Bear & Ritual Class

“We should do another Bear ritual for Winter Solstice,” said Owen out of the blue as a bunch of them lingered after meditation one evening.  

“You don’t think people get tired of Bear?” asked Ursula. “I don’t of course, but…”

“Who can get tired of Bear?” said June. “She’s such a basic earthy presence. Besides I have a feeling we need her this year.”

“Can you elaborate on that?” asked Ursula.

“I don’t know…It’s like everybody is going through a lot and…”

“Molly, of course,” said Owen.

“Bears keep climbing over the elk fence at the Conservancy Trust garden to get the apples,” said Janna. “I’d like to get in touch with that Spirit a little more.”

“It’s coming on for hibernation and story season, that’s for sure,” contributed Owen.

“Well, I have to admit I did have a dream,” continued June. “Really a fragment of a dream where Ursula’s Mama Bear with the apron was beckoning to me from the clearing. Like she had something to tell me. But when I went towards her she faded away. It felt like it wasn’t just me she wanted to connect with but all of us. Thanks, Owen for bringing it up. I’d actually forgotten the dream.”

“It takes a village….”

“I just don’t want people to feel like I’m pushing my stuff on others,” said Ursula. “Yet I’ve certainly learned to trust your feelings over the years and if no one objects I’d like to have the class take on the event this year. Owen, does your brother Gordy still have the Bear skin from that kill a few years ago?”

“Yes, I’ll ask him if we can use it,” said Owen.

 

“Doing ritual is all about setting intention,” said Ursula to her class gathered in a circle around her on a late November evening, “then playing with the pageantry that wants to unfold. One approach is to act out god and goddess stories like the Women’s Medicine Circle did in September. Our intention then was multi-layered which is not unusual. We wanted to learn what the ancient Demeter-Persephone-Hades myth had to teach us about children growing away from mothers, plus honor the post fall Equinox direction into the dark of the year. In the process it became about how we might change ancient stories to better suit our times. Someday I’d like to act out and shift the Egyptian Isis/Osiris myth in a ritual setting, but that feels too complicated for the moment.” She took a deep breath.

“We almost always do rituals on the spokes of the year’s wheel, but also for an approaching birth or around a loaded subject. Menopause and money are good examples of subjects that push buttons. Once we actually burned some dollar bills. It was literally shocking for all of us, but I’m convinced that breaking that taboo helped bring about the current state of abundance manifesting around here. We let go of some of our attachment and opened up the flows. I’ll tell you more about it one of these days or maybe it’s time for another variation on that theme.” She chuckled, feeling the possibilities for a moment before focusing again.

“There’s a marvelous account in Guliana’s Legacy by Alexis Masters of a huge ritual centered around Aphrodite’s return in small Tuscan town complete with a sacred marriage and the climax of the bad guys vs. the good guys plot. Cerridwen Fallingstar’s Heart of the Fire has some of the best accounts I’ve read of small scale and individual rituals and initiations. It’s from a past life of hers from the Burning Times. Both are on the list I sent out the other day.”

“I love the elaborate stuff just as much as the simplicity of spur of the moment inspiration…. like suddenly consigning old letters or dusty artwork to the fire in a conscious manner. It all works and is important. It is all true as long as we are in true. As long as we are in touch and centered.”

“I’ve been to a few of yours over the years,” said Fern, “and I’m excited about having the chance to experience putting one together. That’s why I signed up for this class.”  Others nodded.

“I’ve never been to such a thing,” said Marsha. “How can I take part without a sense of how it’s supposed to feel?”

“Experience helps but we all had to start somewhere. In the early days very few of us had any practice with ceremony. We wound our way with sheepishness, shyness and bravado to the center, picking up clues along the way. This class has already been practicing with some of the elements of it, you know. Smudging, calling the directions. Setting up the altar. Closing.

“Winter Solstice is coming up,” she continued with a flourish, “when many religions have ceremonies of light to counteract the dark point of the year. I experience it as a high energy time which is kind of counter-intuitive.  Especially thinking of Bear.

“Yet oddly enough, it’s at the Summer Solstice that I have come to expect the laid back energy with lots of lying around and plans going awry – people with big parts not showing up, potlucks getting ruined. We long to be outdoors so rain can be a disturbing factor. It poured the year Native American mucky mucks came for a Medicine Wheel. Another year, leaving in a hurry, I backed one of our cars into the other!

“Winter is the opposite. Is it high because of our hyped up excitement around Christmas and Hanukkah or did our current traditions arise out of a primal urge to dance and make merry at this extreme of the year’s round? Are we simply staving off the dark with manic energy? Certainly the Yule tree, candles and holly wreathes were appropriated from the pagans by the ‘newer’ religions. If you think about it those traditions are an odd way to celebrate what are essentially Middle Eastern events of miraculously burning oil and the birth of an avatar.”

“I don’t care what gets celebrated, but I love the rush of being with people,” said Marsha.

“Making presents,” said Jay.

“Singing carols,” offered Ariel.

“All of that,” agreed Ursula. “Sooo – I’ve volunteered our class to put the Solstice piece together for the community. I invite any of you who are comfortable to take a speaking role in this.”

“Ooh, that makes me… like…really nervous,” said Mariposa.

“Do we know enough for that?” asked Ken.

“You need only do what you are comfortable doing,” Ursula reassured those who were squirming. “You can all be part of the preparation and the overall experience. I sense that it is growing inside of you and it will manifest as you are ready.”

“By coming to this class, you declared yourself up for it at least some degree. Desire to explore at least,” interjected Jay.

Ursula continued, “We rarely repeat the content of a ritual and certainly never do it the same way twice or follow any kind of a script. I experience the speaking parts as having the most punch when they come from a deep place within rather than because of rules, somebody else’s customs or prescribed content. Really we shouldn’t even call it ritual.

“I always think it should be called ceremony.” Owen spoke quietly.

