Winter Solstice Bear Ritual

Molly rushed to get to the Community Center in time to help with the set up of the Solstice ritual, a little late for her role of backup for Ursula. She had been talking to the paper buyer about the lousy recycle market situation. When she walked in the door, the room was already well into the process of being transformed. Owen and Jay were standing on tables hanging the dark fabric to divide the large room into two sections. She could see people in the kitchen setting up serving tables, Marsha Quince looking very much in charge. Someone had moved the Women’s Club Christmas tree under the East windows.

“We need one more piece of fabric to really partition it off,” said Ursula bustling up. “Did you bring any new stuff?”

“The Goddess must have been whispering to me,” said Molly. “A big green one came in today and I had a feeling it would come in handy. Let me just unload these muffins in the kitchen and I’ll dig it out. I brought the extra lights you asked for too.“

“Where do you guys want the lights?” asked Mariposa flitting up behind her.

“We talked about the inside of the bear’s den being dark, so string them up along this entrance area. People can leave their give-aways under the tree here. We moved it from the other corner to have the festive feeling out here and not in the cave. Come see it,” she said turning back to Molly. “Can you help Pia and I sort out how the altar inside should look? We have different ideas and are pretty irritated with each other. She’s always so sure she’s right and I’m too scattered to focus very well. I’m not even sure why she’s helping, the folks from the class need to learn this….”

“OK, how ‘bout if you ground first,” suggested Molly reaching out to give her a hug.

“Oh, yeah right! I guess I am sort of out of my body. I still tend to do that when there’s so much going on, don’t I? I feel a particular responsibility to Bear with this one and the students that are looking to me…. It’s all making me cranky. It’s too much….” Ursula was close to tears.

“BREATHE,” commanded Molly firmly looking Ursula in the eye, belly to belly. Then more gently, “Breathe.”

They stood quietly together for a minute amidst the bustle, going deeper with each breath and imagining their cords going down into the earth from their second chakras.

“Aahh. Much better,” they both said at once.

“I love how we can do that for each other,” said Ursula. “My cord was brown today, of course. What color was yours?”

“Silver with little sparkles in it. Like Christmas lights,” she smiled. “Would you like me to do the altar with Pia? Then you could go sit quietly with your Bear mask for a while to get ready for the anchoring.”

“Actually, I think I’ll walk down to the beach to watch the sun go down. That always seems an important part of Solstice to me. It’s like if I don’t watch it go down it might decide not to come back up.”

“Oooh, radical move, Ursula! Good letting go! I could learn this from you,” Molly admired the shift Ursula was making.

“Well, I know if I don’t go I will be no good at anchoring and mess up the energy all around…”

 

By the time Charley walked in, others were arriving too. The place was dimly lit and mysterious. He’d been held up at the Conservancy Trust working some bugs out of the mailing list. It was great to have so many people helping with ritual these days. He could sit out a few out prep-wise. In fact, two young women he didn’t even know greeted him quietly. Ursula’s new ritual class was already proving fruitful. The taller one took his plate of deviled eggs into the kitchen. The other smudged him with cedar and sage, brushing the fragrant smoke with what looked like Ursula’s hawk feathers.

As always, the smudge instantly calmed and grounded him into a trancelike state. He felt a little buzz of anticipation as Owen, recognizable behind an Eagle mask they’d made together in the Men’s Medicine Circle, pulled aside a gauzy curtain and gestured him into what felt like a dark cave. A couple of parachutes were draped low from the ceiling representing Air, while a small fire cast a glow from the fireplace in the South. He could dimly see chairs and pillows in a circle on the wooden floor, many with people already in them. Candles twinkled on an altar at the west end. He couldn’t see what else nestled there, probably shells and a dish of ocean water for the West. He had a flash of the year they’d done a ritual around Sedna, the Kwakiutl seal goddess who was especially meaningful to the surfer part of him, with a handmade kayak filled with Christmas lights in the center. Tonight the room smelled of the cedar branches that had been placed around the outside of the circle. Earth.

