Thea’s Ritual Aftermath

Thea had remained silent throughout the ritual but once home it all replayed in her head. She was close both geographically and emotionally to her mother – her father too, for that matter. And she had made a conscious choice not to have children, so there wasn’t a lot of punch in that…. but Oh! The power of the ritual. The feelings expressed were so intimate and potent. For the first time she really got what it meant to be part of a circle. She could see that sometime another topic would touch her more personally. When she was ready…. She felt badly about not being able to identify with their particular pain but truth be told there was another element that was going on for her.

The women’s ribald laughter had been strangely arousing. It was so freeing to connect about these intimate matters. She had always been shy about such things – it was the way she was brought up. Maybe these women would help her loosen up. It didn’t seem like they had troubles around that score, though what did she really know about them? She was committed to a solo life right now…. taking care of herself. But she could always use a little help of the non-physical sort….

She let herself slip again into that trance-like state she had been in by the end. What would the dark lover look like to her? That was a sexy vision Ursula had presented…. The Ancient Greeks were always depicted as white, distancing her from their stories despite her Hellenic heritage, but the Egyptians had some chocolate colored queens. Nefertiti for one, plus the Nubians. Maybe Hatshepsut. The myths from the two cultures were different though they overlapped sometimes…. except when they were opposite. The Greek’s Demeter was an earthy goddess as was Gaia, the earth herself, but the genders were reversed for the Egyptians. Thea began to see herself as the sky Goddess Nut – another version of Demeter as the source of food but this one arched over earth. Her breasts leaked milk to feed the land and its people. Blue with stars all over her body. On the land was Geb. Solid, manly. Of the earth. And under that? The Lord Osiris. God of the Dead.

Was Osiris the same as Hades who seduced Persephone? Is she Isis or the daughter that Isis never had? The stories seem to say that Isis continued to be a wife to Osiris in her dreams after his second death. Some even imply that Isis is the same as Mary. The Christians considered Mary a virgin impregnated by a god though they skipped over the making love part for sure. Perhaps she was also a priestess, a Magdalene who may also have made love to a god, or at least a god’s son….

Thea thought of a disturbing book she’d read. The Search for Omm Seti was the biography of a 20th century English woman who went to live at the Egyptian temple of Abydos because she had a powerful connection to a dead pharaoh from another lifetime. Seti made love to her in her sleep. And it hadn’t felt like a dream…. “Could it have been true?” wondered Thea. “Could I ever have such a lover?”

She lay quietly in her bed, naked under a light comforter the color of her body. She loved the softness of the flannel against her skin. She thought of a dark face leaning over her…. A dead lover from the Underworld. A lover from the stars….

A warm glow began to gently flicker deep in her vulva. Slick juices flowed as she focused there, a golden warmth spreading up into her belly. She could almost see the spiral – inside and out – uncoiling like a snake. The tip of its tail somewhere deep inside. Just under the hara – the second chakra – the dan tien as the Chinese called it, the body’s center of gravity. The snake’s head curled upwards and out her belly button, that relic of her umbilical that would never connect to daughter or son. The snake writhed and a song played on…. distant music. Pan pipes…. “Just to mix a few more metaphors,” Thea grinned.

She reached her hand down and slid her finger gently between lips slick with her feminine juices. “I want to taste them,” she thought and brought her hand up to her mouth. “Salty? Musky?” She didn’t really know the words to describe that taste though she’d read pages and pages in books trying to characterize it….

How would it feel to have him suddenly appear, this lover from the underworld. She let out a sigh as his strong body entwined with hers. Powerful. Confident. Gentle and wise. His pelvis moving against hers, he slid his hands around her hips and she cupped his beautiful buttocks, feeling the muscles and the heave of them as he entered her. Ahhhhhh. OOOOHHH. Her breath came quickly now in gasps, as did his. Her belly writhed against his. Her blood thundered and she imagined his doing the same. Her back arched up. Her legs splayed wide. Her fingers thrust deeply inside. Her sacrum thrummed as did her womb inside it, matching the thrusting rhythm of the earth as the male god. Geb. Green Man. Hearts beating. Ragged panting.

