Belenos (“The Shining One” ) is a Sun God of Celtic mythology. Beltane, the Fire Festival that commences on May 1st and ushers in the season of Summer in the Celtic Wheel, is believed to have come from Belenos. We saw the first stirrings of Spring at Imbolc with Brigid and her healing fire; now, the Crone of Winter, Cailleach Beara, is driven fully underground. Beltane is the half-way point between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice.
I celebrated the Beltane fire (also known as the “green fire”) on the cross-quarter day this year, which was May 4th, by tending a ceremonial fire for several hours on my friends Paul and Janet’s land. Another friend, Karen, joined me. We sang, cried, drummed, burned prayer bundles and just talked. Because of the Covid-19 restrictions, I actually had not seen her with my eye balls in some time. We, like a lot of folks right now, have been limited to Zoom or FaceTime chats but it’s just not the same as spending real-time with someone.
I arrived around 9:30 in the morning to this pristine piece of land, built my fire, and held the sacred space with Karen until about 3 PM, with a few bio-breaks and to do some reiki on Paul and Janet’s dog, Sage. It was windy, with a few gray clouds but mostly sunny. We listened to the call of Redwing Blackbirds, watched a gigantic Great Blue Heron circle the house, and witnessed a Coopers Hawk chase down one of those territorial Blackbirds. Paul divided up a few of his day lilies for Karen, who had brought bulbs for his garden and a bag of black oyster mushrooms for me. They were delectable later that evening with my lime-cilantro-tamari baked Haddock. I sautéed them in white wine and butter, with fresh kale and garlic.
There is one more thing we did: We offered prayers to the fire for the collective healing of the planet and asked that the fear around this virus to be transmuted. I tend to be sensitive to what the collective is feeling and have to be careful about where and how I expend my energy. It’s easy to pick up on fear and anxiety these days that isn’t yours! But, we all have a choice in where we direct our precious energy.
In times of crisis, and especially in such an unprecedented event like we are in now, it is critical that we remember we can control how we respond to stimuli, people, and society in general. When so much feels out of control, just knowing that you have a choice in how you react can quell some of the fear. Not only that, bringing consciousness around your response re-sets your parasympathetic nervous system and allows your executive function center to do what it’s supposed to: make clear, rational decisions from a place of flexibility, curiosity and creativity.
I know what you’re thinking: There doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of flexibility, curiosity and creativity going on right now. But you do have a choice. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. Whether you agree or disagree with the mask-wearers or the mask-deniers, it’s okay. Just know that at the end of the day, your vitality will keep you healthy and your connection to what is truly important to you will keep you sane.
You are the only one who can decide what is best for you.
Spiritual types like myself speak of re-entry, which is that moment when the circle or retreat or ceremony is over, and you must return to your life. If you want to go off, out of town, into the woods to be sustained and nourished in a meaningful way, you must also come back. You must return. We “go off” so we can go inside of ourselves in a way that living in the day to day minutia does not allow (or, in the very least, does not always support). If you are spiritually inclined, then you tire easily of what a friend recently referred to as “top conversations”—a linguistic pretzel that keeps you locked into “safe” topics, ones which keep you playing nice, never really getting to the heart of the matter.
Creating sacred space and experiencing the Divine often means having Ceremony. Some ceremonies act as a psychic re-set; others work to re-align you with what is good and right for you, ie your truth. Sometimes, ceremony can act as an initiation. When you find yourself in a Ceremony-As-Initiation type of situation, re-entry is going to be especially difficult. You may wander around, unable to find words to express what you are feeling (and somehow the “feeling” is also a knowing, something along the lines of angels whispering private jokes into your ears). You might spend time trying to explain to those who weren’t there “what happened” while you were out in the woods, not engaging in top conversations. This too remains a struggle as it is impossible to put into words the flavors and spices of the spiritual feast others have not partaken of. Not their fault, and not yours for being unable to make them comprehend. In fact, it’s a good idea not to talk too much about Ceremony after the fact.
Internally, you try to reel in the moments of ecstasy, the pearls of wisdom, the soul-balm you received for showing up to “do the work.” There’s a part of you who wants to re-live it in your mind, if only for a few more days; there’s another part of you who knows that the power, the sheen is fading and you get irritated that you don’t live in a world where heart-opening behavior is common, widely accepted and enthusiastically encouraged.