All the elements were there. He always liked to check. Not that any would be forgotten. Maybe it was more like “checking in.” Calling his personal circle. Soon their individual hearts would intertwine like a Celtic knot to bring Spirit, the fifth sacred thing, into the Center. Would they remember to make that explicit as they called in the directions? “Stop it,” he chided himself gently. “They’ll do just fine and all the old hands are here to hold the space and provide the deep energy.” Always there was something new to surprise them and neither the “audience” nor the “celebrants” ever knew quite how it would appear as the distinctions between them blurred.

He found one of the pillowed floor seats with a comfy back and realized he had settled in between Gideon Terranova and Michael. Finch Terranova was on the other side of his dad. It was so great to have more men involved these days, especially young ones. For a long time Owen and he had been the only ones – or the only consistent ones anyway. It quickly became obvious that Michael was kind of fidgety. Charley patted the knees on either side of him in silent greeting, leaving a calming hand on Michael’s for a heartbeat or two until he felt the younger man take a deep calming breath. Charley knew Michael was not very into what he called spiritual fol-de-rol but was present for Uri’s sake.

A dark shape suddenly loomed followed by others. The Ritual was about to begin. Draped and masked figures took their places, two in each of the Directions, while two more stood slightly to the left of the altar. The silence deepened. Another figure in a mask – a bear mask – appeared and sat on the floor on the right side of the altar. On the bearskin that he hadn’t noticed before. Gordy’s bearskin. Ursula…. He settled in another degree into a meditative place and breathing deeply himself, sent grounding energy to his wife as one more figure holding a candle came into the Center with arms outstretched.

 

 

Ursula sat silent and still by the altar. It was good she couldn’t leap up to coach or nudge her students as they made their way through calling in the directions and the elements. She’d insisted they get over the hump of wanting to read their parts. It was always tempting for those new to ritual to script things out. They wanted get it “right.” As if there was a “right.” For her the strong power came when it was done intuitively, when space was left for Spirit to inhabit, inspire and shape the words. Written out it stayed in the literary, planning part of the brain, not nearly as connected to the Creative Source. In her experience Spirit needed a lot of open space. That’s what the first clearing was about – to allow breath in so there was room for inspiration. In-spire. To Breathe. Fern had done a great job of grounding and centering the group. Soon Thea in tandem with Rhea would be telling something of Bear and the intention for the ritual. It was Ursula’s job simply to be, to anchor. She imagined the splash of leaving the boat and sent her claws down deep.

Firmly rooted, yet barely able to see out of the mask even if there had been enough light, she slipped into a dreamy state…. Soon she couldn’t remember what the intention was.… Could people could see her there in the mask?…. It didn’t matter…. She was holding the deep space…. leading them under…. welcoming them there. Being Bear. Her consciousness stretched as she put out her hand to the stuffed head of the real bearskin underneath her. She thanked this particular bear for the gift of its presence in their midst, and felt him in the Spirit world…. lumbering through the woods…. plucking a salmon out of the rushing stream…. Felt his pleasure at finding a stump full of bees…. his sleepiness as this deepest point of winter was reached, the longest night of the year…. Wanting to snuggle with his She-Bear, yet feeling that before relaxing there were some important messages to convey to these two-leggeds gathering here in this Spirit Cave…. Not from themselves necessarily… they were just setting the space…. Being the conduits…

“Is that what Bear does??” thought Ursula and with that thought tuned into the circle again. She should probably be listening while people around the circle spoke of their experiences, what they had dreamt, but somehow she knew that the deeper part of her was hearing them…. Had that been the intention? She didn’t need to take care of those dreams or figure out how to make them real…. They were being felt deep in Bear’s heart. All she needed to do was be Bear…. What do Spirit bears dream about? What will Bear ask of me this night? Or of us all?

