Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Winter Walk at the Turning of the Year

4 PM Christmas Day 2012: My husband, nineteen year old son, and seven year old daughter take a walk across the fields and woodland just before sundown. Apart from the honking chorus of a flock of geese, the woods are  still, but not silent.


A chickadee natters in the brambles and a crimson cardinal and his drab mate flit across the trail and into the lower branches of a maple. Up the hill, a buck and his doe bound uphill white tails flashing. I look through bare limbs down the sweep of the hill to the stream that flows at its base and to the rising sweep of land on the other side.  Above bare limbs, a waxing moon emerges from the clouds and sails above us.

This land is like a chalice--holding the trees, the animals, the sleeping life within roots and dens between its slopes. And as I pause and give thanks, it holds me as well.


A few months ago in the glory of fall and summer foliage, all of these small and beautiful details would be hidden. But in the Croning months, the time of severity, all that has fulfilled its purpose has been swept away and repurposed in the earth. Winter gives us the space to be still, to note the small details, to see more deeply and with greater clarity to the roots and depths within and without.


May this season of returning light bring you all the warmth of friends and family and the invigorating clarity of the winter woods. Blessings!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Samhain to Yule: Light in the Darkness

My coven celebrated Little Yule in a joyous ritual held at my home during which we welcomed two new members. The Yule tree sparkles with ornaments and multi-colored lights, and the house is perfumed with the aroma of holiday baking. The winter solstice and Yule are almost upon us. With the coming light, three months of shadow work is drawing to a close.  

 This season's shadow work began with an icy wake-up call from the Crone on Samhain night when I found myself in my very own bedroom confronted by a messenger dressed in black who tore chunks out of the  door to a very real crawl space behind my bed, then told me to "wake up." (See, When the Crones Pay A Visit, You Better Pay Attention) 

About a week ago, I performed a chakra cleansing meditation, felt marvelously calm, had a good night’s sleep and took a day trip with my children.  When we returned, happy and fresh faced, I ordered Chinese, put my feet up and thought, “Wow—a whole night and day has gone by—without at tap or a nudge.”  Later that night, as I boiled water for tea, I decided to open the last fortune cookie.  The message inside read, “Before you can see the light, you have to deal with the darkness.”    If I’d known what was around the corner, I would have stopped chuckling.

 The shadow work that I have been engaged in since Samhain has led me deep into my personal darkness with the ultimate aim of nurturing the light within me.  I have meditated, read, journeyed, journaled, and attended illuminating workshops and transformative rituals at Between the Worlds, an interfaith esoteric conference.    In The Gates of Yesterday and Tomorrow, a powerful ritual held at the conference, I promised in sacred space to let go of what I didn’t need and to move forward.

I returned from the conference feeling energized and enriched. School’s almost out! Yule is almost here!  I’d been working hard! Surely, I’d delved deeply enough, changed enough, moved forward enough. But the shadow work I’d chosen to perform wasn’t finished.  I had to demonstrate that I had the strength of will to go beyond my comfort zone and deep clean the house of my spirit. All that work had certainly opened me up for a test that made me dig into the core of my being on many levels. It was a test that I could only pass by casting away self-doubt—it was a test that I almost failed.

Just after Samhain, I’d prayed for fruitful vision quests hardly aware of what was ahead but willing to accept the Crone’s charge to “wake up.” I am not typically a lucid dreamer.  Therefore, when I have a dream where I see with clarity, speak with authority, feel the sensation of being pulled from the soles of my feet to  the skin of my back, I’m pretty sure that I’m being spiritually PMed.

I walk barefoot through the dingy rooms of a dilapidated Victorian house at the top of a steep barren slope with several narrow sets of dirty, old concrete steps.  It is an unpleasant house, upon the drab silent outskirts of a faded disagreeable neighborhood.

The rooms are dim-- the kind of twilight that greets you on a cold, dreary day. I feel squirming underfoot and shudder with revulsion as I realize that I am walking upon tiny mice and insects. Vermin infest every room. 

The house is filled with rusting—whispered secrets, scampering, evasions, and shadows. I know that I need to “wake up” and pay attention to details.     I want to destroy this infestation because I realize with disgust they infest my house.  It may be shabby, dank and inaccessible, the steps to the road may be treacherous and far below—but it is mine nonetheless. I know that it’s my job to clean it.  The job is so huge I want to run away, but I can’t.  Either I clean house or give up and accept defeat.

I feel a very real physical tug like the pull of tide. My body tingles with energy. The room darkens. Just ahead is swirling pulsing vortex of red light.   I know that place is not meant for me—that it’s not a safe place for me. I no more want to enter that vortex than I want to put my hand in an InSinkErator garbage disposal.  But this is my opportunity to get rid of all the psychic vermin once and for all.  It’s my choice.  . Words come to me. I speak them with authority and conviction. I speak from the center of my will and push energy through my solar plexus, “I banish you! Back! Back! Back!”   The darkness and vermin resist.  I push harder.  I feel and see the vermin coalesce and begin to stream away from me into the vortex.

I wake and reach for my husband’s warm, anchoring presence.  I snort softly.

Of course what I want and what I need are at odds. If I were a house—I’d want the world to see me as accessible, well kept, and full of cozy warmth. What the Crone has shown me is a structure far from this virtuous vision.  My outward self—my conscious effort and in fact a good deal of who I am and want to be and become is invested in being this welcoming home. But the Crone sent me farther inward, to this shadowed structure, to fulfill my promise and evict (if I so willed) pain and burdens that I need no longer carry. After the darkest night, the light waxes—in the heart of the shadows my own compassion and will to move forward create light. As I fall into true sleep, I feel a toddler’s delight in her first steps.