“Yes,” said Ken, “I’ve wondered about that. Ritual sounds so…. ritualistic. Primitive.” Everyone laughed.

“I know,” responded Ursula, “it should be ceremony or even celebration or honoring, and yet…. Maybe it’s about reclaiming that word too…. I don’t know. Ritual is what always comes out of my mouth and I need to trust that too…. Anyway, it isn’t repeated in the sense that it follows a liturgy or script. Thus one important proviso is that I’m a stickler for not reading one’s piece. As said, I feel strongly that it is more powerful when it comes out of the moment – when it is inspired by the energy rising in the group. If it’s written out, it comes from the time and place where you were writing. Plus, reading has a stiltedness that keeps people at a distance. The Dogon in Africa say that the literary part of the brain shuts off the psychic, connecting part. It’s the direct inspiration from Spirit that I like to go for. I’d like you to take the leap from the get-go into trusting the perfection of what comes out of your mouth, even if you forget something “important” that you meant to say. This doesn’t mean you can’t think about it before hand… or that we can’t do that as a group.”

“What do we want our theme to be,” asked Jay who had been in on such planning in the past.

“Normally we would hash that out in the group, sometimes logically and rationally and sometimes because one person has a guidance. It would be good for you to have that experience, but in fact, that part already happened spontaneously outside of this class. I’m suggesting we take the lead from Owen and Janna here, along with guidance from June to focus on Bear.

“What hasn’t been decided is the intention beyond honoring or anything about the content. We can come up with that together. What do we want to accomplish? What is it about Bear that we want to evoke? Or maybe the better starting question is, ‘What do we know about Bear?’ I’d like you to break up into groups of three or four to brainstorm these questions. Here’s pen and paper to jot down what you come up with.”

 

With only a little hustle bustle, they settled into groups and a creative hum ensued. When Ursula called them back together, she asked each sub-group to report on what they found which she summarized on butcher paper:

  • Healer – because bears find their own medicine
  • Growly
  • Fierce, protective Mother
  • Scary
  • Human like – uncannily so when skinned
  • Hibernation – good reason to do it this time of year
  • Dreamer
  • Messenger
  • Story Teller

“What comes to me,” said Uri, “is that our Intention might be for each to listen for Bear’s message for ourselves.”

“Ooo, we could start in the dark,” suggested Ariel.

“Someone could lead a visualization, guide them through the forest and then into a cave….”

“Would you be willing to do that part?” Ursula asked Uri.

“Don’t you want to do it?” he responded deferentially.

“I could, but while you guys were talking I got it that I am supposed to anchor the ritual. That means taking myself out of the action to sit quietly on the sidelines grounding deep into the spirit of the ritual we outline. To hold the space.”

“You won’t be helping us?” asked Janna.

“In a way I will already be in the cave where Uri will lead the rest of you. I’ll be there as Bear.”

There was a little silence while everyone absorbed this information.

“So that’s what’s happening when I see someone sitting so still in the ritual,” said Fern. “I knew various ‘heavies’ were undoubtedly performing some subtle task, but I could never get a handle on exactly what that was.”

“’Weighty Witches,’ I like to call us for all the roles we different play,” chuckled Owen. “After the concept in Quakerism of ‘weighty friends’ rather than designated leaders.”

“It’s hard to describe but hopefully modeling that role will give a sense of how it adds to the ritual.”

“It’s appropriate for you to do that given your connection with Bear and all,” said Jay. “I suggest you ask Pia or Molly or somebody to help us during the setting up. I know that preparing to anchor is a delicate process.“

“Excellent idea!” said Owen.

“But, but….” protested Ursula thinking of all that would need shepherding.

“Now don’t get all controlling,” said Owen. “You can’t have it both ways and I don’t want all that pre-ritual flutter on my shoulders, though I will wear my Eagle mask for overseeing the big picture. I just have to make the eye holes a little bigger.”

In the end Ursula had to give in gracefully. Owen and Jay were right, much as she hated to admit she couldn’t do it all. She flashed on getting someone else to do the anchoring but then relaxed, knowing the students would be fine without her fussing over them and there could be plenty of old hands on deck to help. “Okay, I’ll talk to Molly.”

“I’d be happy to do the visualization,” said Uri, “I’ve had some experience of that and find it powerful.”

Rhea spoke up next. “Glad that’s settled. Shall we call for sharing after the visualization if anything about our own future path comes to us. Sometimes speaking stuff into a circle gives it a little more oomph. I could lead that part.”

“Good idea. Everyone agreed? “

“We could do a part about speaking our intentions for the coming year.”

“That feels like we’re getting too complicated.”

“Agreed,” said Janna and everyone else nodded.

“Who wants to call the directions which usually also involves closing them at the end?”

“I’d like to be Owl in the East,” said Thea. “That’ll stretch me in good ways.”

“Maybe everyone could be a creature. Something that goes inward or connects to Bear.”

“I’ll call in Elk in the North,” said Gabe, surprising himself.

“Gray Whale in the West,” said Ken thoughtfully.

“Can I also be  in the West with Salmon?” asked Janna. “Seems like it would be cool to have something that Bear eats to bring in the food chain concept.”

“I don’t see why we can’t have more than one person in each direction,” agreed Ursula, “That would give each of you a little support. Bringing in Salmon would be a gift to Pia who wants to create salmon honoring ceremony soon.”

“Then I’ll help in the East with Butterfly,” said Mariposa. “I can handle that!”

“Promises of spring,” suggested Thea thinking that Butterfly wasn’t a very wintery creature.

“Cougar in the South,” Jay said.

“I wonder if I should have taken that one,” wondered Thea to herself, thinking of Owen’s admonition about playfulness. She looked up and caught him watching her with a twinkle in his eye. “Can he read my mind?” she wondered.

“Beaver in the South,” said Marsha, “I might as well live up to my nickname, plus I wanted something in the marshes.” Everyone laughed feeling how appropriate that was.

