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.

 

Mother Daughter Ritual 2

Molly sat in the car feeling the tenor and tone of her mental and physical fatigue. “I’ve gotten this far – dirty jeans exchanged for clean; green plaid shirt for the blue…. Now I need to start the car, pull out the hand break, put it into reverse….” She tended to speak to herself when she was in this state. “Thank goodness I have an automatic shift now. One less set of details to track…. I don’t have far to go this evening. I’ll be fine.”

Her mind groped towards the ceremony ahead. She’d noticed before that she needed to be deeply tired in order to allow herself let go out of her doing self into her magical receiving self. “Does it take exhaustion for me to hear the voice of the Goddess? That’s hardly a healthy way to go about it…. but maybe it’s the best I can manage at this juncture in my life.” She took a deep breath. And another.

“How do I prepare myself for the content of this ritual?” She thought about her son Ethan who lived in the city. He was not far away and his connections here actually brought him home fairly often. No complaints there.

What washed over her was how much she minded not having a daughter. Her matriarchal line ended with her. It had been umbilical to umbilical to umbilical down countless generations of women. She was the last. Hardly a new thought, but tonight a particularly deep level of sadness welled inside her along with a pang of jealously for her sister in Southern Oregon who had two daughters, as did Ursula…. A sob welled in her chest.

Molly pulled to the side of the road to look out over the ocean for a good weep. Her thoughts were tortured. “If I had been able to stay with you, oh husband once mine, maybe we would have had another child that maybe would have been a daughter…. Who maybe would now have a child…. Faugh! Enough of these tired ‘what ifs.’ Perhaps the work for tonight is to let go of this hugey grief.” Releasing old pain was surely part of coming into new awareness – becoming healed…. Demeter could help….

 

Happily enfolded in her goddessy dress, hair only a little damp from her rainy communion with the elements, Ursula set up the altar in the middle of the frayed oriental carpet that had come from ReBound years ago. She spread a red silk cloth shot through with gold and set on it the vases and candles she’d prepped. Running back upstairs to her bedroom, she located a white bowl decorated with wheat sheaves. Back down again, she filled it with Mountain spring water. Should she light the candles now or wait ‘til people arrived?

That question was answered by a knock on the door that turned out to be Pia arriving early with an armload of grasses for the altar, as well as a red bowl of pomegranate seeds and a few whole ones.

“Molly got these to me yesterday so I could pick out the seeds ahead of time. What do you think about leading the young women off to the hot tub with the pomegranate seeds?” she asked.

“That might be perfect,” answered Ursula. “But how ‘bout we wait to see if it fits in the moment? I see more cars arriving. Will you smudge people in the entryway? I want to use the rain stick just inside the door. I’m thinking it should be a non-chatty beginning tonight.”

So Pia stood tall and elegant in a rainbow-striped caftan, her frizzy henna-dyed hair aglow, as women came into the large entryway lined with benches. Umbrellas and walking sticks stood in a tall handmade urn. Each hung their wraps on the hooks that once sported children’s jackets, added their shoes to the jumble that lived there and, one by one, stood to receive the cleansing wafts of white sage from Pia’s bundle. She waved it over each head, down the front with a spiraled focus over their wombs, and went all the way down to their feet, which some people raised to get the bottoms cleared. Then up the backs of their legs and spines with another spiral at their back heart before circling the head again. Finally with a kiss on their forehead or cheek and sometimes a whispered word or two, she sent them through the French doors into the living room.

She admired Cindy’s new purple hooded cape and thanked June & Celeste for their role as counselors, pleased to have them there though they weren’t mothers as far as she knew. Sensing Molly’s tiredness, she gave her a little extra attention until she could feel the ReBound Director sink into this place rather than the outside world. She winked at Thea who was looking around in wonder. Could this be her first time here?

Cali entered the familiar space of her old home with a smile. It always smelled the same, even with the overlay of whatever had last been cooked. What was it? Damp coats, smudge certainly and just a tiny whiff of the cat box. Her mom must have skipped that prep detail. She gave Pia a hug and her mom one too once she went through the door, where Ursula was tipping a long rainstick up and down each person’s body. “Could you light the candles?” Ursula whispered. “I never quite got to that.”

When it seemed like all had arrived and settled into a circle, Ursula moved to stand in a spot left for her. Everyone else stood listening as she continued the soft shuuush shuuuush of the rainstick. “Feel your roots going down into the ground like rainwater – nourishing, replenishing, centering into the Mother. Feel the Mother’s warmth coming back up into your root chakra and up through each energy wheel in turn, through belly, solar plexus, heart, throat, to your third eye. Feel washed and grounded by the Mother all through your body.”