 

Molly was enjoying being gathered up in sacred space. To her the feeling was almost tangible – a soft mossy bubble wrap that enveloped them all. She was glad her informal part of grounding Ursula was over early and she had plenty of time to sink into the familiar glow. She had thought about her health issue for a second in the beginning and then successfully pushed it out of her mind. “Let Bear’s healing energy take care of things tonight.” Now the talking stick was being passed around and people were sharing their experiences from the visualization.

Tuning in she realized the person speaking now had a familiar ring that slowly formed an image in her mind…. Ariel.

“…. As Uriel’s voice led us into the forest, I found myself imagining being at the base of a giant Sitka. I could feel hemlock and cedar nearby. A circle of Old Ones told me they are exhausted and need some respite from the caretaking of this place. They were grumpy and frail. They said we’ve put ugly structures on most of their sacred spots and only a few of their tree friends are still standing. They told me I must be part of the change – part of opening the door – part of taking over as a Guardian of the Mountain and this place….”

Her voice trailed off in uncertainty and there was an almost audible hum as everyone absorbed this news.

“I received a similar message.” The voice was Owen’s and Molly’s heart warmed. “I was inside a cave in the Mountain – really, under the Mountain. I couldn’t actually see anybody but I felt a huge, impatient presence. They told me they’ve been watching…. that we are doing a good job stewarding places with the Conservancy Trust…. some of us as individuals as well….” Owen hesitated, trying to speak what had probably not come to him exactly in words. “There is no time to lose, we must find the… meanders…. the paths…. get through the blackberry bushes…. We must see… recognize…. the Old Ones and let them go…. They want to be thanked…. We must step up to the…. the plate…. the table….”

A young man spoke simply after a space of a few heartbeats. “It was all like a dream. I saw myself walking tall and moving forward with my work at the day care center. There are children there who need to be nurtured and taught about Bear and the Mountain and the Old Ones…. This will heal them…. I can do that.”

“I am to study herbs,” said a young voice. Flicker maybe? “There are people here to teach me.”

“The community is ready for what I know…” said Jasmine Terranova.

After each there was the silence of witness. The “how” conversation would come later after the circle was closed and they shared food and chose gifts from the unwrapped offerings under the tree, emerging again into the sparkle of the Holiday season or perhaps even later as things rounded into the New Year.

 

Second Class

“So here we are at our second class. Thanks, Uri for smudging us. Anyone want to share about how the first class settled in you this past week?” Ursula looked around the room at the mostly eager faces. Ken looked disgruntled. Should she address that or leave it to surface in words when he was ready? Owen’s green eyes were twinkling. She suspected he saw the same thing in Ken and was waiting to see what she as official teacher would do about it. She carefully looked elsewhere. “Anyone?”

“I began seeing the blue light more and more,” said Rhea. “Sometimes other colors, especially lavender. In fact I realized how much Celeste quietly uses healing touch with the kids at school. I guess I should have known that but it was exciting to have it become so obvious.”

“Cool. Practicing and observing this stuff enhances it in you and those around you. You have the opportunity now to bring it alive in the kids you teach.”

“Yeah, I talked with Celeste about it some and she said she’s always been cautious, feeling a need to keep it hidden.”

“She’s of a generation when that was necessary. But these little ones need to know about it so they can enhance their own and I’m guessing today’s parents will be comfortable with it.”

Fern raised her hand and Ursula nodded in her direction. “I tried it on Anise when she was feeling tempestuously cranky the other morning. She was in my lap and I put one hand on either side of her body at her heart chakra. She calmed right down.”

“She told me about it when she got to our house,” Jay said with a smile. “She said you put happy music in her heart when she was feeling sad about leaving you, even though she wanted to see me too.”

“Good job, you guys! It does my heart good just hearing about it. The conflicted feelings of a kid who must go between two beloved households. How healing for all of you!” Ursula’s hand had flown reflexively to her heart and her voice definitely had tears in it. “And she experienced it as music. Just in case anyone thinks that seeing is always visual. Way cool! Anyone else?”