“Mountain in the North,” volunteered Ariel. “Could we all make masks? I’d be willing to lead an extra session or two at the Art Center for that.”

“Cool!”

“I’m in.”

“Me too.”

“You guys are ambitious. Let’s see how that plays out,” suggested Ursula. “Center?”

“Could I do the grounding first from the Center?” asked Fern.

“Good for you,” said Ursula proud of seeing her step forward. “It looks like everyone has a speaking part. That’s great. On to practical earth-plane details. Can somebody take notes? We’ll use the next sessions to iron out details and practice.”

“I can light the fire in the fireplace,” offered Jay. “And we can bring the big red parachute to create the cave.”

“We’ve got pillows and futons to lend from Benden Farm,” Rhea said thinking of previous rituals.“

“It’s coming together,” marveled Ursula honoring the thoughtful flow of inspiration.

 

 

 

Bear & Ritual Class

 

“We should do another Bear ritual for Winter Solstice,” said Owen out of the blue as a bunch of them lingered after meditation one evening.

“You don’t think people get tired of Bear?” asked Ursula. “I don’t of course, but…”

“Who can get tired of Bear?” said June. “She’s such a basic earthy presence. Besides I have a feeling we need her this year.”

“Can you elaborate on that?” asked Ursula.

“I don’t know…It’s like everybody is going through a lot and…”

“Molly, of course,” said Owen.

“Bears keep climbing over the elk fence at the Conservancy Trust garden to get the apples,” said Janna. “I’d like to get in touch with that Spirit a little more.”

“It’s coming on for hibernation and story season, that’s for sure,” contributed Owen.

“Well, I have to admit I did have a dream,” continued June. “Really a fragment of a dream where Ursula’s Mama Bear with the apron was beckoning to me from the clearing. Like she had something to tell me. But when I went towards her she faded away. It felt like it wasn’t just me she wanted to connect with but all of us. Thanks, Owen for bringing it up. I’d actually forgotten the dream.”

“It takes a village….”

“I just don’t want people to feel like I’m pushing my stuff on others,” said Ursula. “Yet I’ve certainly learned to trust your feelings over the years and if no one objects I’d like to have the class take on the event this year. Owen, does your brother Gordy still have the Bear skin from that kill a few years ago?”

“Yes, I’ll ask him if we can use it,” said Owen.

 

“Doing ritual is all about setting intention,” said Ursula to her class gathered in a circle around her on a late November evening, “then playing with the pageantry that wants to unfold. One approach is to act out god and goddess stories like the Women’s Medicine Circle did in September. Our intention then was multi-layered which is not unusual. We wanted to learn what the ancient Demeter-Persephone-Hades myth had to teach us about children growing away from mothers, plus honor the post fall Equinox direction into the dark of the year. In the process it became about how we might change ancient stories to better suit our times. Someday I’d like to act out and shift the Egyptian Isis/Osiris myth in a ritual setting, but that feels too complicated for the moment.” She took a deep breath.

“We almost always do rituals on the spokes of the year’s wheel, but also for an approaching birth or around a loaded subject. Menopause and money are good examples of subjects that push buttons. Once we actually burned some dollar bills. It was literally shocking for all of us, but I’m convinced that breaking that taboo helped bring about the current state of abundance manifesting around here. We let go of some of our attachment and opened up the flows. I’ll tell you more about it one of these days or maybe it’s time for another variation on that theme.” She chuckled, feeling the possibilities for a moment before focusing again.

“There’s a marvelous account in Guliana’s Legacy by Alexis Masters of a huge ritual centered around Aphrodite’s return in small Tuscan town complete with a sacred marriage and the climax of the bad guys vs. the good guys plot. Cerridwen Fallingstar’s Heart of the Fire has some of the best accounts I’ve read of small scale and individual rituals and initiations. It’s from a past life of hers from the Burning Times. Both are on the list I sent out the other day.”

“I love the elaborate stuff just as much as the simplicity of spur of the moment inspiration…. like suddenly consigning old letters or dusty artwork to the fire in a conscious manner. It all works and is important. It is all true as long as we are in true. As long as we are in touch and centered.”

“I’ve been to a few of yours over the years,” said Fern, “and I’m excited about having the chance to experience putting one together. That’s why I signed up for this class.”  Others nodded.

“I’ve never been to such a thing,” said Marsha. “How can I take part without a sense of how it’s supposed to feel?”

“Experience helps but we all had to start somewhere. In the early days very few of us had any practice with ceremony. We wound our way with sheepishness, shyness and bravado to the center, picking up clues along the way. This class has already been practicing with some of the elements of it, you know. Smudging, calling the directions. Setting up the altar. Closing.

“Winter Solstice is coming up,” she continued with a flourish, “when many religions have ceremonies of light to counteract the dark point of the year. I experience it as a high energy time which is kind of counter-intuitive.  Especially thinking of Bear.

“Yet oddly enough, the laid back energy is what I have come to expect at the Summer Solstice with lots of lying around and plans going awry – people with big parts not showing up, potlucks getting ruined. We long to be outdoors so rain can be a disturbing factor. It poured the year Native American mucky mucks came for a Medicine Wheel. Another year, leaving in a hurry, I backed one of our cars into the other!

“Winter is the opposite. Is it high because of our hyped up excitement around Christmas and Hanukkah or did our current traditions arise out of a primal urge to dance and make merry at this extreme of the year’s round? Are we simply staving off the dark with manic energy? Certainly the Yule tree, candles and holly wreathes were appropriated from the pagans by the ‘newer’ religions. If you think about it those traditions are an odd way to celebrate what are essentially Middle Eastern events of miraculously burning oil and the birth of an avatar.”

“I don’t care what gets celebrated, but I love the rush of being with people,” said Marsha.

“Making presents,” said Jay.

“Singing carols,” offered Ariel.