At least there’s where I found myself on Monday November 25th, 2019, the day I woke up as a different person than the one who left for Ceremony. After witnessing the power of Ceremony, of coming together as a community with intention, of trusting that the safe container will do what it is supposed to do, I was transformed, as were many others, and so I could not return to my life because I was not the same person. “Re-entry” was a misnomer, an impossibility. I knew I couldn’t go back to the self I was before I left—which now feels like a “concept of self” more than anything. I was different, and the configurations of my life—habits, beliefs, relationships, triggers, goals—were going to have to adjust in order to make room for the new me.
So what really happened?
On August 22nd, when my friend Kat told me that the biopsy report from her lumpectomy was “not the news we were hoping for,” I naturally asked what everyone was asking: “What can I do?” She told me in no uncertain terms what she needed from me—a re-birthing ceremony which I would help design and execute. At the time, we weren’t sure exactly when this event would take place but as it turned out, it transpired on what astrologers called “the best week-end of 2019”: Nov 23, 24th: Jupiter and Venus having a cup of tea right dab in the middle of the Galactic Center—a whopper of joy vibes raining down on Earth, with an emphasis on the Divine Feminine. Naturally.
Now I could write an entire epistle on the wonders and wisdom of my friend Kat; the fact that she asked me to carry out such an important event in her honor touched me on many levels of my being. To say I was flattered would be the understatement of the century. As the chemo treatments kicked in, there were several conversations, emails, and phone calls. We asked to be shown in shamanic journeys how our helping spirits would like to be honored and what details and duties needed to go down. Was there something or someone we needed to honor or pay special attention to? Planning something of this scale is no easy feat, and required lots of moving parts. As I have learned from past experiences, for things to really “go off without a hitch” I needed help.
I made a list of the sacred tasks I needed others to take on. I sought people who were familiar with rite and ritual—folks I’d been in circles with before and who I knew were devoted in their spiritual practice. Many came forward and offered their help. There was a fire tender. There was someone who was in charge of getting permission from the ancestors and spirits of the land. Two people were in charge of setting up a space within the sacred space so that the Grandmother Spirits we called in had a place by the hearth to sit and witness. There were two people who smudged attendees with white sage; another person played the flute as people got smudged. Someone was in charge of bringing paintbrushes, another couple of people brought white flowers. And then there was the water bearer.
So many people came together for one unified cause: to celebrate Kat and the courage she exhibits for a journey few would embrace. We came together because we love her, and we came together because sometimes, life presents you with a big mountain to climb and you don’t want to go it alone. You might be unfamiliar with this territory or ill-prepared to ascend. Do you have the right boots? Enough water? Will this turn into a solo hike? Will you make it to the top? Will the view be worth it? She had commenced a journey many have commenced; not one of them knew how the journey would end, and neither does Kat. What she does know is that there is no initiation greater than the one of staring down your own mortality. “The way my cells are acting right now could possibly wipe me out, permanently” was a sentence she had to familiarize herself with. And what did she do? She splashed out with a birthday party for her new identity. She re-birthed herself. She sanctified her life by essentially stating, “Not me, not yet.”
I have been waiting, anxiously it would seem, for something to shake me out of my internal deliberations about why I am here, what I am supposed to be doing. As someone who thrives on digger deeper, going beyond the surface exchanges, I looked forward to this particular challenge with which Kat charged me. Unlike other ceremonies that, say, celebrate a full moon, a milestone or a turn in the wheel, this ceremony involved a severance to the old and a welcoming of the new. In essence, a re-birthing ceremony is a resurrection. In the words of Freddie Silva, sometimes “we must die in order to live.”
Little did I know I would be dying to some part of me, too. Oh, I’ve had initiations before which were less disorienting; others that were induced by a variety of external frictions (domestic violence, alcohol, near-death experiences). I’ve had dreams that were initiations! If you’re paying real close attention to life, you can encounter frequent initiations (and often these are taps on the shoulder from Lord Karma). Initiation has its root in “initium” meaning “a beginning” which is exactly where I was on Monday Nov 25th:. I was a blank slate, wiped clean of the small stuff, re-forged in the new stuff. Only I didn’t exactly know what the new stuff was; I only knew it was no longer waiting patiently in the queue. It had cashed in its tokens, and we were about to hit every ride in the park.
Several elements were at play in order for my experience of ceremony-as-initiation to take place. As aforementioned, I asked for help, delegating tasks that needed to be done (and done with care-) and then I trusted that those people would carry out their tasks. I powered up, setting the space with intention (not to mention a lot of sacred objects!). I called the benevolent spirits of the land, both ancestral and nature spirits (and I didn’t do this alone either but rather with a few other practitioners who are dear friends to Kat). Everything we did before, during and after was done in reverence, intention, and love.