“I started using that energy from my hands on the plants that I am hoping will winter over in the Conservancy Trust garden,” offered Janna. “Kind of strengthening them for the wet and cold to come. I wonder if I should do a little experiment and give the energy to some and not the others. Though that seems cruel to the ones I don’t give it to.”

Ursula smiled. “Owen, what do you think of the ethics on this?”

“I’d say that was a great adaption of the exercise and to go for it. If you want you could ask each one if they agree to be part of such an experiment. Full disclosure and all that.” Everyone laughed. “Seriously. I think that would be cool especially if you keep notes. I never can remember to be so organized and then kick myself afterwards.”

Gabe spoke up. “A few weeks ago I had an interesting conversation with Molly about the subtle healing she says goes on at ReBound. So since the last class when it isn’t too busy I consciously put my hand out to shake when I am greeting people – I’m not much of a hugger. Most people didn’t react at all that I could discern, but one man grabbed his hand back, looking startled. An old lady held on and began telling me about a problem with the coons in her garbage can and then how her son never comes to visit and…. It took a while to extricate from her.” Everybody laughed. “But I experienced some sort of reaction in me almost every time I touched with intent like that. Sometimes I felt a burst of sadness or depression. One woman made me gloriously happy – almost giddy – for quite a while afterwards. It was really powerful.”

“That’s great, Gabe! I’m so glad you were willing to experiment with such an inventive way of adapting touch to suit your own comfort level.”

“Yeah,” the young man chuckled. “I didn’t expose myself too much but put a little energy into the ‘manly’ shake and actually felt some stuff coming back. With the needy older lady, I ended up with my other hand on hers as well – until I really had to get back to work.”

“A hand on the elbow works well too,” Owen offered.

“Just be sure you don’t hang on to any energy you don’t like,” instructed Ursula. “You don’t have to take it in. You can quietly shake it off – literally or mentally. If you feel it clinging or icky, go put your hands in running water or in the dirt.

“Okay, then. I have a disclaimer to make about calling myself a shaman in last class. Many people assert that you can’t name yourself shaman, that others have to call you such. I was embarrassed after class when I realized that word had popped out of my mouth. Usually I describe what we do as shamanic, not making that further claim…. I don’t even think I am a shaman because I don’t journey into the spirit worlds to find what’s wrong with someone, nor do I take others’ hurts consciously into myself to heal – at least as far as I know. It’s all much more subtle than that. There are a lot of good books out describing different shamans, past and present. I’m putting together a list of them for you. Owen is much more of a shaman than I am, both as a plant whisperer and doing the journeying he does…. So I really don’t know why I said that….”

“I’m not a shaman either and I don’t think you were really naming me that,” Owen took up the gauntlet Ursula had tossed out. “Though I certainly didn’t contradict you the other night. It slipped right by me. I was more caught by the wizard/witch thing. But maybe Spirit was giving you – and I – a little goose. Our blurts often give new meaning and dimension…. And it’s good to try these things on even if they are shocking. I’m guessing you’ve thought a lot about it since.

“I certainly did. It was so weird to play back the ‘tape’ in my head and realize…. In case you think we’re perfect, or anything,” she said to the group. Jay snorted and grinned at his mother.

“Maybe it was my future self speaking to me somehow. I can imagine that I might be working my way slowly towards that…. But Shaman now? I don’t think so. Even if others named me that I don’t think I would claim it…. Let’s settle on what I and others do as being shamanic.

