She is here to support that essence. She holds the point of convergence which is heart-communication; she is the core, the focus, around which wise women sit and pass the ‘talking stick.’ And she tells me this includes writing. I feel so welcome in Her warmth.

I touch my flame pendant and know that Hestia is a major component of inspiration and creativity … that the fires I write and ignite don’t have to be a bonfire someone could see from space! “Just use the flame that comes naturally.” Her unobtrusive whisper warms my inner ear. Hestia encourages me toward the flickering colors of creativity, alternately wielding “the Torch, the Candle and the Coal.”

With Hestia in the cabin, I relax into an exquisite sense of belonging.

Pre-Dawn, December 22, 2012, meditation: 

I return to the cabin of yesterday, a heavy patchwork quilt wrapped around my body, a veil upon my head, and light a single candle on the mantle to welcome the growing Illumination of longer days. Just one. For the Dark isn’t quite ready to relinquish her shadows … not just yet.  Hecate sings to those in the blackness … “come out, come out, wherever you are, and meet the young lady, who fell from a star.”  Hestia joins her voice in harmony, a gentle background of flickering, dancing flame, for She is the Great Goddess, unlimited by form or figure, by night or day.

Hestia is as old as the suns of a million stars, and Her spark is within every atom of existence.

_____________

Note: Hestia is often depicted in Classical Greek artwork as wearing a veil in supposed ‘modesty.’ I would proffer that originally her veil (pre-Hellenic) is actually part of her inward-focus attire, that the seers perceived her in a draped veil of introspection. Why do I see the veil symbol differently? Because I experience deeper contemplation when wearing a veil/scarf draped upon my head. The curtain-effect of the outer separation promotes and supports inner reflection upon that which is sacred, which allows the sacred flame to consume us within the ecstasy of eternal knowing.hestia

by the dark of the moon

The wet blanket was tossed over the fire to smother the flame as quickly as possible. Someone was coming, I was sure I heard a footstep crunch toward me from the darkness, and we don’t want to be seen.

We weren’t supposed to be here, see, the land was off limits, private property, only those dying few who had lots of money were allowed in here. A good heart didn’t count for squat among those kind. This land was held and used by The Moneybelts; I heard their ilk were called the something else a long time ago before the awakening, but it’s not important anymore. Now there were still a few private lands of lush forest and majestic mountains, like here, but no one could visit except the last remaining strange ones called The Wealthy.

So we sneak in and commune; we are here to celebrate life within these private velds of green. Instead of hoarding Her energy, we honored and gave offering to Her, our Mother Eairth. Oh, these weren’t the only green spaces, not by far. We’ve come a long way since the time of the Enlightenment when the scales tipped and then fell over to rust, the time of the Change when the majority simply refused to do any more work until all creatures and people were cared for and provided with enough. No, these green spaces still ‘owned’ and gated and isolated by The Moneybelts were few, but desperately in need of ritual cleansing to set free the spirits that lay within, remnants of an ignorant time when people thought bodies were the most important part of Life and so clung to them even in death, afraid to let them go, terrified of letting them return to the Mother as nourishment through transformation.

“I think whoever it was is gone.” Cloud’s whisper reaches my ears in the silence of the woods, carried upon the shadows of the dark moon night.

We pick up our shovels once more and began digging with reverence, casting prayers upon the elements, talking to the ones who were held confined to this space, afraid to leave because of the energies that bound them to their bodies within the vaults guaranteed to last centuries. Striking a hard surface, me and my friends brush the last bit of dirt away gently with our hands and open the lid of the casket. “Mrs. Miller, you’re free,” I whisper, and my sisters join me in an ancient chant. We take her bones and all that is left of her body, placing them within a hemp bag to take back to the funereal pyre built earlier in the night. I feel her sigh of relief caress my cheek upon the current of light cool breeze. Climbing out of the grave, I look across the dark expanse defined by tombstones and giant pine trees that rise tall and thick among the old stone markers barely legible, I see the bushes and ferns spreading themselves wild around the maze of once perfectly aligned burial sites where roots and quakes have shifted and lifted them out of their purchased complacency. Hundreds more to go, one at a time.