Thea let out a wild yell that seemed to echo through time and space. She felt the Mountain deep under and inside of her. Felt Wild Woman egging her on, calling forth her own subterranean wildness in a deliciously gushing stream that soaked her fingers and the sheet beneath her…. Sacred. It was so sacred. Sacred play.

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.

 

Names and Goddesses

Maenads

“How did you get your name, Ursula?” asked Thea. “I hear it’s a taken name.”

“I decided to change it some years ago when Bear really came into my life. ‘Ursa’ means ‘bear’ in Latin.”

“Oh sure, like the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.”

“Yup, right up there, said Ursula pointing northward to the sky over the Mountain. “They are also called the Big and Little Dipper.”

Women of various ages were sitting around an impromptu campfire on the beach on one of those gorgeous late September evenings when the sky sparkled with stars just coming out. Their fronts were warmed by the fire – sometimes too warm – but most had their backs covered by cloaks or hoodies.

“I was taking a shamanic journeying class from one of my teachers – you’ve heard of my mentor Stella who has a practice in Nekelew. Had? She’s mysteriously gone a lot and none of us have seen her for a while. One night we were practicing journeying out in the woods lying in the moss when Bear came to me in the Underworld wearing an apron like Mama Bear in Goldilocks. She came from behind and wrapped me in a gentle hug, as if she knew I was intimidated by the idea of her as a spirit ally.”

“A bear hug obviously,” laughed Thea. “I can see why you would be afraid of bears in real life, but why were you afraid to have her as an ally?”

“It was more like I was in awe of her and didn’t feel I was powerful enough – important enough – to rate such an illustrious ally.”

“Poo!”

“It seems silly now, but remember this was early on and I was still trying to understand all this weird stuff. I was so drawn to it – just like you were saying the other day – but I had no idea how to measure up to my full power. I still don’t know the extent of that but I’ve come a long way.”

“Had you gotten other signs or messages from Bear?” asked one of the younger women.

“Yes, many, but the strongest was the year I had a strong sense that we needed to base a Winter Solstice ceremony on Bear to honor Owen’s brother Gordon who had shot a huge bear while hunting elk out in Eastern Oregon. He hadn’t meant to but he was saving his buddy who had gotten between the bear and its recent kill. He was really upset about having shot it so I wanted to help clean up some of that energy. I kept wavering about it cause one person in the group was a vegetarian and couldn’t cope with the idea of hunting, much less eating the meat. One day after talking with her I reached behind the back seat of my car for shopping bags and found a metal necklace pendant on the floor that I’d never seen before – a stylized bear claw. Huge shivers went up and down my spine. ‘Okay, Bear, okay,’ I said, ‘we’ll do the ceremony. I promise.’ The ritual was beautiful. We told the story of the kill and then honored all the growers of our food. Even the vegans found a way to be with it. Afterwards all I wanted to eat at the potluck was the bear meat that Gordy brought. I just couldn’t get enough of it.”

“Where had the necklace come from?”

“It took me a while to figure that out.”

“It was mine,” laughed Molly. “My sister had given it to me when I was visiting back East. Ursula had picked me up from the airport and it must have dropped out of my pack. It had been there for a couple of weeks. I gave it to Ursula after that, of course.”

“By then it was like I had outgrown my given name. It was time for a change.” They were all silent for a bit.

“How about your name, Thea?” asked Caliente. “Doesn’t it mean Goddess?”

“I’ve always been named Thea. I thank my mom almost daily now that I’ve discovered the Goddess. It seems like it was preordained somehow.”

“But it’s even cooler than that,” said Molly. “Didn’t tell me that one of your special totems is Owl?”

“Yeesss, they’ve shown up a lot in my paintings. I figured they had something to do with the deep diving I’ve been doing into my shadow side. What else about Owl?”

“You’re right about the going inside part. Owls can turn their heads almost all the way round and that reminds us that the wise can see all sides of an issue and can also glimpse the backside-of-the-moon kinds of things. But Owl is also associated with the Greek Goddess Athena and sits on her shoulder to symbolize her wisdom.”