Ursula stopped the rainstick and Molly dinged together the two discs of a Tibetan chime. “Feel this sound in your third eye. Feel it shimmer with your consciousness up through your crown to burst out of your head and shoot up past the clouds and the moon. Feel it swoop around the Universe. Then bring the starry light –  let’s call it masculine light tonight – back down into your crown, down past your third eye, through your throat and your heart to glow there in your diaphragm. Mother Earth and Father Sky. We are here.”

Turning to the East, the group called out associations with that realm. “I call on Eagle for the wider vision.” “Clarity.” “Inspiration.” “Breath.”

Facing South next, a few began to clap their hands and shimmy a little. “Fire!” “Warm hearts.” “Passionate feelings.” Cali glowed, this being her favorite element and direction.

Watery West brought new voices into the mix. “Dreams.” “Mermaids.” “Orca’s telepathy.” “Gray Whale.”

Facing North, the group began to stomp. “Ancestors, we call you in with all your stories.” “Polar Bear.” “Rocks and bones.” “The Mountain.”

Finally turning back to the center, and raising their arms high they called in unison, “To the Above.” Then they bent to touch the ground, “To the below,” and rising to extend hands forward, “To Spirit, the Great Center.”

Pia called out triumphantly, “The circle is cast. We are between the worlds.”

Thea felt a shimmer down her spine.

Ursula stood silent for a few moments, then took up her bright feather be-decked rattle and spoke into its rhythm. “The harvest is mostly in, the herbs are drying on the racks, tinctures are a-brewing. The serious rains are coming. It is close to the time for the bears among us to go inward. We are accustomed to the march of seasons here. But once upon a time in these latitudes and in many around the world, it was always summer. Demeter and her daughter Persephone (sometimes known as Kore) played in the fields and gardens year round. They wandered among the ever-growing plants and ever-bearing trees plucking what they needed. They nibbled on berries and spinach, threshed grain, and dug up carrots and beets. It was a rich, sweet life.” Ursula paused so all could remember and soak it up.

“Yet, there came a time when Persephone was beginning to feel a little restless. She had recently begun to bleed every month and was noticing the young men eyeing her. None of them had caught her fancy enough for her to forego the pleasure and security of her mother’s company…. So far….

“Then one day, as she was picking flowers in the meadow Persephone noticed a dark stranger standing at the edge of the forest. He was tall and beautiful, with a spotted wildcat skin around his loins and curling hairs on his bared chest. He was older than she….”

“Sexy,” someone pronounced and everyone giggled. Ursula nodded and winked.

“Persephone was very intrigued by him. Acknowledging her interest, he put the set of pipes Pan had given him to his lips and beckoning with his eyes for her to follow, he turned and slipped between the trees deeper into the forest. Who among us wouldn’t have been at least tempted to follow? Persephone, though hardly of an impetuous nature, never even looked back. She followed the stranger all the way to his gloriously bedecked cave deep within the earth….”

Rhea moaned and all the women followed suit, elbowing each other knowingly.

“Ah, but when Demeter tells the tale she sounds like a Mother Bear: ‘I was at the far end of the garden tending to the grapes when I looked up to see a dark bearded man shrouded in a cowl, grabbing my beloved Persephone. He dragged her screaming into a huge crack in the earth that had opened at the edge of the forest. I dropped my basket of fruit and dashed after them but the crack closed and they were nowhere to be found. I searched and called and threatened to no avail. I moaned and mourned, pounded the earth and tore my hair ‘til the skies became dark and the rains fell like never before. Not gentle rains but hurricanes and typhoons, one after the other. Such tempests seemed fit mourning for the abduction and rape of my Persephone.

“’This went on for months until all was laid waste such that famine threatened. The people, unaccustomed to having to fend for themselves, begged me to forget about my grief for my daughter and let the sun shine again so that their food could grow.

“’Finally able to hear their plight, I sent Hermes to the Underworld to beg Hades for her return, for that was who I learned had taken her. Hermes and Hades reached agreement that Persephone could come back but before she left, hellish Hades tricked her into eating a single pomegranate seed…. For the Fates had a rule that whosoever consumed food or drink in that place of death was doomed to spend eternity there and so the compromise was that Persephone must return to the underworld for six months out of each year. Thus each year we have six months of autumn and winter when I mourn my daughter’s absence, and six months of new growth and warm weather in spring and summer when she is returned to me.’

“This is how the mother tells the story, thinking the worst. And this is how the Patriarchy has told it through several millennia, being rather enamored of rape and pillage and macho displays. But what if Persephone was actually happily ensconced with her lover – a beautiful wild man who treated her magnificently, fed her elegantly, and loved her well and often. She did sympathize with her mother, of course….”

“Of course.” Was the group’s tone just a teensy bit sarcastic?

