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.

 

Ursula’s Morning

After her husband Charley headed off for early morning yoga, Ursula Goodwin-Brown sat in the hot tub looking out into the tiny meadow she insisted on keeping natural for the fairies. Not that she could see them herself, but she had a strong sense they were there, confirmed by visiting Scots from the magical Findhorn garden who came through once years ago and told her they always left a piece of their lands wild for the plant spirits. Her kids thought it was cool that she’d never stopped believing in fairies…. her daughters did anyway. Her sons never mentioned it.

She loved it that the thirty square feet or so was always filled with tall grasses in various stages of green and brown. During the summer the pinky purples of wild mallow and foxglove mixed with daisies, cat’s eye, and pearly everlasting to dance among the salmonberry and thimbleberry shoots trying to get a hold. Besides pulling the latter two out (they had plenty of license to grow elsewhere on the hill), her gardening mostly consisted of moving the flowers back uphill from where they’d migrated into the paths.

This autumn morning spider webs stretched from every possible spike of grass in her meadow, each with its maker in the middle. “There must be fifty of them,” she marveled as her eyes kept catching sight of more. “All sizes and turned every which way. Grandmother Spider is weaving her magic again.”

But the marvel was just beginning. As Ursula watched, the sun rose over the top of the forest uphill, bathing her in its misty God-rays like the blessing of a loving Grandfather. She could feel the gifts of light and love bestowed on the world every single day. No wonder the ancients had worshipped that beaming, life-giving orb. No wonder they had bowed and prayed at dawn for it to reappear. No wonder they had played flute, pipes, rattle or drums to welcome and ensure the sun’s rising each morning. “How lazy we are, not to take that care. To not even notice…. Certainly not to thank. We just assume….”

Now the webs sparkled with diamonds encircling the spiders like planets. Dazzled, she tuned into a chit-chit-chittering all around her and caught sight of dozens of finches, still in their golden summer hue, as well as chickadees, warblers and little brown wrens darting about in ecstasy at the edge of the meadow. Their flitting dislodged last night’s raindrops from the Sitka spruce and hemlock branches in delicate golden showers, while the birds themselves became translucent angels for that instant when they swooped sideways to the streaming light. She whooped in joy at the spectacle, her heart pounding.

As her focus shifted back and forth she realized that the huge sword ferns next to the tub and on into the woods were backlit as well. The moiré patterns of layered spider webs against ranks of fern fronds was dizzying, so much so that even as she gloried in the beauty of the scene, she could feel her mind slipping from the present into a trancey state…. The glorious morning…. faded…. like a movie…. back to a painful winter when she had seemed to be failing Grandmother Spider as a weaver of community webs.…

 

….Watching the few people present at the monthly Networking Potluck earnestly placing their colored sticky dots to prioritize the dutifully brainstormed lists of ideas for moving the community forward, Ursula had been swept with a feeling of desolation. The meager showing seemed to bode ill for the Big Project’s chances of success. Did that mean that she and Pia and Molly would have to work even harder to get things off the ground? Where was everybody? A few years before when particularly nasty political shit was going down in the outside world, people had rallied and there had been a burst of involvement from all quarters. “Think globally and act locally” had taken on new pizzazz. Commitment flared. Even nonpolitical June and Celeste had gotten involved for a while and a cadre of young people had taken leadership roles, galvanizing inspired projects. Ursula thought of that time as their Glory Days. No task had seemed too daunting, whether it was a protest against old growth timber cuts, a day care center start up, or a play about the demise of the salmon that integrated spiritual ceremony with activist passion. Would that it didn’t take a sense of crisis to bring people out of the woodwork.

Ursula sighed. The fledglings – so active and eager at that time – weren’t coming to gatherings much anymore. Neither the rituals nor the stirring-the-pot meetings like this one. Of course, Caliente and others were involved with their farmsteads – truly the important groundwork that boded well for the long term. But what would happen to the organizational side in coming years as Ursula’s generation aged and died off? Did none of the young people have time for being on boards or getting new things going? Was that process just too old hat?