“All of that,” agreed Ursula. “Sooo – I’ve volunteered our class to put the Solstice piece together for the community. I invite any of you who are comfortable to take a speaking role in this.”

“Ooh, that makes me… like…really nervous,” said Mariposa.

“Do we know enough for that?” asked Ken.

“You need only do what you are comfortable doing,” Ursula reassured those who were squirming. “You can all be part of the preparation and the overall experience. My sense is that it is growing inside of you and will manifest as you are ready.”

“By coming to this class, you declared yourself up for it at least some degree. Desire to explore at least,” interjected Jay.

Ursula continued, “We rarely repeat the content of a ritual and certainly never do it the same way twice or follow any kind of a script. I experience the speaking parts as having the most punch when they come from a deep place within rather than because of rules, somebody else’s customs or prescribed content. Really we shouldn’t even call it ritual.

“I always think it should be called ceremony.” Owen spoke quietly.

“Yes,” said Ken, “I’ve wondered about that. Ritual sounds so…. ritualistic. Primitive.” Everyone laughed.

“I know,” responded Ursula, “it should be ceremony or even celebration or honoring, and yet…. Maybe it’s about reclaiming that word too…. I don’t know. Ritual is what always comes out of my mouth and I need to trust that too…. Anyway, it isn’t repeated in the sense that it follows a liturgy or script. Thus one important proviso is that I’m a stickler for not reading one’s piece. As said, I feel strongly that it is more powerful when it comes out of the moment – when it is inspired by the energy rising in the group. If it’s written out, it comes from the time and place where you were writing. Plus, reading has a stiltedness that keeps people at a distance. The Dogon in Africa say that the literary part of the brain shuts off the psychic, connecting part. It’s the direct inspiration from Spirit that I like to go for. I’d like you to take the leap from the get-go into trusting the perfection of what comes out of your mouth, even if you forget something “important” that you meant to say. This doesn’t mean you can’t think about it before hand… or that we can’t do that as a group.”

“What do we want our theme to be,” asked Jay who had been in on such planning in the past.

“Normally we would hash that out in the group, sometimes logically and rationally and sometimes because one person has a guidance. It would be good for you to have that experience, but in fact, that part already happened spontaneously outside of this class. I’m suggesting we take the lead from Owen and Janna here, along with guidance from June to focus on Bear.

“What hasn’t been decided is the intention beyond honoring or anything about the content. We can come up with that together. What do we want to accomplish? What is it about Bear that we want to evoke? Or maybe the better starting question is, ‘What do we know about Bear?’ I’d like you to break up into groups of three or four to brainstorm these questions. Here’s pen and paper to jot down what you come up with.”

 

With only a little hustle bustle, they settled into groups and a creative hum ensued. When Ursula called them back together, she asked each sub-group to report on what they found which she summarized on butcher paper:

Healer – because bears find their own medicine

Growly

Fierce, protective Mother

Scary

Human like – uncannily so when skinned

Hibernation – good reason to do it this time of year

Dreamer

Messenger

Story Teller

“What comes to me,” said Uri, “is that our Intention might be for each to listen for Bear’s message for ourselves.”

“Ooo, we could start in the dark,” suggested Ariel.

“Someone could lead a visualization, guide them through the forest and then into a cave….”

“Would you be willing to do that part?” Ursula asked Uri.

“Don’t you want to do it?” he responded deferentially.

“I could, but while you guys were talking I got it that I am supposed to anchor the ritual. That means taking myself out of the action to sit quietly on the sidelines grounding deep into the spirit of the ritual we outline. To hold the space.”

“You won’t be helping us?” asked Janna.

“In a way I will already be in the cave where Uri will lead the rest of you. I’ll be there as Bear.”

There was a little silence while everyone absorbed this information.

“So that’s what you guys are doing when I see you sitting so still in the ritual,” said Fern. “I knew various ‘heavies’ were undoubtedly performing some subtle task, but I could never get a handle on exactly what that was.”

“’Weighty Witches,’ I like to call us,” chuckled Owen. “After the concept in Quakerism of ‘weighty friends’ rather than designated leaders.”

“It’s hard to describe but hopefully modeling that role will give a sense of how it adds to the ritual.”

“It’s appropriate for you to do that given your connection with Bear and all,” said Jay. “I suggest you ask Pia or Molly or somebody to help us during the setting up. I know that preparing to anchor is a delicate process.“

“Excellent idea!” said Owen.

“But, but….” protested Ursula thinking of all that would need shepherding.

“Now don’t get all controlling,” said Owen. “You can’t have it both ways and I don’t want all that pre-ritual flutter on my shoulders, though I will wear my Eagle mask for overseeing the big picture. I just have to make the eye holes a little bigger.”

In the end Ursula had to give in gracefully. Owen and Jay were right, much as she hated to admit she couldn’t do it all. She flashed on getting someone else to do the anchoring but then relaxed, knowing the students would be fine without her fussing over them and there could be plenty of old hands on deck to help. “Okay, I’ll talk to Molly.”

“I’d be happy to do the visualization,” said Uri, “I’ve had some experience of that and find it powerful.”

Rhea spoke up next. “Glad that’s settled. Shall we call for sharing after the visualization if anything about our own future path comes to us. Sometimes speaking stuff into a circle gives it a little more oomph. I could lead that part.”

“Good idea. Everyone agreed? “

“We could do a part about speaking our intentions for the coming year.”

“That feels like we’re getting too complicated.”

“Agreed,” said Janna and everyone else nodded.

“Who wants to call the directions which usually also involves closing them at the end?”

“I’d like to be Owl in the East,” said Thea. “That’ll stretch me in good ways.”

“Maybe everyone could be a creature. Something that goes inward or connects to Bear.”

“I’ll call in Elk in the North,” said Gabe, surprising himself.

“Gray Whale in the West,” said Ken thoughtfully.