“Okay. On to the content for tonight’s class. I’m sure you noticed that I set out a few things in each of the four directions. These are items that have meaning to me – our family’s beloved sparkly cloth snake in the South for her hissing, heated energy and her love of the sun. Also for all the Goodwin-Brown memories she holds and for her ability to shed her skin – to grow and change. Some might put her in the north as an Earth spirit because she lives so close to the ground. Instead I put my Edward Curtis photo of a native medicine man in the north to ground us into the deep traditional shamanic energy of the Old Ones. I also put my whale vertebra there. Even though whales are certainly of the water, bones are of the north and this was found on the beach. In the East I put the eagle and condor feathers I’ve been gifted with over the years. They bring in air and cleaning energy. Also song – bird song and omens. For the West, I have the dolphin and the mermaid and one of Charley’s surfing T-shirts. Just in case you think this has to be all serious.

“From the looks of your bags, I’m thinking that most of you have brought some objects to add to these. Let’s go one by one and tell us what you brought and why. But how ‘bout if we don’t comment on each others’ offerings. All offerings are sacred and exactly right for us in this moment. We’ll do a little processing after everyone has put their things out.”

“I brought bells for sound in the East,” said Janna adding them to Ursula’s feathers. “And a pot of mint for the south that I’m hoping someone will take home afterwards. My watering can over here in the West and compost (of course!) for the North.”

Rhea stood in the South to make her first contribution. “An aloe plant over here for the healing and regenerative energy. A conch shell my mother gave me in the West, magic mushrooms in the North for where they grow and also in the East for visions.”

“I wasn’t sure what to bring,” said Ken. “But for the West, I brought my dream notebook that you suggested I start keeping and here is a spruce branch – wasn’t sure if it should go in the North or the South…” He hesitated then placed it in the North. “So I’ll put my mother’s photograph in the South and this flicker feather in the East.”

“I couldn’t think of anything for the north, but now I realize I could put my moonstone ring there.…This rose quartz heart belongs in the South….”

“Ganesha in the South….”

“Walrus tooth in the West…”

“I think this pile of rocks goes in the North….”

“My little frog in the East cause they croak in the spring….”

“My drum in the East…”

“A bottle of our beer for the West. A Jaguar mask for the South. A snake skin for the North and a bird skeleton for the East.” Jay knelt reverently with each offering.

Ursula watched delightedly as each person moved thoughtfully around the circle. She could feel the power growing in each as they placed their sacred offering and in the circle as a whole. Blessed Be!

 

 

 

First Class

“Now that we’ve grounded and called the directions, we have made ourselves ready for our work,” said Ursula to the seven women and five men who sat on backjacks in a circle on her living room floor. In the center was a simple altar of four candles and a central figure of a small blue ceramic bear and some newly fallen alder leaves. “Thanks, Owen Logan for being here tonight to help me anchor the space.”

“I’m thinking I might want to teach this someday so I thought I’d tag along with my mentor here.” Owen grinned at Ursula.

“Mentor, ha! Don’t let him fool you. This one goes deep. He knows a lot and we have grown with it together. Why don’t the rest of you start introducing yourselves and say a little about why you are here.”

“I’m Rhea. I live at Benden Farm where I listen to Cali and everyone talk about all this. I figured it was time for me to dig a little deeper.”

“I’m Mariposa. I’m an intern for the PSU program so I really don’t know any of you or much about this? But I think it might be why I came to this community? Like, I thought I was coming for the sustainability stuff, you know? Saving the earth and permaculture and recycling? That’s important and I really love helping to make changes happen here? But the mystical side seems to underlie a lot of this for you guys,” She nodded at Ursula and Owen and shedding the question marks in her syntax, said firmly, “so I want to know more.”

“The spiritual is indeed a foundation for what we do, though it is rather a chicken-and-egg thing. Can any of us really say which came first? The practical is so intertwined with the Spirit level,” said Ursula. “When I look around this circle I can guess that some of you come out of your experiences in the everyday and some have touched into psychic, dreaming or other realms that may lead to some different involvements in the so-called ‘real’ world. Remind me to bring those connections to light as we talk in the coming weeks. Thea?”