Is that the recipe for a powerful ceremony? Was that the recipe for my initiation? I’m not sure but the last prayer I uttered, right before people started to arrive, was this: “Spirit of All That Is, I ask you to please release me from any expectations I have around this ceremony.” What I realize now is that I was asking to be released from controlling the outcome. Wanting a certain outcome to unfold is a desire of ego; consciously desiring a release from control was an act of sovereignty with Source. This, more than anything, seems like the “secret ingredient.”
I am someone who, according to my astrologer, came into this life with a 12th House in Leo in South Node (ie, your past life). That story went something like this: I thrived on attention which was granted because I charmed, I may have healed, and I certainly did it in a big, charismatic and often flashy way. Think Snake Oil Salesman meets Holy-Roller Preacher Man. Yup, that was me. Now, it is my destiny in the 6th House of Aquarius in the North Node to awaken the sacred, devote myself to a spiritual path, be effective about it through social consciousness and—this is the most important part—not require ANY accolades, congratulations, or atta-boys from my adoring on-lookers. The 6th House North Node in Aquarius says I am here to move the dial on consciousness itself, I am in full agency of who I am and what I do. I am in full respect for the medicine I carry but I don’t need to convince anyone of that—it is my sacred service and its value is not dependent on anyone’s opinion of said service (or of me).
Realizing this last part imparted a sense of freedom, of agency, I have never in my life felt. When I finally realized the change that was taking place in my being, I wrote in my journal that, “I feel like I finally have a clean relationship with my soul.” In terms of releasing the need to accomplish a certain other-worldly experience for those in attendance (and especially for Kat), I also unhooked myself from the limiting beliefs and conditions ego operates from. Soul is capable of speaking both languages of Ego and Soul but Ego can only speak Ego’s language. I am unwilling to choose just one language for my life, and I refuse to only listen to the language of Ego in the day-to-day, topical conversations which seem to give structure to “our reality.” My initiation, which is continuing day after day, is about the re-conditioning of the ego in accordance to the needs of the soul; the power of this process depends on my compassion around that transformation. The 12th House Leo South Node is trying like hell to see how he figures into all of this; the 6th House Aquarian is holding the safety bar up, waiting for Preacher Man to settle down and settle in. It’s going to be an unforgettable ride—they both know that but only one is willing to admit it.
I wonder what Kat’s secret ingredients are. Is it a Christ-like compassion for herself, her life? Does she have a handle on her nodal stories? Maybe the first chemo treatment stripped her of the flimsy ego-control we all depend on and her awakening is thus amplified with each subsequent treatment. And maybe she too is training the soul and the ego to be in conversation with each other, learning the different expressions and nuances of a communication that, no doubt, decides our quality of life. It is normal and natural to want certain outcomes in this life. We have unspoken desires that rumble in our hearts, and we often expect the people in our lives to act in alignment with our needs. But it is important to create occasions when you can give yourself the freedom to be released from expectations, to consciously come together in love, reverence and strong intention. The power of Kat’s ceremony relied on many moving parts; for me, the extent of the transformation was reliant on our collective trust and willingness to be opened to Spirit’s guidance.
The question remains: How can I practice such trust in my daily life? The elements have now been identified. My exploration continues.
As someone who has had a healing practice since 2014 (and a writer, no less!), I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I have never incorporated a newsletter into my correspondence effort! So here it is! Yahoo!
If I dig around on that one, I’ll admit it is not about being lazy; it certainly isn’t about not having anything to say. If I’m real honest and vulnerable with you all, it’s because I perceived newsletters as “bugging” people (or, tangled on the other end of what one of my teachers calls the “ego stick,” bragging to people—yuck!) thus not valuing my services, my insights or my “news.” Isn’t there enough “news” out there for us to ingest? Aren’t we shackled enough by emails?
While those things may be true (I get a newsletter from my dentist), it’s about accepting and perhaps reclaiming my worth. Sure, it’s a good business model, not to mention an easy way to reach many. But when I made my amends with 2019 a few weeks back, I had to say goodbye to the One Who Is Inaccurate. In other words, the Limiter, the Hater, the Critic and the Protector.
I had to acknowledge that I had something to say and that what I had to say was worth hearing, especially for my clients, who I endeavor to help!
We all carry limiting beliefs. If you’re doing your work—and I hope that you are—the burden of carrying the weight of self-imposed limitations is becoming heavier and heavier in this time of Great Awakening. Why is this? Because the soul seeks its expression through that which brings it joy. Pursuing joy isn’t always celebrated—and that’s one of the things that is changing about our collective consciousness. Pursuing YOUR joy is the recipe for how to evolve! This daring act of pursuing your joy is in stark contrast to the job of the ego, which is to maintain the status quo and manage fear. In other words, to protect.