“So when the bargain was struck she didn’t mind going back up for part of the year, but she always returned to the dark world and her true love with joy and anticipation…. Now some stories say she was also “Mistress of the Labyrinth” and it is appropriate that we think of her as such given our recent journey into the Equinox Labyrinth. I also like to think of her as a healer – an edge-dweller, She who is willing to go deep into the mysterious shadows but who is also the bringer of Spring.”

Ursula sat down quietly with her hands in her lap, waiting to see what would happen next. It wasn’t long before June spoke, “There is another dimension to this story that I love. Persephone and Demeter came to represent the great wheel of life, death and rebirth. They were celebrated in ancient Greece in the Eleusinian Mysteries at this time in late September. The women danced wildly, took hallucinogenic potions, and were part of secret rites that have never been described to this day, it being death to any who told of them to the outside world.”

“That gives me shivers,” said Cindy, her almond shaped eyes aglow with ancient memories.

“Me too,” agreed Ursula. “I’d forgotten that part when Demeter came to me so strongly last week. It was as if she were asking for this ritual.”

Thea didn’t say anything, still being so new to all this, but thought of her Mountain Woman painting. Was it Persephone in her cave being with the shadow side? Or was it a local native version of a similar archetype?

Mother Daughter Ritual 1

From: Pia Rosen – pia@nekelew.net

Subject: Women’s Medicine Circle Ritual

To: Women’s Medicine Circle list

We are doing a ritual this coming Friday night involving Demeter and Persephone, the archetypal Greek mother and daughter duo. We’d love to have women of all ages play either of the two roles – the daughters who leave to spend the winter months with a lover in the underworld and the mothers who resist their going and stop things growing, bringing on the winter season. Roles are not age dependent, i.e. there can be older daughters and younger mothers. You’ll know which part you want to play. Seems like there’s grist here for all of us, whether we’re mothers and daughters or not. No prep necessary. Pomegranate seeds will be provided. The ritual will take place at Ursula’s house on Mountain Lane.

 

“Looks like you’re off to an early start,” said Charley on Friday morning coming upon Ursula cleaning the toilet still in her blue flannel nightie. “I have meetings ‘til late this afternoon so I’ll just grab a burger at the bar and go straight to the Men’s Group.”

“That works for me,” replied Ursula. “I’ll be able to really sink into my ritual prep.”

“No coming up for air, huh?”

“I want a leisurely day to play with the energies.”

“Will you all still be speaking to us rapacious men when the evening is over?”

“Hopefully we’ll have cleaned out another layer of the ancient stuck and hurt places in us around the patriarchy. We trust you will be doing the same,” she chuckled.

“Have fun,” he hollered as he headed out the door toting his heavy backpack as usual.

Ursula had woken very conscious of a pressure to get the house clean for ritual. It was always a delicate dance. Once her cleaning eye was activated it was easy to fall into tension about getting everything done (as if there were ever a “done”). It wasn’t exactly what her mother called “house-proud.” She knew nobody in this bunch would judge her housekeeping (or fuck ‘em if they did), but she did love it when everything looked and felt beautiful.

Yet, inevitably there were more grimy corners lying in wait and it was easy to get sidetracked into tackling accumulated piles, not to mention drawers…. None of which anyone else would ever notice, yet could make for an underlying freshness that added to the whole in a subtle way…. But she could also wear herself out and not have energy for the ritual itself. That would be a mistake….

She wanted the house to feel “right” – not “right” in the sense of “correct” but rather in the Buddhist sense of aligned and in true with what wanted to happen. Clear. She didn’t know ahead of time what that looked like exactly but she knew if she stayed attuned the unfolding day would show her what “right” was for this particular occasion, different from any other time. If she stayed relaxed and open, the process would take her deep into the ritual space she craved. “Sounds like a few drops of Oregon grape essence is called for here,” she counseled herself, remembering Owen’s description of it as bringing one “into True.”

Rummaging in the cupboard for the Mahonia, she also came across some usnea tincture – always good for clearing the air and for inspiration. She took both and then noticed a woven band of orange and yellow on a hook by her dresser and tied it around her head. A deep breath signaled to her that she was taking the first steps towards her conscious priestess self. The headband tingled around her forehead – echoes of ancient crowns and sacred headdresses? Inspiring, anyway, and grounding at the same time. “I can’t recall a single detail of the Demeter-Persephone story right now. Hopefully it will come to me during the day.”

Time for a pipe of locally grown. She took the sacred smoke deep into her lungs and then blew it towards the houseplants (“which need watering,” noted her cleaning self).

A tarot card was next. “The Empress,” she said aloud. “Help me connect with the earth today and stay deeply in touch with my ancient motherly self….” She propped the card up on the mantel against the little rotund Venus of Willendorf. “Sorry, Old One. I’ll get this jumble including the jug of feathers all sparkling again…. Oh yay. The snake earrings I’ve been looking for. Help me be in transformative, priestessy power today.”