“I am new here too and I fall into that latter category,” responded the sole black person in the room. “It was in answering a call to know myself more deeply, that I fell in love with the Goddess a few years ago and was led to a new style of painting. Since moving down here I’m learning about the earthy, woodsy aspects of all this. Oh and community. I’m the opposite of where you’re coming from, Mariposa. I’m not very P.C. when it comes to technology and giving stuff up, but my psychic perceptions are blooming. It’s almost scary. Plus ever since the women’s Demeter-Persephone Ritual I can’t seem to get enough of ritual in my life.”

“You’ll give us another sort of balance, especially as you come to this from deep within and through a lot of trial and error in your life. June said she’d be willing to come for a couple of sessions to teach us about the psychic pieces to it all.” Ursula turned to the next person in the circle.

“My name is Uriel and I’m a newbie to the community as well, though not to the magical. I play didge and I have a healing touch and I want to go deeper. My partner is Michael DeAngeli who runs the PSU Sustainability adjunct campus here.” There was a chorus of “ooohs” and smiles from most of the group either because they knew Michael or the program.

“Uri is trained in natural healing techniques. Can you tell us a little more about that?”

“I don’t actually have much formal training. I’m not a naturopath so I don’t know a lot about supplements and herbal remedies. Probably not nearly as much as Owen here. And I’m not a chiropractor so I don’t do spinal adjustments and I’m not a massage therapist so I can’t legally work on a naked body. I’m not even a certified Reiki practitioner, but I do general energy stuff that I’ve picked up along the way from various teachers and workshops….” He paused to gather his words. “I feel like I need to put what I know into a general context and begin to develop allies and compadres so I can see how I might want to set up a practice of some sort here…. maybe in conjunction with others with more formal training and maybe even – this is a dream of mine – with the regular medical establishment. This class,” he said smiling, “seemed like a good next step. I am so grateful to be in this place and with you people.”

“I’m sure between this group and other folks you meet in the near future, you will find a productive niche for yourself here. It will be interesting to see how your path develops. And you’ll be right at home with our first exercise tonight and have lots to teach us all I’m sure!”

“I’m Janna. I’m the Conservancy Trust caretaker and permaculture gardener. I can feel the gardens calling me to be more consciously spiritual. I do a little on my own.” Her voice rose in her effort to convey what she was feeling. “I call the directions and sort of pray when I plant and weed so that I take and leave the right ones. But it’s time for more exposure to formal ritual. Plus I need more tools.”

“Planting and weeding are very Kali Ma things to do,” said Ursula. “She’s the many armed, very complex, fierce goddess from India who knows when to cut and when to comfort.” She turned to the next person. “Welcome, Gabe. I didn’t realize you’d be coming. You give us the requisite thirteen in number.” Ursula put a teasing emphasis on the idea of a required witchy quorum.

“I’m pretty skeptical about all this but it calls me too, you know?”

“Every class needs its curmudgeon. I honor you for coming in spite of that. You’ll probably ask some of the most thought provoking questions. Marsha, I’m so glad you could come.”

“Marsha Quince. I am a retired corporate executive.” She said this almost defiantly. “I’m probably in Gabe’s camp. Skeptical. But I’m looking for something new in my life and you people all seem so interesting. I don’t know much about any of this.”

“I’m Marsha’s husband, Ken. I’m also retired. From sales. I’ve been having a lot of strange dreams recently and this seemed like a good way to connect in.” He turned to the young woman on his left.

“I’m Ariel. I lived here when I was little and now I’m back!”

“Yay!” said Ursula and several others. “It’s so cool that you’re returning to the roots of your birth on the Mountain. I have no doubt that the Mountain called you back and that we’ll all benefit from your return.”

“I’m Fern. I used to be married to Gabe,” she grinned at him, “And we share Anise, our little girl who goes to Illahee where Rhea teaches. And now I’m with Jay, here.”

“I’m Jay and besides being with this pixie, I’m also Ursula’s oldest offspring. I am apprenticing as a brewer in Klatsand. I grew up with all this as Mom and Owen and the others of the Medicine Circles were exploring it. So in a way I know a lot, but I don’t exactly know what I know. If you know what I mean….”