“Can I also be Salmon in the West?” asked Janna. “Seems like it would be cool to have something that Bear eats to bring in the food chain concept.”

“I don’t see why we can’t have more than one person in each direction,” agreed Ursula, “That would give each of you a little support. Bringing in Salmon would be a gift to Pia who wants to create salmon honoring ceremony soon.”

“Then I’ll help in the East with Butterfly,” said Mariposa. “I can handle that!”

“Promises of spring,” suggested Thea thinking that Butterfly wasn’t a very wintery creature.

“Cougar in the South,” Jay said.

“I wonder if I should have taken that one,” wondered Thea to herself, thinking of Owen’s admonition about playfulness. She looked up and caught him watching her with a twinkle in his eye. “Can he read my mind?” she wondered.

“Beaver in the South,” said Marsha, “I might as well live up to my nickname, plus I wanted something in the marshes.” Everyone laughed feeling how appropriate that was.

“Mountain in the North,” volunteered Ariel. “Could we all make masks? I’d be willing to lead an extra session or two at the Art Center for that.”

“Cool!”

“I’m in.”

“Me too.”

“You guys are ambitious. Let’s see how that plays out,” suggested Ursula. “Center?”

“Could I do the grounding first from the Center?” asked Fern.

“Good for you,” said Ursula proud of seeing her step forward. “It looks like everyone has a speaking part. That’s great. On to practical earth-plane details. Can somebody take notes? We’ll use the next sessions to iron out details and practice.”

“I can light the fire in the fireplace,” offered Jay. “And we can bring the big red parachute to create the cave.”

“We’ve got pillows and futons to lend from Benden Farm,” Rhea said thinking of previous rituals.“

“It’s coming together,” marveled Ursula honoring the thoughtful flow of inspiration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celeste and June in November

“It’s Scorpio time,” said Celeste who as her name suggested paid some attention to the stars and their progress through the wheel of the year. “What is going to happen this year? Something always does….”

“Several somethings, no doubt,” said June dryly. “I always feel a little braced in November.”

“Is it time to conjure a few more wise ones? Wizards and witches, shamans and fools? It’s that season.”

“I think Owen is getting close to his Chironic wounded healer power and Thea is diving deep with her painting. Really everyone is taking some major leaps right now. The dream world has been hopping. And the birds are pretty excited. Almost spring-like in some ways or mid-summer when the raucous young ravens fledge.”

Celeste yawned and stretched thinking how tired she was and that tomorrow was a school day. A fire twinkled merrily in the grate, welcome sustenance on this chilly night. She licked her forefinger and pressed it to glean the remaining chocolate chip cookie crumbs from the plate Ariel had presented them earlier. “Maybe I should take your advice about retiring soon. Rhea is coming along nicely as a teacher and I can imagine leaving the Illahee School in her competent hands. I have my eye on Ariel too.”

“That would be a huge step for you,” responded June, not daring to hope her partner would act on the suggestion any time soon, yet knowing that the time was inevitably approaching. “It would be lovely to have you present here in a different way. I wonder what that would look like.”

“More sewing and clothes design for one thing. I could get serious about my astrology and astronomy studies for another, I still have such a strong feeling that you and I are here from the stars. I’d like to explore my connection with the Pleiades.”

“And I with Sirius. We are spirits learning to be human.”

“Oh no. I just thought. What if our true homes are different worlds. I don’t know if I could bear to be separate from you, dear heart.”

“Perhaps we’ll just need to come back here again…. so we can be together…..” Each fingered the single diamond in her own left ear, a pair split one holiday season to remind them of their origins in the stars. Each then reached across to finger the twin sparkling in the other’s ear, looking into each other’s eyes. It was a ritual that never failed to delight them. A quick hug sealed with a kiss and they sat back again in their corners of the blue chintz love seat drawn in front of the fire.

“I know that Pluto and Neptune are dancing in tandem. Shadow selves being fished out of the deep by the watery king, while Jupiter makes it all loom large. Is there something we should be doing to help things along?” asked Celeste, pouring herself a little more from the delightful Goddessy Damiana liquour bottle between them.

June added another log to the fire – wood Arlo had split – and then decided to warm up her cooling cup of Cindy’s lavender and tulsi tea nestled in the duck down cozy that Caliente had made for them. So lovely having evidence of younger friends all around them. The fire happily kindled more brightly and the stars twinkled outside the window.

“It feels like there is some heat bubbling in various quarters…. sexually I mean. It could stir things up to have some company in that realm.”

“Other female couples?”

“I don’t know about that. Sure, it would be nice to have more witchy lesbians around, but I have a feeling that’s not so important as raising the general heat level around here. Ours too, of course.”

Their hands reached across the small distance between them to clasp warmly and then following suit, their heads bent forward as well. Lips connected and softened, opening to allow tongues to do their dance. Each put a hand on the other’s cheek. And drank deeply. “You smell good,” said one to the other. Breath came faster for a moment then stilled again. They drew apart, their eyes open deeply to each other, content to let the stirring in their cunts simmer for a bit.

“Do you ever wish we were younger, Celeste?”

“You mean like I would have grabbed you hard in the old days and we’d be rolling on the floor by now with or without our shirts?”

“Nice memories, aren’t they?”

“I keep having the feeling that if there were more juice around us, we’d have more juice between us. But maybe that’s just wishful thinking….”

“When you wish upon a star…. “ Celeste sang. “Venus is rising again in the east aka Inanna returning from the Underworld to greet her lover.”

“Remember back when I was whining about how there was no one else to play with magically?”

“I wasn’t very willing to take part in those days, was I?”

“You were busy putting energy into the school. You still are.”

“I know,” Celeste said ruefully. “It’s all-consuming.”

“And worth it. You’ve helped a lot of young folks come into their own. Look at the marvelous crop abroad now, both those here and those out a’wandering about the globe.” June thought longingly of Marina Goodwin-Brown, a favorite of hers.