Thea still looked blank.

“I get it. Thea sounds like Athena,” blurted Cindy excitedly.

“Oh. My. Gosh,” breathed Thea. “Another synchronicity. Thank you, Mom. Thank you, Goddess, for this blessing.”

“I’ve always wondered, Molly. How did you connect with the Goddess?” asked Rhea. “I’ve never heard that story.”

“It was pretty neat. I was reading an early copy of Ms. Magazine. You young uns’ have no idea how precious that magazine was to us back then,” she said as an aside. “Alice Walker wrote about how the Mother Goddess came over from Africa with the slaves and became disguised as the fat black Mammy archetype with a headscarf and apron who took care of all the white ‘chillens.’ She’s Aunt Jemima and stereotyped caretakers and kitchen servants in so many movies like Gone With the Wind. It just went clunk into my very being and I knew it was a change point in my life. Shortly after that a wooden figure of her as a recipe holder came into ReBound and I snatched it up. It would seem racist in somebody’s kitchen but I treasure it on my altar.”

Molly leaned over and poked the fire to cover her emotions and a little silence while people took this in.

Thea breathed deep at this affirmation of something she had long wondered about. It gave such meaning to that terrible slave legacy. Perhaps the African Diaspora was the only way that ancient Black Mother form of the Goddess could make it to the new world. Would She ever have left her native land on her own? “I guess we’ve needed this time to integrate all the pieces – that melting pot of all the cultures and traditions,” she said to herself.

“You know, to me the Virgin Mary is another form of the old Goddess in disguise,” said Molly. “When I went to Europe I saw images of her everywhere with all the pagan symbols – snakes, rabbits, eggs, bees and hives. It’s like she became a ‘good girl,’ had God’s baby even though she hadn’t had sex (or so the story goes), bowed her head, and hid her power under that light blue veil.”

“I think of forget-me-nots as Mary’s goddess energy quietly reminding us of her every May,” said Cindy.

“Which is, of course, Mary’s month.”

“Cindy, don’t you make a flower essence of forget-me-not?”

“Yep – it’s to help us tune into the Goddess.”

“We must have drunk a bunch of it recently.” Everyone laughed.

“Then there’s the Black Madonna….”

“And Mary Magdalene.”

“Don’t get me started on her!” said Ursula. “What rich stories. Have you read the Elizabeth Cunningham novels of Magdalen as druidic student and a sexual priestess, among other blasphemous things like being Jesus’s wife. She tells the story of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding as his own wedding to Magdalen. I have some of the books down at the store.”

“Even Athena had to hide herself,” said Molly. “I’ve read that she was originally one of the old black goddesses from northern Africa and chose to make herself Goddess of War – as well as wisdom – to compete with the men at their own game.”

“Kind of like how modern women put on shoulder pads.”

“I hate shoulder pads. I always take them out,” said Pia tartly. “I can be powerful without that added masculine breadth, thank you very much.”

“Let’s do a ritual soon on all the re-membered goddesses!”

“There’s one on Demeter coming up, check your email tomorrow,” said Pia.

“Good timing, Pia.”

”It was Ursula’s idea.”

“Demeter came to me strongly the other day. I’m still not sure exactly why but I’m waiting to see what unfolds. I know it is about mothers and daughters so I hope ya’ll will come.”

“How do the male Gods fit into all this,” asked Fern, another of the younger women.

“Very well, thank you, and it feels yummy,” quipped Pia. Everyone hooted thinking of penises and vaginas all fitting together. It took them awhile to calm down again.

“Ask Owen about Osiris and Orion some day. There are plenty of the male gods who have been hidden too.”

“The Green Man. Pan. The Christians turned him into the Devil. He’s goat footed – cloven hoofed – and is the wild, wild nature energy that our culture has been trying to tame. It’s time we allowed that back into our lives.

“And let the rivers run free…”

“They’re really all One, you know. And so are we,” said Molly quietly. “It helps us relate to their different aspects to divide them up. But really….”

“There’s a shooting star!” gasped Cindy and Rhea at the same moment.

“Guess we’re on the right track….”

“Anybody want some chocolate?”