Everybody laughed.

“Obviously we have all levels of experience,” Ursula continued. “There is no such thing as dumb question. We each know different aspects and we’re all here to garner from each other. I guarantee I will learn some new things from you all and the questions you ask.”

Ursula took a deep breath to launch into the next phase of her rough outline. “It seemed appropriate to have our first class in this Halloween-Samhain window. Spelled s.a.m.h.a.i.n. in the Celtic tradition but pronounced sow’-en. It’s the pagan holiday that comes halfway between Fall Equinox and the December Solstice. It’s one of the cross-quarters, the time in this Northern hemisphere when everything is dying back and we launch into the dark to compost and renew. Thus it is often called the ‘Witch’s New Year.’” She grinned inside as she watched Marsha pick up her notebook and pen.

“I thought Spring Equinox was the time for making the next year’s intentions,” said Janna, thinking of the plants.

“Spring, of course, is also a time of new beginnings and many people consider the Vernal Equinox the most appropriate point to start the round. I’m sure that makes a lot of sense for you as a gardener. Personally, I think of the Winter Solstice as that time because it is the darkest moment and is associated with our Gregorian calendar New Years. I think of the year as going upwards from there.

“But don’t forget,” she said as an aside, “it’s all opposite in the Southern Hemisphere. For them Winter Solstice comes in June so the calendar New Year is when they are experiencing the peak and then dying back of the light…”

“The point is that it’s a circle, a sacred wheel of the year that goes round and round, with no real beginning or ending. You can also think of it as an upward unfolding Spiral. Each time we go around we are further along and further up (hopefully). The sequences of tarot cards do this as well. It’s like how in high school we reach the senior level and graduate, only to start over again as freshmen in college or apprentices in the wider world.

“This class is partly about learning to be in touch with those cycles as they play out in the year and in our lives – the astrological and astronomical as well as the earth centered ones. It’s about how we celebrate and how we can explore the caverns and mysteries of ourselves and this place – both locally and in the wider world.

“Shaman, healer, witch, wisewoman, greenwitch, and now teacher. These are all words that define me and are clues that I dwell with the sacred cycles and their blessings,” said Ursula.

“Those words define me too,” interjected Owen. “Well, maybe not ‘wisewoman.’ Can I be a wise man? I guess so.”

“What does Wizard really mean but ‘wise man’?” suggested Jay.

“Bingo,” said Ursula. “We all become wiser over time as we tune into nature and what it really wants of us. Not just nature as we have been taught but the super-natural as well, the unseen parts. That which is behind the veils. The occult, which, not so incidentally, means ‘hidden.’ So much is coming together as we enter the New Age, the Age of Aquarius. It’s both exciting and scary to be opening to all this. Luckily there are guides we can learn to call on who are actually just waiting to be invited to aid us. With Owen’s help we’ll do some deeper work together in another class finding these spirit helpers, whether they be angelic, bird, animal, stone or tree.

“One of those I particularly relate to is Grandmother Spider, known as the Creatrix in many American Indian traditions. I have this feeling that we’re all in the midst of this vast web spinning out of her center that is too complicated for us to see in more than tiny, tiny bits. Thus Eagle who flies high and can see the big picture, turns up a lot for me to confirm when I’m in touch with powerful Medicine on behalf of the whole. Lately I’ve been experiencing Goldfinch who, according to Ted Andrews’ book Animal Speaks, helps us connect with nature spirits and leads us into inner realms. Elk helps ground and center me – connects me to the earth through its four strong legs and, since it’s a herd animal, to my Tribe. According to Jamie Sams, Elk also is about stamina.” Ursula swept her arms around the circle to include them all.

“Tonight, however, I want to invoke Bear who is a particular friend of mine to connect us to our inner healer selves and particularly our healing hands. I believe we are all healers. We do it in many different ways but this “handy” appendage can give us tangible evidence.