She dug into the hall closet for the bag of dust rags, sidetracking for a minute to clean up the mouse droppings in the corner behind the spray bottle. Then Loreena McKennitt went on the CD player, her Middle Eastern rhythms just right for Ursula’s dance with dry mop and broom.

“Cleaning and clearing is sacred feminine work, isn’t it, Dear Mother. And not just for women,” she added as an aside to the statue of an antlered elk she dusted.

“I remember now.” She took a centering sigh. “The house is a temple and cleaning a renewal of its sacred space. Let it go too long and the energy stagnates. Our uneasy dreams, harsh words and unfinished business get caught in the corners. It’s not house-proud at all. It’s being in touch with the energetics – the Feng Shui – of the space we occupy both in its everyday functions as well as its reverent and celebratory ones. Over and over, we renew. The ritual times force the cleansing and the cleansing inspires ritual….” She lit a yellow candle made by Illahee children last spring…. which act brought the children present energetically….

Thus went the day. Her grandmother’s silver vase got polished, ready to be filled with Demeter’s grasses Pia was bringing. She picked new lavender for the cut glass vase her son Salal had brought her from his travels. A sweater was mended as was the broken wing of a ceramic dragon. An errant tie-dyed sock turned up under the ottoman in front of Charley’s old-fashioned easy chair and her antique blue sparkle earrings fell out of a book of Greek myths that was overdue at the library. Photos of her off-spring and ancestors were lovingly dusted and blessed. Not quite seven generations behind and ahead but the best she could do today. Spiders were carefully set outside or allowed to scuttle into crevices in the rough-hewn walls to watch while Ursula gave them opportunities to renew their own homes. Old candle drippings were scrapped out and the new beeswax ones from the market installed…. Pea soup and chocolate kept her going.

Late in the afternoon Ursula shut the door firmly on the still messy study. “The rest is as clean as it’s going to be,” she declared. “I don’t need to tackle that space today.” Her final act of this stage was to walk slowly about the living room and kitchen with a burning wand of sage and cedar, smudging out the last of the old energy and calling in any friendly spirits who were hovering. “Come in, come in,” she invited feeling the arrival of the trancey space the sage always called up in her. “Join us in our sacred play. Are you bringing tonight’s story to me?”

Ursula now set about getting her own self prepped for the coming ritual. A soak in the hot tub cleared off the dust and cobwebs from the tasks of the day, though she didn’t dare stay too long, being in danger of going all limp. She also discarded the idea of renewing her morning smoke, letting the fresh air center her mind towards the next steps of adornment.

She felt drawn to a green ceremonial dress whose soft draping folds always made her feel like a Greek goddess, particularly appropriate for this night. “Yup, confirmation shivers.” She added the amber necklace she’d been wearing ever since she’d begun this journey with Demeter the previous week. She left the woven wool band around her head but stuck short pieces of grass in it making it more than ever like a crown.

Heading outside again, wrapped in her blue chenille power shawl that dangled with meaningful beads and nature objects, she walked slowly in the misty late afternoon light to the Stone Table. A slight drizzle was falling now and the large flat rock was wet as well as sticky with Sitka pitch. She stepped up tall on the slab. “Figuratively tall,” she giggled thinking how very short she actually was compared to most grown folks. “At least for the moment I am fully into my own height.”

She looked south out over the magnificent expanse of ocean and coastline and, raising her arms to the sky, felt her priestess self pour down into her crown chakra with a shiver of familiar electricity. Turning north to salute the Mountain, she grounded down into its depths until she was as rooted as the Sitkas around her. Knowing another degree deeper now that all would go well tonight even though she had never gotten around to rehearsing the story. She turned to each of the four Directions asking for the wisdom of the old tales, the inspired discovery of new ones, a kindled open heart, and a washing of tender emotions.

Was that what tonight’s ritual was about? New tales out of current emotions? She had been feeling odd with this delving in the Greek stories. Although they were the ones she had learned first in childhood, they were not the ones that inspired her most often. Yet, Demeter had come unbidden to her recently and she had learned to trust such notions when they arose. Had Demeter appeared to help Ursula and the other women clear the decks? “Are we to bring about a healing of the old so that the new can move in? Whatever that may be….”

She knew for herself it was time to surrender to what the Mountain and this place wanted of her and of her children. She had stopped cajoling her offspring a while ago but the mourning for those birds flown from the nest was still thrumming inside her. These feelings weren’t doing her or her fledglings any good. They were on their path. She and Charley had sent them out of the nest with the best their own skills and love could provide, which she knew was very good indeed. Throwing her hands up into the air she felt a gust of wind blow a more serious flurry of rain around her.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” she called out to the elements and to the Mountain itself. Dashing the raindrops out of her eyes, she stepped down off the rock, satisfied that she was prepared for the evening and trusting that it would bring a release of this particular tension and longing inside her.