I believe that we are moving into a time where ego and soul will need to share the spotlight. We are moving into a period of consciousness that will, one day, accept the concept of ‘ego’ as the conditioned response it is, not to be demonized by supposed enlightened individuals but rather feathered into the expressions of the soul. As a psychic recently said to me, “I don’t like how ego gets a bad rap. At the end of the day, we still need to stop at Hannaford for milk.”
This same psychic told me that 2020 is the year of radical severance, and of mastery. Those dead weights can’t come where we’re going—as individuals or as a collective. Some of the things we must leave behind might be things we’ve relied on in order to feel safe or “normal.” It could be a job, a habit or—gasp—a relationship. In my case, it was the One Who Is Inaccurate, the one who tells a story about feeling undeserving, not worth much, unseen, unheard. Moving into 2020, I commit to honoring my true expressions of self and soul while I thank ego from time to time for getting me safely through traffic, buying milk at Hannaford, or a mind-numbing faculty meeting. The real dead weights for any of us are not the things but the limiting beliefs that require careful, accurate and yes, radical severance. And love. You can’t really let go of something if don’t plan on letting go in love.
The 2020 metaphor of perfect vision is not lost on me; are you seeing clearly, too?
Are you ready to burst into spring? Perhaps a day of learning, sharing, reflection, sacred dance and ceremony is just what beckons to awaken from this long winter’s sleep!
Many of us are being called to change – to evolve. Where are these stirrings coming from? What do these stirrings have to do with the global shift in consciousness many of us are sensing in every fiber of our beings? What inner split continues to snag us as we attempt to embody new ways of being? Have we made peace with our inner Sacred Feminine – in what ways has she not been revealed? What aspects of our inner Divine Masculine seek to be healed?
On this day of experiential inquiry, explore these and other similar questions in a relaxing, heart-opening co-ed environment. All are welcomed!
We are all waking up—to our truth, to a deeper sense of compassion, to a broader and often more complex global consciousness. Re-assessing the ego’s rigid habits-of-mind is a step not only in acquiring awareness of our whole, awakened selves but also in understanding our psychic, emotional and spiritual changes. When clear intention is present, the heart leads and makes this process easier, more accessible, and even practical in pursuing our Truth.
This 6-week class will explore shamanic journeying, reciprocity and attuning to the intelligence of nature, the desires of the heart (ie, “your Truth”), co-dependency and projection, the archetypal self and the soul’s “birthmark,” and the sacred triade of living in Gaia consciousness. We will practice the high priestess rite of “witness and reveal” –a type of sacred mirroring that is rooted in taking care of each other from the heart’s wisdom.
Classes will be held from 6 PM-7:30 PM on Thursdays, beginning on March 14th and meet at the offices of 9 Pillars Healing (31 Exchange Street, Portland). We will end each class with an individual or group healing. The cost for this 6-week class is $100; pay-as-you-go ($20 per class) is available. You will need a journal, a pen, a water bottle and an open mind and heart.
A fire ceremony with activation rite* will be held on the last class to celebrate and integrate the wisdom of Gaia in our bodies and our commitment to self and other. *Amy Chaney Shuster will co-lead this ceremony; location TBD
Of the 9 Pillars, this class focuses on these particular pillars: 1)Cultivation of deep woman-to-woman friendships, 2)Matching your rhythms to the rhythms of the Earth, 3) Fire ceremony, 4) Be strong in every way you can be and 5)Wisdom
A few weeks ago, I was undulating from the Janus Surge, or the time between December 26th and January 6th. My Celtic sensibilities tell me that the season of Yule is not over until Epiphany (January 6th), or the day those mystical magi step out and have their Jesus party. I call it the Janus Surge because the “big” holiday of Christmas is over but the New Year hasn’t quite taken hold yet. Janus could see backwards and forwards at the same time, surely a quality the ancient Celts appreciated, being captivated as they were with the Between Times.
My husband and I went to Vermont this year for New Year’s. We stayed in an old B & B in Barre, the granite capital of the world, and relished in our annual tradition: opening the Red Box.
The Red Box contains slips of paper with moments, milestones, and bits of hilarious dialogue he and I thought noteworthy enough to write down. It is a wonderful way to remember the past year. It also helps us refine our Top 10 lists for the major players and superstars of the year. (My Top 10 moments in 2018 were the Top 21 moments—a HUGE year!)