“So! First exercise: each of you hold your hands together and feel their temperature. NowOwen Or Grape pull them a little ways apart – about an inch,” she said as she demonstrated. “Now move them slightly farther and a teeny bit closer, not touching, but so that you can begin to feel a little buzz between them. If it feels appropriate you can rub them together vigorously for a little more oomph.”

She watched as amazement broke out on some people’s faces and consternation on others. “If you can’t feel  anything, that’s okay. Just keep playing with it. Chi energy is present whether you feel it or not. Experiment to see how far you can stretch it apart. Can you make it into a ball? Try throwing it back and forth between your hands.”

Some people obviously got it. “I see it as a blue energy,” said Rhea. “But then I’ve done this before.”

“Bravo. I can’t see  it visually myself but I know others who do. Can anyone else see it?”

Fern nodded shyly with wonder on her face.

“I thought you might be able to. Okay everybody, pick a partner and take turns putting your hands on each others’ heart…”

After a bit, Ursula reassembled the group into one circle. “The heart is a good place to start because even if there is something else obvious going on – stomach ache, sprained ankle, grief – the heart is usually the source and the most important part to be healed – or at least to give energy to. Who’s willing to share their experience?”

“I felt a warm glow where Jenna had her hands,” said Mariposa wonderingly.

“That’s good to hear,” said Jenna, “because I couldn’t feel anything from my end. Though I did notice that she took a deep breath and seemed calmer.”

“Perfect you two,” said Ursula. “If you can’t see anything spectacular, and most people can’t, then you rely on the subtle clues. And Receiver, if you feel something tell your Giver. Not necessarily in the moment but afterwards at least. You never know what little thing you might be able to corroborate and thus strengthen them. How was it for you, Uri?”

“I’ve done it before, of course. I rarely see anything either, unless the person is a really strong empath themselves, but I get an almost electrical tingling in my hands when I’m at the right place and the energy is flowing. Sometimes that feels blocked between us and then I have to be careful not to get kinda shocked if it bounces back on me with… with sharpness. Tonight I could feel it more strongly on Jay’s front heart than his back heart. I sensed that chakra as really open and trusting, but there is something lingering in his shadow side we might want to look at later.”

“That’s interesting,” said Jay. “I’ve been feeling a little oppression recently like something old is trying to get out. I’d love to work more on that with you.” His mom nodded.

“I couldn’t feel anything,” said Marsha. “It was really frustrating. This stuff is harder than I thought.”

“Don’t get discouraged. It’s only your first go at it. I’m sure you’ll feel more successful as we practice these things. And ironically sometimes “trying” too hard can block the very energy that wants to flow here. But remember also,” she said to the group, “some of you will be good at this particular aspect and others will pick up more easily on other things we do. I’m sure even Uri will hit some snags here and there.”

“So your homework for the next time is to bring things for the altar representing each of the four directions as I called them tonight: East as Air, South as Fire, watery West and Earth in the North. (Other traditions have other elemental correspondences.) We can’t discuss it any more tonight as there isn’t time but please bring items that seem appropriate to you and we’ll work with them next week. Remember there are no “right” answers. Most things can fit into all of the categories so go with your instincts of the moment.

“And speaking of the moment, on the shelf there next to our family portrait I have placed what I am calling a Begging Bowl. Put your payments for the class in there. Remember that although the suggested donation for the class is $10, you can put any amount more or less in the bowl, including nothing. I’m practicing a new way of collecting and charging that is called Dāna in the Buddhist traditions. That’s a Sanskrit word that means generosity or giving and receiving as a spiritual act. So put in whatever feels right for today. I am grateful for your presence.

“Blessings on our journey together. Thank you to the inspiration of the East, the heart & web energy of South, the water in the West for bringing forth our unconscious, and the Bear and our ancestors of the North. Namaste.” Ursula put her hands together in prayer position and bowed to the circle, who, of course, bowed back.