While we have the legal right to conduct these acts and rituals of liberation, rights provided by the Council of Elders, this compound and those like it remain heavily monitored by the Old Guard who cling to their archaic ways in spite of all that has been accomplished since the Great Shift, and it is said in hushed tones that they are still willing to kill just to maintain control and a semblance of power over others. They are so few now, they’re no longer a threat to the greater good throughout most of the world. But here, we are careful not to be seen. No one could imagine killing another human these days, or any living creature for that matter, but these people might. So rather than risk it, one of the initiations into becoming a priestess of passing is to slip into the fenced compound and free souls from their prisons. We know our duty and try to stay focused, but every so often one of us lets slip a nervous giggle. Which is what thirteen-year-old girls are prone to do, after all.

Survival

During Sadhana, as I began inadvertently reflecting (my “monkey mind” was jumping around during my spiritual practice) on how I had read “three tales of pilgrimage – Maiden, Mother, Crone,” my occasional scattered thoughts morphed into my own three phases of life which finally resulted in a tremendous cathartic release of my inner ‘bound Maiden’ as to …

I WAS NOT A FAILURE.

I SURVIVED.

Clearly, the abreaction shared below followed partially from the awareness raised during the Dark Moon ritual of last night.

* * *

Crying, sobbing, I realized that I still thought of myself during my Maiden phase of life as a failure, as someone who ‘couldn’t make it,’ who couldn’t meet the mark or live up to the expectations of myself, my ex-husband, my father, or society. That nothing I did was ‘successful’ (the details of my story are not unusual, encompassing everything from spousal abuse to attempted suicide to bankruptcy to falling down untold times). I never made anyone ‘proud’ of me, and I never received acknowledgement of my survival by those in positions of patriarchal authority. Namely … Dad. But this isn’t about him, not really — it’s about me. What do I feel and what did I feel back then? What happened and why? Sobs wracked my body as I lay in ‘bound angle pose’ with my heart open, my lower body open and vulnerable.

I began to express aloud what I was feeling by saying of the Maiden-that-was: “She was not a failure” repeating it over and over. Eventually, I could look inward and say to the Maiden-that-was: “you were not a failure” in mantra. Then, after many repetitions, able to say and feel the reverberations within and without: “I am not a failure.”  Barely getting the words out sometimes through a throat that kept closing, choking, sobbing. Old diaries from my 20s are filled with self-negation and anger, and, yes, at times, self-hatred for failing at so many things in so many people’s eyes, or so I thought. What I didn’t see through my own heart-led vision was that I survived — and that means I am successful. I had courage. I pushed through and found ways to survive, to begin the healing process, and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. It doesn’t matter if others saw my struggle as a struggle. All they could see is what I revealed and what their own eyes were willing to look at. I was vulnerable. And I survived. I made it.

When I sat up from asana … I hugged myself, hugged my inner Maiden who was bound and gagged and left in a dark corner  as unworthy, as a failure. I untied the stiff knots with strong, gentle fingers, and loved her for coming through and surviving. I had embraced the Mother in my 30s without integrating the Maiden — she was abandoned, slowly bound over time until she could barely move. Didn’t want her input — after all, I had thought she was a failure. Except that she wasn’t! She came through for me. She was strong and brave and continuously on the watch for healing grace through Nature. She not only survived — I survived, too.

For the three — Maiden, Mother/Queen, Crone — are intimately connected, constantly shifting. Even when one aspect is prominent, the other two are there, supporting even when unseen, un-felt, unacknowledged (as I had been). They witness, experience and lend their strengths. They are the Goddess Within, the Divine spark that continues to flicker, the powerful feminine energy of Shakti. There have been other steps I have taken toward integration — along the Gaia Path before I even realized what it was — yet I find each one is more profound and, while leading me into the light, also show the way into the caves of renewal to discover more bones and shadows for excavation.

