My wyrd New Year's resolution: Ecstasy and ease.
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White sulphur-crested cockatoos have been my personal totem for years. In the wild they are a noisy, curious, intrusive bird that many people regard as pests, in spite of their beauty. They have a tendency to destroy verandas and windowsills (retaining their habit of ripping up dead wood to get at the insects they expect to find) and their call is loud and raucous. I’ve always loved them, although until recently I hadn’t lived anywhere they existed in large numbers. But now I’m living in the Blue Mountains I find myself surrounded by them.
It’s an interesting concept – that I’ve become local to my totem. I’ve chosen, eventually, to live where they live. As if I’ve been courting them for years and finally we have a good enough relationship that I can move in, onto their territory. I remember swirling flocks of them above me in the blue sky in a forest of ancient Antarctic beech, and I remember them out above the valley on previous trips to the Blue Mountains, climbing and swooping through the mist at my own height as I stood at a lookout. I made up a story about that harsh screeching call of theirs; how it was the sound that ripped open the night of the universe, back at the very beginning of time, and their gold-and-white heralded the the coming of light. They are iconic light-bearers with that white body and yellow crest, yellow blushing the underside of their wings.
About ten years ago I was working magic, looking for a way to speak up; both energetically and vocally – to become louder in the world – and I chose them as a totem, a beckoning reminder for how to sound out loudly through the air. They’ve been wonderful as mentors and totems, floating silent above me at surprising times or greeting me with a harsh call when I arrive somewhere. I’ve taken their appearance as encouragement, as a reminder to speak up and out and as a comfort. Their presence let me know that magic was alive and around me. I am much, much louder now than I was ten years ago, and when they call out overhead I call back to them, filled with pleasure at their existence....
Welcome friends to the New Year. If you are familiar with Goddess or earth-based spirituality you no doubt know or have been hearing for over a month about the Winter Solstice and the returning of the light. We have heard that our northern European ancestors called the holiday of Winter Solstice, Mother’s Night, when the female ancestors and Goddess were celebrated and their guidance sought out by the people. We know it is the time to celebrate the Roman God, Saturn, as well as Mithras and Jesus. We tell tales of the Yuletide Goddesses such as Lucia and Holda and how the Druids celebrated their “festival of liberation,” a time when the soul is set free to dream a new world. The returning of the light from Winter Solstice forward for a time, is not just about whether we see more darkness or light in the sky. The light actually symbolizes the potential for life and new beginnings.
That said, let me share a little story with you with a new perspective on the season. A myth I don’t think gets so much play at this time of year. It’s about the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, a Shinto Goddess whose sacred sites are on the island of Japan.
Her myth shares similarities to the Greek Goddess, Demeter, and her bawdy and unrestrained counterpart, Baubo. You see, in her sorrow, Amaterasu, like Demeter, withdrew from the world causing the land to become barren and bleak. In her grief, Amaterasu secluded herself in a cave. No amount of coaxing could get Amaterasu to come out and restore fertility and vegetation to the land. Until, like in the story of Demeter and Baubo, Amaterasu was also coaxed out of hiding and despair by her counterpart in the myth, Uzume. Legend has it Amaterasu peeked out from the cave, her curiosity aroused by the laughter and clapping inspired by Uzume’s dance - but this wasn’t just any dance. You see, like Baubo, Uzume was “lifting her skirt, “ a nice euphemism for showing her genitals or yoni.
Why? You might ask. Well, on the exoteric level, it might seem funny or lewd to watch someone dance an erotic dance, or strip tease, if you will. I can’t forget the woman on the stage popping ping pong balls from her yoni in the movie, “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” Or the curious Japanese men holding their mini-flashlights hoping to get a glimpse of the yoni of female performers spreading their knees on stage. The yoni then and now holds great power and mystery. These stories of the dances of Baubo and Uzume are not meant to be lewd. They are, in fact, meant to be sacred. They are from a time when procreation and sexual union were still considered sacred and sex had not yet become something shameful or taboo. A woman’s body held the mysteries of the cycles of life and death. You might recall those sacred statues in museums highlighting the public triangle, that part of the woman’s body known to be the gateway or threshold of fertility and new life - until Christianity turned what was normal, natural and sacred on it’s head.