We returned to Portland on the 1st (after stopping at five different grocery stores for black-eyed peas) and commenced boiling collard greens, doing laundry, checking the water in the tree. I love my home but there is something about traveling, about being somewhere unfamiliar, which takes you out of the time-space continuum. A new environment suspends you, just a little, out of your “regular” life and allows the softer, less urgent voices to emerge—a gift, really, in this world of hurry and distractions.
And so when I woke up on the 2nd, I wanted to hold on to that feeling. I wanted to ruminate a little longer in 2018, and through that reflection, devise my soulful intentions for 2019 (otherwise known as “resolutions”). I wanted to row out, fast, to the current of the Janus surge, looking forward, backward, sideways, inward, to call in the desires of my soul. A psychic inventory, if you will, re-forged as hope for the future. Besides, Yule season was still Yule season. I still had permission to stare at the middle distance, to revel in the twinkling lights of my Christmas tree, to pore over the new books I received as gifts.
But the pressure was there. There were emails to write and emails to respond to. There were thank-you notes to write. There was a money transfer to a credit card, a double-check of an appointment, a meeting to confirm. And that was just the small to-do list. I had a new website to launch (after re-imagining what I want my business to be), an application 15 pages long to finish up (to substitute! You’d think they were looking for the new Secretary of Defense). I had query letters to literary agents to think about, a workshop to prep for, a house to clean.
Luckily, I know this inner debate very well. It’s the one between my ego (who loves, loves, loves to get shit done) and my soul (who loves to create and contemplate, savor magical moments and appreciate the many facets of being human). And so I said, “No! Stop! I retain the right to stay enamored of the flow and force of Janus.” Yes, it was January 2nd on the calendar but I wasn’t quite ready for Baby New Year to start crawling.
So I called in supports. My Animal-Wise tarot deck had been bird-dogging me for three days. I’d brought the cards with me to Vermont, thinking the Maplecroft Inn would be a perfect spot to do a reading for the year ahead. For whatever reason, I hadn’t cracked them.
I knew I needed Spirit’s guidance through the cards because I knew that my ego’s agenda would not be easily quieted. As any spiritual practitioner knows, intention is critical. As I shuffled the cards, I thought of how badly I wanted to stay in the Yule magic and asked for a question to help me stay there.
The question that came was: What condition do I need to adopt today in order to stay in my soulful space, dreaming and journaling and seeking inspiration? Which animals and their special medicines can assist me in this endeavor?
I pulled 4 cards and placed them in each of the 4 Directions.
I turned over the South first: High Priestess, Major Arcana. Represented by no other than the Creatrix herself, the Spider. Key words: Weaver of Fate.
I turned over the card in the North: Hawk, Knight of the Winged Ones. Guardian of Ventures, knowing precisely when to strike.
I turned over the card in the West: Jaguar, 6 of the 4-Leggeds. Reclaiming Power in the Material World.
And lastly, I turned over the blessed East: Cicada. 6 of the Shapeshifters. Happiness from the Past.
I was not surprised at how perfect-for-me this spread was. I saw Hawk of the North watching over the High Priestess of Spider as she stitches and weaves her inner-most creation into the fate of her existence. I stared at the intense visage of Jaguar, deep green jungle leaves festooning his regal jaw, ears, leg. I imagined my own Jaguar medicine prowling around 2019, sniffing out what only the highly attuned can sense in the dark. And when I regarded Cicada and thought about the message, ‘happiness from the past,’ I knew that the wisdom and lessons of 2018 I had integrated inside of me were now boiled down and distilled for easy sipping.
The lessons are usually “happy” once in the rearview mirror, ie. past. And lessons make us who we are meant to be. Since this card was in the East, the Direction of re-birth and transformation, I took it to mean I too would be brought out into the Sun, glistening from my past challenges, intact, singing the song of what I most desired (Cicadas are known for their high-pitched mating calls and seemingly endless chorus).
And then it struck me: I may have asked for guidance on the day in front of me but what I received was the condition for what I needed to adopt for the entire year. These four were my A-Team! I was given an ego-soul-working-together blueprint for 2019!
On this planet, we have free will. So often we think things are done “to” us instead of “for” us. Or we think that some value we’ve placed on a person, experience, or situation will stick forever. But nothing lasts. Not even art, maybe love. Years end, new ones begin (and they end too).
We have a say on how we will respond to stimuli around us. We have a choice about the attitude we will meet our days with. It is a ‘condition’ that we can adopt, knowing it may change at any minute. (And then we can change again).