Ursula had slipped outside that night to sit on the steps and watch the quiet street. Everything was taking so very long. She ached for a deeper connection. To have all her own four chicks around her at fire-lit healing sessions like the Kalahari Bushmen that Brad Keeney wrote about…. Tribe…. People dancing their sorrows, their worries, their ills. Elders and shamans touching Spirit on behalf of the whole or of an ailing individual. Did she need such a dance right how? Did they all need it? How could it ever be pulled together? “Always the practical thinker,” she thought ruefully. “My natal Capricorn moon waves its weary administrative wand.”

There was no moon that February night and no stars either, the sky being overcast. But she knew it was the Dark of the Moon – time to plant seeds. Wasn’t that what they were trying to do at this potluck? How could seeds grow with only the labor of the valiant, stalwart few? She wanted all her kids here – all the community’s young. So many were off gallivanting. It was appropriate she knew. “Yea even important,” she chided herself. “They need to have a wider experience so that if they are eventually to return to their roots here they will know what they are choosing and what they are giving up. Plus be able to bring back experience to share.” Odyssey Years. She’d had that certainly. That’s how she and Charley had landed here. She hugged her blue chenille shawl more tightly around her shoulders. How could she reconcile that knowledge with this deep inner longing for being a granny in a hut with other grannies…. Pounding grain together…. Working on clay cooking pots like Malidoma Somé described…. Gossiping…. Counseling…

She had felt herself falling into a trance as that image took hold in her mind’s eye. Was it somewhere else or in her own future? Was it a past life of hers or a collective memory? It didn’t matter. Her belly filled with the emotions of it and soon the very smells…. dry sunbaked soil, cardamom, cumin…. Giggling with her compatriots. Crinkly dark skin. Weathered faces. Skilled hands…. The pursing of worried lips as they talked about the village…. Someone was stepping outside their marriage and might need a little talking to. One of the fledglings was itchy for a new adventure. Maybe he could be sent to the city with the next load of trade goods. Whose back was hurting and what was she stiffly holding back from? The stories went round and round. Some revelations were greeted with shouts of laughter and ribald teasing.

“Your old man can still get it up, eh?”

“Hee hee.”

“Mine can’t. I’ve got the hots for that tallest young, handsome one!”

“Me too. That green wife of his better watch out.”

Other bits made their grizzled heads shake. Who could take a particular teen aside and teach her about things her mother wasn’t bothering with? Were the men ready for the returning warrior’s cleanse? Whose turn was it to lead the vision quest training process? Better call a dance to lighten up that quarrel between adjacent villages.

These old ones were full of vinegar still and honored for the wealth of their experience. Kali Ma-like, they knew when to cut and when to comfort. Kwan Yin-like, they were available to enfold a child, tender advice to the lovelorn, and facilitate the taking on of a needed skill.

“Had it ever gotten stifling?” wondered the Ursula on the steps and the Ursula in the hot tub. “Probably.” Old customs had begun to cramp and not everyone was wise all the time. “Are there people involved?!” She could hear Pia Rosen’s voice in her head with just the right ironical tone.

“But we’re full of new ideas. We’re inventing. We’re re-membering the tribe. Finding the pieces. We are touching into the old ways – the shamanic knowings….”

…. In her mind’s eye she danced around a blazing fire under a starry sky in that tribal time, her body glowing and prickling with healing energy. Hands so hot that the sparks might have been from her or from the fire. She placed them on the temples of a friend who was grieving the loss of a parent and then on the low back and belly of a woman with a challenging pregnancy. She hugged another dancer and together they swayed with the ecstasy of energy flow, belly to belly. Turning, they both encircled the hips of an arthritic visitor. Voices around them toned and hummed, rising and falling with rhythms uncharted and undirected. Drums and rattles added to the rising chi of the group. She whirled and swooped – now a goldfinch, now an eagle. Was that an ordinary dog or was it Coyote behind the man sitting cross-legged with a child in his lap? Antlered Elk rose tall and ghostly, shadowing the circle. Was a fellow dancer turning into a jaguar? Certainly snaky energy was rising in that one across the way….