The Dark Moon ritual undertaken last night en-couraged my psyche to go here once more — to uncover a few more stones upon the grave of the Maiden until she was visible once more. The power of ritual can never be underestimated. Outward journeys can reflect and reveal the inward path, helping us along the trail whether it lies in the cave or the ocean or the desert or on the mountain cliffs.

We are all successful. If we are still here, we are not failures. We have survived., are surviving, and even thriving at times when our path is one we can truly see and embrace with love … loving all the parts of ourselves along its edge … bring them into the core and embrace, integrate, heal. Look around at my sister and brother travelers — how many are struggling? Some on the outside, some on the inside — many both. Compassion wells up in me knowing that someone else has bound and gagged an angry part of herself, a part that deserves honor and recognition for surviving life.

I know now where much of my discomfort comes from when seeing an angry person ‘acting out’ … part of me is envious because I didn’t, couldn’t … but that doesn’t make me weak or a coward. I survived. I am not and was not a failure. I’m here and I’m living life full and present, and growing in every moment. So if the person I see is angry .. I feel their pain and hurt, and seek to bring more love, more compassion into our interaction, our community. How can I help? This is what I see through this anger … the anger I bound and gagged in myself, disguising it outwardly as a ‘chipper’ attitude.

And this also doesn’t mean I’ve been living a lie – I haven’t. For much of the past sixteen years, I have felt peace and love and contentment flowing through my life and I have welcomed these graces. I have been living within a safe space of healing and renewal; in a space of the Mother, a home of nurture and nature all around me.

We are a diverse and intricate design, we that are self-named homo sapiens … ‘self-aware’ … self-knowing … supposedly. Maybe after a while? It’s a journey. We are a work-in-progress here in the world of form. I attached myself to a need for recognition from Dad (and thus from other men, as in a partner, my ‘other half’ and all those patriarchal archetypes I was raised to believe in), who was unable to provide any softness or support in that way. I have always known, though, that he loved me and that’s what I need to open to now … the love, just the love. Because maybe he had an angry persona inside him, too. And maybe my freed Maiden can reach across the perceived limitations of death and time and space to hold his hand and just say … I love you. Without reservation or resentment or anger or hurt. Just … I love you.

And I love myself — all parts of me, for I do the best I can in any given moment. Don’t we all? How can we possibly know what someone else needs in their hurt or anger or even joy if we are living with a part of ourselves bound and gagged in the dungeon for being a ‘failure’?

Strong winds, cool air, blue sky, no clouds — dry and uplifting, I could soar with Raven without tiring. The Ravens are huge here in the Southwest, bigger than I’ve ever seen before, bigger than most hawks. Yes, I could fly with Raven right now, navigating the air currents, reflecting the sunlight off of blue-black feathers that shimmer like polished obsidian.

Sitting outside in the dawn of a new day, holding hands with the Maiden, I feel free as she squints into the bright light unseen for so long. That’s okay. I’ll give her my shades, and plop a straw sunhat upon her head. We’ll be fine in the bright sun. We’re survivors.

* * *

I KNEW SOMETHING big was coming out of my inner desire for pilgrimage, I just didn’t know how it was to manifest. And still don’t. This morning’s experience is just the beginning, a glimmer. But to return to how this recent catharsis emerged, I primarily go back to: (1) the Dark Moon ritual, and (2) the reflections upon the three visages of the Divine Feminine.

What I have realized is that if I hadn’t already been renewed in my connection to the Goddess Trinity, through coming full circle on the Gaia Path, I might not have recognized the tragic abandonment I experienced of my inner Maiden. Without my rediscovered resonance of Goddess within and without, and of Her three beautiful faces, I might have overlooked the hidden aspect of my Self that needs healing even though I was looking to the Dark Moon for release and guidance.

Dark Moon

Mid-week, at the mere recurring thought of doing a dark moon release in preparation for my pilgrimage, the following began to flow:

Dark moon shadows, fair moon light,

Cast off fears and let go fight.