“Still…..”

“I remember I had to take myself firmly in hand and do the psi stuff on my own. Let my sand tray work be shamanic, even if my clients didn’t always realize it. I learned how to move myself in that space of magic and mystery, letting even ordinary, everyday actions have meaning and import. Model the world I want to be living in. It’s a challenging discipline.”

“You do it so well.”

“Not all the time, of course, but I had such marvelous training from my earliest years. I thank my mother and aunts daily. Plus I keep my life quiet enough that I can usually open my heart center to operate from. All my chakras really. As you know, it doesn’t work if I’m out in groups too much. No dancing or drumming for me much less city council meetings or board memberships, no matter how worthy the cause. I just can’t stay centered when I am pulled every which way by people’s energies and dramas and fears. I get seduced into caring too much about the details then. I can manage it one on one with clients if I’m very careful and cleanse after every session. Put their worry cares into my little cauldron to work themselves out on their own…. Of course, sometimes a particular group thing calls me….”

“Seems like there have been more than usual this fall. You got us to the Equinox Labyrinth, the Demeter and Persephone women’s ritual, and even Day of the Dead. I’ve been amazed.”

“I’m tracking that about myself obviously. Seems like things are heating up somehow and my Inner Guidance keeps saying I’m needed to be present – to nudge things a bit more than in years past. Maybe it’s all finally coming together….”

“Have you noticed Gabriel and Jasmine Terranova’s energy? It’s very intriguing.”

“Kind of sparking…. They haven’t opened up yet about all they know…. Getting their bearings I assume. And who on earth are Ken and Marsha? They’re taking Ursula’s class. I come across him wandering around in the dream time but he’s pretty unconscious….”

“I’ll bet one or both of them show up in your sand tray studio soon.”

“We’ve been waiting an awfully long time. Is it finally long enough? We always knew people would show up and grow into their power.”

“You helped heal a bunch of them.”

“As you helped raise a bunch.” June raised her teacup to salute Celeste. “We both are available when the big energies need us.”

“I’ve always thought it amazing that we can live here in a group house….”

“Luckily we have our little suite.”

“And Owen is such a steady soul.”

June raised an eyebrow. “You’re forgetting….”

“I suppose I am. But at least we weren’t all living together during his pot and alcohol PTSD years. Nor during his sadness while Susan died and then when Robin fledged from the nest. But that led him to invite us into the house. What a blessing that has been. We’ve helped him anchor, I think.”

“Not to mention the stray urchins who pass through here. We always seem to know which ones will work for us, and us for them.”

“Usually. I think Ariel is a keeper, though I don’t suppose she’ll be content in this house forever. She will stay in the area now.” June spoke as if saying it made it so which it did. “She’s home, you know.”

“Probably she’ll partner up. I have a feeling it might be with a woman, speaking of that.”

“Speaking of that.” Their hands reached out massaging knees and sliding up thighs to their matched pair of v-shaped crotches…. The flames kindled a bit more this time. “I do believe there is a little juice flowing, Sweetie. Shall we adjourn to the bed? As inviting as the fire is, this floor is awfully challenging to my hips nowadays.”

“Not just yet,” said June. “I’d like to dedicate our rising flame to the collective fire – juice and muscle, sinew and bone. Semen and fallopian tubes – even ours that aren’t doing much any more. Our memories will suffice and can flow forward from the past into the future.” She turned her eyes towards the winged Isis statue that knelt on the mantle piece surrounded by lavender sprigs, calendula and feather bouquets, several cowrie shells and a large piece of obsidian. “May the Goddess bless all our unions and the gods rise to the charms and calls of Venus, Inanna and Isis. It is time. Help me up, Celestina mia, my knees are a bit creaky tonight.”

 

 

Ursula Struggles

Ursula walked north up the beach. The sky was heavy and foreboding. Like her heart. The Mountain was shrouded in mist. Like her brain. She kicked the sand with her toes as she walked. Fiercely one moment. In discouragement the next, anger and frustration competing for attention.

The worst thing was that she couldn’t even figure out what was feeling so very off. She dragged along oblivious to the sand dollars on the beach and the lovely rills the outgoing tide had left.

Sex was better these days since she had put a little pressure on herself and Charley to take time together to really connect. They still had a ways to go to recapture their youthful passion. No, that wasn’t the right way to put it. They would never regain that level of hormonal drive or innocence. They were parents of grown children, grandparents even. The imperatives were different. They had busier lives than ever…. Were full schedules still the problem? It was so sweet when they did connect…. Yet, there was this feeling they could be going deeper….

The teaching was going well. The group seemed to like what she had to say and they were having lively conversations. The mix of personalities was good. Sometimes she wished she were structuring the class a little more openly. More people coming in to speak…. She had thought that Owen would chime in more but he was still staying in the back seat. Like he had her back, but…. Maybe this is what happens when one comes forward formally as a teacher. Was this what she was meant to be learning as much as the putting together of the content? For it was easier – a luxury actually – to be in charge rather than cope with the challenges of always co-creating with her pals…. It was a good experiment and was helping her hone her thoughts…. Maybe the lessons would translate into words at some point. A book.

HUSH! No planning ahead just now!” The words came like an imperative from deep inside her…. Usually she brushed the injunctions aside with thoughts along the order of “I know I shouldn’t do this right now but….” It was hard to resist the joy and juice of a creative rush of ideas….

Okay. Deep breath.

Ritual work was going well too. She’d enjoyed the powerful surge during the Demeter-Persephone ritual and telling the Durga story on Samhain had felt so right. What was her part of the Durga rebirth? What else did she or should she have a hand in?

Not a good question right now. Irrelevant,” came again from her inner self. “You’ll know.”

Another deep breath. “Where am I? What is this NOW? Cold sand in my toes. Shoes waiting patiently by the path.” A lovely wet rock that wanted to be in her pocket. Her neck wanted her scarf to be wound a little more snugly…..

