I've seen a ring of thirteen cats - twelve of them were black -
Communing in a circle in my garden out in back....
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(Photograph courtesy of Julia M. Hayes and No Worries Farm)
I get lost when I gaze into this picture taken on my farm in Eastern Washington one frigid winter morning. The peace that comes over me when I stare and lose myself is immeasurable. Looking at this image I'm reminded of the feeling of surrender, which depending on the situation can feel horribly vulnerable or ultimately freeing. I've reached a place in life where I'd prefer to be free than resist the flow because of an incessant need to control its outcome.
I remember reading a teaching about letting go by Anthony De Mello. The imagery used is similar to what I describe in the narrative that follows. My intention for writing the piece is to remind you that when you surrender into falling, nothing but freedom occurs.
In her mind, she walks along the edge of something—a tree branch, the land, the water, the world. Her mind decides this precarious rim is a cliff. She looks at her feet powdered by this dry pale crumbly precipice. The image fails to soften the intensity of her racing heart. She feels on the edge. Being here is against her will. Pausing, she stares into something, nothing, squinting to flatten the curve of the vast view. She peers down into void, her eyes wide searching for reassurance—something, anything that will support her grounded need for control.
She bows at the waist hoping the intensity of her gaze will unravel her knotted innards. As she straightens to take a deep breath, the streudel-like ground beneath her feet gives way and she falls.
She silently screams with her eyes closed as her flailing arms reach for anything protruding, while her legs run, hoping to grasp enough land to escape this descent. The rush and speed of the air is oddly both warm and frigid. In a matter of a few blinks, she sees growth emerging from the side of the cliff. Jutting stones and gnarled tree roots withered like a crone. Frantically, she reaches for a root to arrest her fall. Her security lasts a second. The arthritic earthen finger gives way and it, too, begins to fall. She reaches for a stone but it pulls away from the cliff face like a hunk of bread torn from a loaf. She can’t help herself. Reaching, grasping, pulling, yanking to stop the fall and nothing helps.
Around here there's a social institution known as the Minnesota Long Goodbye, a fixture of local Politeness culture. “Well, guess we'll be heading out,” you say. But you can't leave yet; that would imply that you aren't enjoying the company, and are eager to go. 5 minutes later, you stand up. 5 minutes after that you put on your coat. Another 5, and you go to the door. Leaning against the door-jamb, you talk for yet another 5. Then you actually leave.
Yule is like that. This year the last of the Thirteen Nights was January 2; the Merry Monarch of Misrule (in her Steampunk crown) presided over one final debauch, and we sang the old Yule songs for the last time this season. Time to head on out, I guess.
But Yule itself has yet to come down. The tree and other appurtenances generally go up in mid-December and linger until mid-January or so: about a month, a twelving of the year. (By long-standing household tradition, our tree finally comes down on King Day: no work, no school.) Here in the Northlands, Yule ushers in the coldest, most housebound time of the year: “As the days grow longer, the cold grows stronger” goes the saying. (Variant: “As the day lengthens, the cold strengthens.”) On the couch the other night, I closed the novel I'd just finished reading, turned off the light, and laid back in quiet appreciation of the Yule Tree's ongoing beauty and magic: a fountain of light in the heart of darkest winter.
My daily tarot card had been a series of reversals. The Lovers in reverse, the Death card in reverse, everything pointing to letting go of a past that seems to hold me hostage. Hostage to the doubt of not being good enough. Hostage to a body I did not wish to have. Hostage to a heartache that never seemed to abate. Hostage to past mistakes where the universe had let go, and yet I still lived in a vortex of fear, subterfuge, and suffering.
How many of us are living our lives like this? Were we are a captive hostage attached to suffering! Why is letting go, and moving on so hard? And how can we develop that into a stillness of heart and mind to lead us from suffering and into sweetness?...
Title: Walking the Worlds...
My friend Denise Ostler, a.k.a. Merri Beacon, writes tiny stories set in Turtlebat Land that she calls Fairytale Medicine: "funny stories in an enchanted land where empowering events create feelings of peace, freedom and self-worth."
The stories are truly medicine, slipping through the fairy tale portal-template already installed in our brains to open up possibilities for long-sought healing.
All of her stories are wonderful. "From War to Peace" is a lovely dose. It's particularly timely and — guess what? — it features a big dollop of belly-centric wisdom.
The story begins as, once upon a time, a man named Ergo is chronically denying his chronic anger. Confronted by his wife, he storms out of the house, runs through the village and on and on into the forest until he has to stop and sleep.
The story continues:
Ergo awoke the next morning and started marching. When the sun was high in the sky, he walked into a little clearing where a wooden shack was built. A sign hung on the doorpost that read “HEALER”.
I bet he doesn’t get much business, thought Ergo to himself. The thought struck him as being quite funny and he laughed out loud. Pretty soon he was shrieking with laughter until he had tears in his eyes. A man came out the door of the shack and smiled at Ergo who was now rolling on the ground holding his belly. “Help me,” he gasped. “I can’t stop laughing.”
“It’s because you have so many unshed tears,” said the healer. Ergo stopped laughing abruptly and sat confused on the ground. The healer gave Ergo his hand and led him inside, placing Ergo in a big chair covered with blankets. Next to the chair was a huge glass globe sitting on a little table.
“What is that thing?” asked Ergo.
The story continues here.
Within Vanatru, there is a lot of room for diversity of belief and practice - nature itself is diverse, and thus different ways of doing things are seen as natural and organic, as befits a living tradition. As such, there is no Vanapope who will swoop down from on high proclaiming that you're "doing it wrong" if you don't do this or have that. However, the very "do it yourself" approach amongst most Vanatruar can be confusing and even frustrating for newbies, who are full of questions about how to get started.
One of the things that I tend to recommend people do when they first start out, is set up an altar. This is not mandatory or absolutely necessary - I know plenty of folks who get along just fine without altars. In my own case, having an altar is helpful because it's a visible, tangible reminder of the Powers, is a way to express Their energy and presence - which can be a tool to better get to know Them and connect with Them - and is a place to leave offerings and perform rituals and magick. And as such, I think that building an altar can be a valuable beginning step, a way to establish a connection to the Powers....