Baubo and Uzume’s yoni dances were the catalysts jump-starting Demeter and Amaterasu to once again spark new life. Think about the last time you really had a belly-laugh. Did you not feel alive and vital? Seeing the dances of their counterparts brought Amaterasu and Demeter such joy that life was re-kindled. Vegetation sprang forth once more and humanity could once again eat, sustain itself. People and creatures would live and not starve.
In the story of Amaterasu, it is said that as she peeked from the cave to look upon Uzume’s dance she caught sight of her own image in a bronze mirror and as became she dazzled by her own radiance, light and fertility was restored to the world. Some scholars believe this myth reflects the regenerative force. It is the power and awe inspired by the yoni across cultures as a catalyst for creation, change, healing or protection. Let us remember also, that women, as life givers, were associated with Goddess, herself, the Creatrix of the world and everything in the universe. Life springs forth from women’s bodies and women bleed without dying. Simply put, without the yonis in these stories, without the yonis in our stories, life ceases to exist.
Specific to the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu’s, story, and in many other spiritual traditions, as well as in science and nature, there is usually no life without light.
That brings us back to this season of the returning of the light. The days and nights are of equal length with the days continuing to build in length and the nights shortening until the Summer Solstice in June. We too are coming out of the darkness and building momentum and energy, or gather light within ourselves, to do things and to manifest our desires in the world.
If we are in sync with the cosmic forces, this is the time for our own awakening and transformation, and our evolution as people and spiritual beings. Each turning of the wheel at this time of the year enables us to renew ourselves, be who we always hoped we’d be and hopefully see things more clearly as we grow in wisdom. We have the juice to re-invent ourselves, if you will. The light helps us see the world and ourselves more clearly and our role in the cosmic dance. Light shines forth, offering illumination that might give us clues to our destiny and purpose in life. This is the time that we take the ideas and seeds we planted in the dark fertile ground of winter and we nurture them to burst forth in the world.
So with all that explained, can you see why this is the time of year when we make resolutions? Can you see how that tradition is based on actual natural, cosmic and spiritual laws? Let us use this time to fill our vessel with the light that nourishes our potential, fills us with life, with incentive to accomplish positive change.
I would be remiss while we are talking about light and motivation to not mention the Goddess or Saint, Brigid of Ireland. She is both fire Goddess and Goddess of the healing waters. What do you get when you mix heat and water? STEAM. And what’s steam? Steam is a force that propels you forward. Think too of Brigid’s steam as a catalyst around this time of year that helps us renew ourselves, transform and succeed in the resolutions we make.
You have the natural energies of the universe working with you in these months leading up to Summer Solstice to see your resolutions through. Here are a few suggestions to help you accomplish your goals:
1) Make sure your resolution is reasonable.
2) Do not try to make to make more than one change at a time.
3) Tie a string to your wrist to act as a trigger to keep you focused on your goal.
4) Have a deadline to accomplish your goal.
5) Have a plan how you’re going to accomplish your resolution.
6) Do research or enlist help if you need it to accomplish your resolution.
7) Keep a diary of your progress and success.
8) Show gratitude for your accomplishments
So as we go forward, it’s also important to remember our thoughts are powerful tools of manifestation so nurture your attitude and thoughts with love. We must be the change we want to see in the world - cliche as that might sound. We must resolve to live our lives according to how we would like to see society change. So as we look within and outside ourselves, let us be filled with a certainty that the light will shine forth in the coming months providing transparency, healing, balance and enlightenment not just to ourselves but to humanity. Let us ride this roller-coaster of a paradigm shift not white-knuckled and in fear, but resolute to be filled with hope and excitement for the new world we can create together.
Excerpted from Goddess Calling: Inspirational Messages and Meditations of Sacred Feminine Liberation Thealogy available for pre-ordering on Amazon.