Everyone thought she had it so together. That she wasn’t afraid of anything. And she wasn’t – except when she was terrified. Was that what she was modeling? That it was possible to be looked up to and still be scared? Ugh. “Gag me with a spoon.” She kicked the sand again.

Giving herself to her community. Buya! Bloody Bully for her! What about the times when she did things she didn’t really want to do? Go through Molly and Charley’s proposal, for instance…. She’d done it cause she knew she had a bunch to say if she could wrap her brain around it. Her experience was valuable – not to be thrown away. And she had been soooo glad they were doing it and not her, but it had felt important to contribute in some way. Especially since it was happening under her nose, in her own house. In her own bed with the dreamer that was Charley right next to her….

Plus she kept having the feeling that she should connect with the Terranovas to further the ReTreat idea a bit. She really liked their energy…. She had a feeling they had something to teach her. She wondered if Pia would follow up on that. Does Pia feel guilty for not going forward with it? Again, no need to think right now about where that was all going….

Manifesting what she needed. She’d gotten gracefully out of the active organizational work…. Taking on the teaching had been a big step – she touched for a minute back into the working out of that role earlier in the fall. That it was okay to do it and declare herself such…. It was hard to have people look up to her when there were so many other competent people around. And she was glad she had straightened out that thing about being a shaman. She so wasn’t one. Uri, now…. He had a lot to teach them on that score.

She knew there was something big in the way…. something that was smothering her today. Welling up strongly. Not making her sick, except at heart….

Doing readings for everyone else…. Not giving advice exactly and certainly not predicting the future…. But still being someone that folks with troubles could turn to. It wasn’t a bad thing certainly. As an elder…. How would being a crone help her? Was it time to declare herself such? She’d rather been avoiding it, not really comfortable being an OLD WOMAN. She knew she would still be beautiful and sexy even…. And she did like her wrinkles and increasing gray hairs…. What was in her way?

Was it HOW she was doing it? All this planning and manifesting and visioning…. It needed to be done…. Or did it?…. It was fun…. Was it taking a toll? Was there something wrong with the spirit with which she was doing it? Something that was draining her energy? Yet it was hard, VERY hard to imagine being any other way…. Does it have to do more with play? What would that look like??

A cluster of ravens and crows were picking at a seal carcass – maybe she needed to let them pick at her. That would be a shamanic experience…. Maybe she needed to have a session with June…..

Slowly her senses came back. She noticed that the fall wave surges had covered the large rock outcropping that was a seasonal friend to them all. She always wondered where the starfish – “I mean sea stars” – went when the sands washed in…. What was buried in her and wanting to come out?

No time like the present. If she turned right instead of left when she came out at the road, she would be at June’s door in a jiffy. If June was busy or not there, she could leave a note. If she was there….

 

 

“Help!” Ursula wailed to the white haired wizened little beauty who came to the green doorway with its arching trellis still showing a few tiny late roses. “I need guidance. No! I need my body to be taken apart.”

“You‘ve come to the right place, Girl!” grinned June. “I’m so glad you’re here. I just had a cancellation so your timing is perfect. Of course.”

“I need to be doing this for myself.”

“Of course you do. Chiron is in an interesting dance with Uranus these days – so Wounded Healer and wacky Heyoka Revolutionary are messing with us. About time you reached out beyond your own resources and came out of your woods for help. Haven’t seen you in here for a quite a while. I’m so happy I can be of service.”

In her urgency, Ursula brushed past June into the beautiful space. She plunked herself down in front of the biggest tray built into the floor in front of the wood stove and deposited her rock from the beach into the center of the fine black sand from some foreign shore. June stood watching with her arms akimbo, knowing better than to say a word to this seasoned supplicant as Ursula breathed deeply and looked around her at the thousands of figures waiting patiently on the shelves for someone to need them.

Her eyes first lit on a little ceramic candelabra with its three blue birthday candles. It was Mexican with bright flowers and three teeny birds on it. Next she picked out a black mother goddess figure – full boobed and solid – and set it in the center between the beach rock and the candles, placing several plastic children and needy looking folks around her. It was telling that the choosing of these figures made Ursula tired again. It was the worst of her sense of her role – the giving of herself for others.

A shaman priestess went into the tray for the part of her that could go deep. Either solo or in a group. Then a Native American medicine man crowned in eagle feathers, his hands held aloft in supplication, smaller plumes along his sleeves. There should be spirits and guides around them…. Polar bear and brown bear because she couldn’t decide between them. Heck LOTS of bears – a Zuni Bear. A…. She hesitated as she was choosing yet another bear. This was known territory. She didn’t need every bear on the shelf. Or Jaguar or Raven or….. But a crystal – a blue sparkly crystal egg…. And fairy maybe…. She turned toward the shelf loaded with them and chose an enticing blue fae pointing the way. But she was so young and pretty – ageless. Fairies were ageless weren’t they? Immortal in all the stories. Or morphing back and forth.

Maybe she needed the stooped and hooded crone in the scene. The older version of the fairy perhaps…. in the direction that the fairy was pointing. She sat back on her heels, simply being with the scene until she felt a call to put a gateway of some kind between the two. An arch and some Greek pillars would serve. Perhaps a chair next to the crone. A chair for herself…. A throne??

June watched silently, seated now in her well-worn armchair, while Ursula created the scene. She would have voiced more encouragement with most clients and maybe asked a few questions, but Ursula was an old hand at this.

Next Ursula selected an ordinary looking persona – a woman with a businesslike orange jacket and slacks. She had a briefcase in one hand and the other hand on her hip. No stopwatch like the Alice in Wonderland “I’m late. I’m late” rabbit, but she might as well have. Ursula had already decided against that rabbit – she’d banished him a couple of years ago and was damned if he’d come back in her tray this time! She glared at him before she moved on.