All resistance fades away

as Dark Moon eats the fears that play

among the telling sounds of voice …

“I have the power. I am the choice.”

“I am the power. I have the choice.”

Sounds of joy fill my heart,

wishing well those fears depart.

All the inner tensions hiding,

release a father’s stern voice chiding,

or worries that my nature is strange … 

“Open up, embrace the change!”

 Clearly, I am ready and needing to release. While in the midst of morning asanas, I was gently massaging my belly and thinking that I am birthing … before I was gestating but now I am in the throes of labor — birthing a reshaped body, a different elemental landscape-blend of self as I see into the land around me — stark yet full of vigorous life — and I have the opportunity to express myself as I truly am … a guide, a teacher, a healer, one who shares what I’ve learned. And what I’ve learned is valuable. I have survived. My cocoon process has been slower than some but it is my process — so it’s okay. Faith carries me … being present to each moment sustains … creativity and inspiration open visions of future … the past is gone, release it.

 Motion calls me, I’m not done,

not by far … I see the Sun

still shining strong within my depths

light the way to each new step.

A phrase or poem pops in when I pause in these reflections, as if mirroring a fairy flitting in and out of existence. That’ show my rhymes have always felt, filled with an innocence of child-like wonder that sees the invisible realms, the inner reality.

I know that the Divine Feminine Yoga Telesummit this past week has been a gift. To listen to other women ‘in circle’ (via webinar) has been wonderful. To feel the abundance of wisdom and experience, the outpouring of love and support — the encouragement to do and be what we truly are — to expand and explore how to express into the world my gifts. Beautiful. And yet, I witnessed some ego responses rise within me as well, and made note of them to understand why. For example, wanting to hear the speakers rather than Laura, and feeling irritation at her interruption of the flow (seeing in those moments also, though, that I was lacking respect for Laura on some level for which I felt shame since she was the facilitator and creator of the event). I also felt a sort of harshness arise in my response to some of the perspectives shared by speakers who emphasized what felt like an aggressive energy; this is not my way, but many who have followed other paths and are different in nature may need this intensity to break free. At the same time, I also felt welcoming and loving to these women, often wanting to reach out and hug and share “me, too!” and/or “deep thanks!” in receptivity and community. There are so many of us — women and innocents — striving within our own unique natures to reach out and help others while concurrently healing ourselves. And that’s so important to remember … our natures of diversity. And to simply glance outside at the plethora of Mother Nature’s diversity is a Divine reminder. We mirror the blends of elements that are infinite variety!

Dark moon shining far away,

and yet I see the Light at play —

not the glare that blinds my sight 

but channels of revealing night

vibrate up and down my spine,

quiver all my senses — “Shine!”

I feel affirmations arise in the moment of writing, in this moment of who I am in the present, who I’ve become …

I am strong and perfect just as I am.

I am courageous and wise.

I am woman of experience and child of wonder who revels in both Beauty and Ugliness for the Divine Light of Love’s expression.

I am a compassionate woman.

I care deeply for others yet also care for myself.

I practice self-care and authenticity to be more loving and wise in the world.

I am living in a beautiful, amazing body.

I provide care for this body-temple to carry me through the world doing what I am called to.

I am gifted and know my strengths, and grow my abilities.

I see my weaknesses and hug them with tenderness.

_____________

And so, from the above free-flow writing, I created the following simple Dark Moon Ritual:

[Invocation to the Goddess]

I ask this night, with the waning moon in Leo (my own moon sign, according to my chart, though it has always felt very odd and slightly askew), to release into this special black stone my fears, my insecurities, and the criticisms I hear in my head from Dad, for whom I never felt I was ‘enough’ … to release into the stone whatever is holding me back from trying … to release into the stone whatever is preventing me from letting my own unique light shine.

[Repeat the free-flow poetry three times, followed by the affirmations as declaration of the Divine Feminine within]

_____________

Afterword: But what is missing in the affirmations? The Mother is there, so is the Crone. Where is the Maiden with her fire and drive and passion and lilting play? See how this ritual became a catharsis in Survival.