One of the things I love most about working with the Wheel of the Year is how precisely applicable it is to our own inner life. Certainly, the Festivals that lie around the Wheel are connected with the agricultural cycle. For our ancient forebears, to ignore such a cycle meant disaster on a very tangible level. Without supplies and stores to bring the Tribe through the winter months, starvation and death were a very real possibility. An enormous amount of focus and energy went into meeting the basic needs of food, shelter and safety. The eight Festivals, as we know them today, marked significant moments throughout the year addressing the movement from preparation to planting to harvest to rest. As is known by every Pagan, the ancient traditions of celebration have found their way into many contemporary ones. These traditions reflect the outer world – the things we do “out there” to connect us with the energy of the season. However, as said by renown comparative mythologist, Joseph Campbell “When your mind is trapped by the image out there so that you never make reference to yourself, you have misread the image”. We joyfully join in honouring the Festivals in our communities. This is significant and important for connecting us to others and feeling a part of a larger whole. The Festivals help us to be conscious of the world around us and to live in alignment with the land. But how can we draw upon these festivals to become more conscious of ourselves? How can we ‘pull the image within’?
Each Festival has its core archetypal energy. When one scans across the landscape of ancient Western culture, it is possible to see the correlations between gods and goddess, traditions and activities. All these give us clues as to what the synthesizing element is – what connects the varied names and traditions together into a cohesive pattern. Interestingly, when one identifies the archetype of each Festival, there is a direct correlation to traditional psychology which is reflected in family systems theory and childhood development. The Festivals offer us a doorway through which to explore inner alignment.
At this time of year, the anticipation of Yule is high. For many of us, there is a soft (and cold) blanket of snow upon the ground. The darkness sets in what feels like mid-afternoon. The desire to cocoon is strong – gentle firelight, a warm mug, perhaps a catchy book. The dark surrounds us and we seek that which brings comfort. We are not that far removed from the ancestors who would gather around a hearthfire to be regaled with lengthy, heart-stopping epic tales....
“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” - Arundhati Roy
When I read that quote for the first time, the breath caught in my throat and the hair stood up on the back of my neck as I remembered....
I had been invited to Wisconsin to present at a weekend workshop which turned out to be a more than wonderful experience. I went thinking I was just going up there to teach these women the workshop material, but the sharing and activities I participated in were a beautifully reciprocal dance. Besides the bonding and the fun, issues I had never quite been able to banish from my psyche had dispersed in the safety of the ritual the night before and I was feeling light and open and gloriously happy and fulfilled.
As the weekend came to a close and the time to drive back to the airport was drawing near, I grabbed a few moments of solitary time behind the dormitory where we were staying located about 100 yards off a serene and shining lake. Between the lake and the dorm, trees had been planted in a circle, with barely two to three feet of space between their trunks, and inside the circle was a bench. I was drawn within the circle desiring a few moments of quiet contemplation in what felt like Nature’s embrace.
As I sat there, enjoying a cool breeze on my cheeks, glimpsing the reflection of the sun on the lake between the tree trunks before me, I suddenly realized I heard a rhythmic breathing. In and out. In and out. Where was it coming from? In my mind, I began a process of elimination. I held my own breath for a few moments thinking perhaps here in this small space among this odd configuration of trees I was hearing the echo of my own breath, but no, it wasn’t me. I looked around to make sure there was no one else there, perhaps just beyond my initial line of light. No. I wasn’t hearing the incoming tide of the lake. I sat there mesmerized as I listened. No, this sound was coming from this very spot where I sat. Dare I ever utter the next thoughts that crossed my mind? It was as if I were sitting within the body of Goddess and I was hearing Her breathing This was incredulous, but I was going to go with it and just listen, feel, and receive. I soaked in the magic of this sacred place. The hair stood up on back my neck and arms. I felt that familiar cold chill up my spine and my tears turned into sobs of joy. What an emotional experience!
In hindsight, many of us might speak in metaphor, as perhaps the novelist and activist Arundhati Roy is speaking above, about Gaia or the coming new paradigm of the Sacred Feminine, but this was different. This experience went beyond metaphor or even feeling inspired in some natural landscape. This wasn’t merely equating the ebb and flow of the ocean tides with Her breath as we attempt to personify Her and embrace Her mysteries. This felt as if it were another phenomena of a dimension I had yet to experience. Was I crazy to even contemplate hearing the inhaling and exhaling.....of our Mother? Well, sometimes we just have to shut off that left-brain and just feel Her incredible gifts! Those few minutes sitting in that sacred grove in Wisconsin will no doubt be some of the most profound and magickal minutes of my life. Thank you, Mother. Thank you for that precious gift.. I can hear you breathing!