“We achieve something akin to this at times in our campfires,” Ursula had thought, her butt beginning to ache on the community center steps. “Our evenings together on rainy winter nights. Drums, voices, wisps of magic. But always there is a holding back. A lack of experience. A lack of custom. A lack of trust, not of each other so much as fear of the seeds inside us. Fear. It always comes down to that doesn’t it?”

Fear of the unknown. Fear of the magic itself. Fear of being thought unscientific and therefore crazy. Fear of shamanic flight. Fear of Power. She’d shivered, feeling her own trepidation gain ascendance, as open as she was. The longing for tribal connection was still there but it had become tempered by her rational self. “It’s too difficult. It’s taking too long. What’s the use? I might as well settle into a lonely granny-hood, family secrets intact.” No outsiders to probe…. no way to heal…. no connection to Grace…. which to her was a link to Source but also a connection to the whole. The Tribe.

There was that word again. She was pretty sure that it actually did “take a village.” That felt right deep in her gut. This was not the era of the hermit, though a few people off in their proverbial or literal caves could send sparking and nurturing energy to the whole. She thought of June with her quiet counseling practice and Nettle Nancy who hardly ever stirred from her wooded cabin on a back creek but who envisioned the world’s healing on a daily basis in her meditations.

However, the bulk of the energy this time around was within group. Joining together, communing. Developing the intimacy and the trust to connect telepathically. Did it have to be such a long slow process? Was it possible for a lightning bolt? A magical moment when a group of them had clarity and were connected…. It seemed like they’d almost gotten there once or twice….

Out of her despair that night, a germ of inspiration for a visioning ritual had flickered in her brain. After several deep yogic shrugs, she’d gone back inside the community center to help put away chairs and tables. The meeting was done. She only half cared about the outcome. The ideas on the brainstorm sheets posted around the room were the same ones voiced in other such forums. Déjà vu all over again. “What will it take to propel us to the next level? To put juice and Spirit into these lists. To take it all out of the theoretical into the real?” They’d accomplished a lot over the years. They could pat themselves on the back. Yet Ursula knew there was something potent missing. Several somethings, no doubt.

Tribe. She could almost taste it. Almost describe it. When could she have it in this life?

 

While Ursula had been journeying back through a few stages of her community’s development, the late September morning sun had risen higher and the spider webs, though still visible, no longer glowed. The grasses were now a soft gold. “It’s amazing how many different kinds there are. I’ll take some down to the shrine at the store. It would be fitting to honor Demeter, Greek aspect of the Mother – Goddess of the Grains, Bringer of Seasons – whose daughter Persephone heads down in autumn to her underworld lover. Her adventures away are not unlike those of my own four offspring. I must count myself lucky that two have chosen to live here now, thank the Goddess, and one had a baby last spring, making me a real granny (tra la!). But two are far afield and I miss them even though that seems greedy of me. Can I help it that I’m insatiable?”

Grass stems in hand, her petite frame naked and dripping, she stood on the path next to the tub. Turning to each of the Directions, she called aloud, “Thank you, airy East, for the rising sun and the new beginnings that grew out of the revelations of that night of despair at the Mahonia Community Center. Thank you for this new day as well. Help us to create the songs that heal and bring out the best in each of us. May you continue to send us new energy for our endeavors.

“Thank you, fiery South, for the passionate hearts that beat in concord and in conflict, and for the growth that abounds within both states.

“Thank you, watery West, for the deep knowings, memories and dreams that will inform this day, as well as for the Pacific that graces this place. May we listen and be in the flow.

“Thank you, earthy North, for the stories and the power of the Mountain and the rocks and the trees and the creatures, plants and ancestors of this place. May we honor you always and all ways.

“Thanks be to the Above.” She raised her arms high, “and to the Below.” She knelt and touched the earth. “Gaia. And to all our relations. All is well. I am ready for this day, Grandmother Spider, come what may.”