It was cool that this business-like figure had articulated legs like the dolls her daughters played with so she could be made to walk, visiting each of the groupings in the tray…. Leaving footprints like the astronauts on the moon…. And maybe even sit in the chair. She took the figure firmly in hand and placed her in front of and just outside the tray. Then grabbed a lei and placed it around her neck to lighten her up a bit.  She’d have put a goofy hat on her if she could have found one….

“OK, June, I’m ready to talk now.” June nodded with a grin and silently handed the younger woman a box of matches. With a bow of thanks, Ursula sat down on the floor and after a moment’s prayer, lit the candles. She could almost hear the birds on it start singing as she did so.

Taking up the orange jacketed woman again she began to speak, “This is ME – Me in my most busy guise even though I’ve never carried a briefcase in my life,” she assured June. She walked the figure over to the circle with shamans and spirit guides. “’Take me apart,’ she says. ‘Scatter my bones…. I know they’ll come back together when you’re through.’” Ursula prostrated the figure in front of the circle. “I surrender all that I know. All that I think I know.”

Next she turned the plastic woman towards goddess figure. “Here is where I have my roots – my foundation. Where I come from. Who I most honor and represent. Gaia. Mother Earth with all her solidity and her beauty – even in her present travail. Even in my present travail. She’s so THERE. Waiting always for me to tune in. But today all these everyday people are in the way of my connection with her…..“

“Do they need to be?” asked June.

“Noooo, I guess they don’t. They’ve been my job. Maybe for lifetimes! But I’m reaching for something else right now…. Hey!“ she said as she knocked them over with her hand. “I’m going to stick all these people into the sand. They’re part of my bones – my very structure. They are exactly what I must let come apart. It’s not that they’re not there. But they aren’t the point at the moment, are they? They are outside of ME.” Ursula turned them upside down. “Now they’re a bunch of figures with their heads in the sand…. That’s not quite the right metaphor. They’re not like ostriches but they weren’t my responsibility…. Maybe they really need to be buried all the way….. “

“Bravo,” said June. “You’re making my job very easy today.“

“They don’t need a voice or a teacher or anything right now. Whatever they need they can find for themselves from ALL of us. Including whatever new energy is wanting to come in that can’t if I’m in a controlling place…. Or cause I can’t imagine it…. That gives me confirmation shivers….”

Ursula reached out and put the “me” figure in front of the fairy. “I’ve always loved her. She’s light and sweet yet has such power. Not heavy or ominous. Fairy queens don’t age do they? We do. But they don’t….” Suddenly she broke down. ”Is there a way to have both??” she wailed.

June handed her the Kleenex box as tears rolled down her cheeks and her nose began to run. “Charley and I are just beginning to heat up the sex again. I really don’t want to get old and lose that.”

“Being old does not mean losing sex, believe me!” said June.

“….. Maybe I am ready for my croning. June….”

“Are you now? We would be honored to have you in our Crone’s Circle. It’s a big step, you know. A process. Literally a ‘crowning.’”

“I know. It’s my 60th birthday next summer. I have a feeling that declaring myself a Crone would solidify something for me – help me make a gateway like that one there….” She pointed to the sand tray in front of her.

“We can talk about the process later.”

“I suspect the details will emerge.… She’s all of these personas isn’t she?” Ursula picked up the woman’s figure she’d been moving around and set her in the chair.

“I’d say so.”

Suddenly Ursula leapt up and grabbled a lioness that caught her eye across the room. It gave her a warm feeling in her midriff – like it was meant to be. Her solar plexus glowed – the place of the Lion. Lioness. She put it down next to the little chair. “It’s like the tarot Strength card, isn’t it, June.”

“Yes, and like your Leo Rising, my dear.”

“Oh. My. God…. Goddess….” she amended. “It is. I. Just. Have. To. Show. Up. That’s what Leo does. How could I have forgotten? Or been so afraid?”

They both sat quietly for a several breaths. The ticking of the clock made itself known. Ursula’s stomach growled and she giggled.

“I still need the village though, June.”

“Do you?” The therapist spoke non-committally.

“Yup,” the younger woman said firmly, reaching out to uncover the figures she’d buried a just a bit ago. “Sorry, guys. It’s not that I don’t love you and our connections. And I do want to teach and heal. It’s just that I needed you out of the way for a bit. So I could see straight. You are my beloved tribe. Staying linked to you is an imperative for the future. But I need to shift my perspective just a bit. Put on a new pair of glasses. Not dark glasses to hide behind yet not rose colored ones either. Kind of seeing-through-the veil-glasses…. so I can access the new guides that await me. As a crone. You’ll all show up too, right?”

 

“Hey where were you this afternoon?” hollered Charley down the stairs when she opened their front door. “The Terranovas came by!”

“Oh. My. Gosh.” Ursula stood there with her mouth open and then began to laugh. “That is sooooo hysterical. And so perfect.” She told him about her day. “I obviously wasn’t meant to meet with them. What did they have to say?”

“It’s pretty damned exciting, actually. They are definitely interested in setting up the ReTreat business. And….” Charley paused for dramatic effect, making Ursula really listen up. “They seem to have plenty of money. They might even be interested in buying into my retreat place idea here on the circle. The land above and the house down the hill we just noticed is for sale.”

“Oh Charley. Really? And we wouldn’t have to do it?”

“I’m not sure how much I would need to be involved. Or if it would be profit or non-profit or how it would be structured or or or. But we could use our Aerie as a sleeping place rental and….”

“And the Womb…. “

“And you could teach as much as you want.”

“And others can be brought in.”

“And people will get hired and….”

“Will I have a place to be peaceful?” Ursula asked a little plaintively as she saw her craving for increasingly less active involvement crumbling….

“We can protect ourselves – you especially – in all sorts of ways. These seem like very capable people.  And it looks like they have enough money from to start it off right… and….”

“Abundance,” she breathed.

Abundance,” he agreed.