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.

 

Conjuring Tantra

“That is an amazing group of people,” said Jasmine Terranova to her husband over a breakfast of local bacon and eggs the morning after the drumming on the beach.

“Yeah, they have deep history and plenty of mystical, magical practices together.”

“Gideon, do you think we can ever fit in?”

“Jazz, we have just as much experience.”

“I know but not in home territory. We’ve moved around so much these last few years. They have such rooted connections – generations, some of them…. And they already belong to and know this Mahonia-Nekelew vortex.”

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for new people. We actually have a big piece to give to them, not counting the economic boost if we take on the visitor program. I haven’t seen any hints of Tantra happening. Publically at least. We haven’t been to a Medicine Circle yet, and they might not mention it to strangers…. But I have a feeling they are a little a-sexual.”

“We’ve searched for so long for a community to nestle into and I have such a strong feeling this is it.”

“It sure jumped out at us on the map. We both got chills big time…”

“And now that we’re here I know that the outline of this Mountain is the one I’ve been seeing in my dreams for years. My future self kept showing me this very place…. We’ve got our base from which to explore now and I know the actual piece of land is here somewhere.”

“Luckily it’s not all that big an area we have to search….”

“Yeah, we could be out in the plains or inland mountains with miles and miles to search in every direction. The sea here gives a very definitive boundary and the timber company mountains another. And there really aren’t all that many roads to go down… once you’re off Highway 101.”

“Even the ones less traveled,” Gideon said with a smile.

“Aren’t we lucky to have the money to create what we want?” said Jazz gratefully.

“Gimme five!” They slapped hands as was their custom when the subject of their funds came up. Former Seattle software techies, they’d gotten out at a good time.

“So what’s the next step?”

“Let’s talk to Pia and Raven to see what they were thinking. Probably Charley and Ursula too…. Between them they’ll steer us in the right direction. Plus we need to assure them of our intentions and integrity. I have a feeling they are some of the crucial gatekeepers here, whether they know it or not….”

“And just how do we bring up the Tantra?”

“Perhaps as simply as an introductory ‘lecture?’”

“Run up the flag and see who comes forth….”

“Slide show and ….. demo?” They both laughed.

“Let’s wait a bit though. Let’s get the other stuff going first. We’ll know when the time is right.”

“But in the meantime we can certainly have our own session. Tonight would be a good time!”

“It’s your turn for a yoni massage….”

 

“Hee hee. Now we have things lined up for the next pieces of the puzzles to fall into place.”

“Tantra here we come.”

Venus and Mars, along with Orion, the Pleiades sisters, Chiron and some others were cackling around the fire. The planets and the clusters of stars that humans call constellations had long been conspiring to shed more of their sparkle on the proceedings in the tiny coastal community, a favorite of the several places they were shepherding.

 “The Terranovas are ‘new earth’ indeed. Our locals needed some spicing up don’t you think?”

“Yup, this will shiver their timbers.”

“I get a bad rap as a being of structure, rules and accountability,” complained Saturn. “Folks don’t understand that I’m more about the Laws of Nature than short-lived (to us) cultural codes or even more temporary human laws.”

“We thank you, oh Father of Time, for beginning to let the beauty of human sexual interaction shine through,” said the shimmering Morning and Evening Star.

“I couldn’t do it without your steadfast help, Venus. Aphrodite. Inanna. Astarte.” He graciously acknowledged a few of her many names throughout the ages.

“It’s been frustrating these last millenia for humanity to get so separated from their sexuality. Why do they think they have all those amazing sensory organs of skin and penis and yoni and tongue if Creative Spirit didn’t want them to be fully enjoyed.”

“And it’s beyond me how they think they can get to know each other if they don’t open more deeply to both sensual touch and each others’ minds.”

“The sickness of power hunger has perverted so much that is beautiful.”

“Yes, it’s about time I got a chance to let my sensitive yin side shine more,” said Mars.

“We are the ones who have been out of synch. They can’t do it if we don’t line up properly for the dance.”

“So now we are, thank all that’s beautiful and holy.”

“It’s gonna be BIG this time,” bellowed Jupiter.

“Let the sexy fun begin!”

 

Ursula stood on the promontory next to the Stone Table. The air was clear and fresh after the last night’s blow – the first of the season. At least it had held off for the drumming. Looking over the top of the hollow she realized that enough alder leaves had come down now for her to see the curve of the mountain’s flank.

Their property was on the head scarp of a very old landslide – presumably from the earthquake and tsunami 300 years ago documented by the Japanese. At that time big chunks of the Mountain had slid, bringing with them the large rock she was standing by and the smaller ones around the clearing. She and Charley had always wondered if another quake would bring an additional slump or if their house and this promontory were now on more secure ground.

As she looked around now, the flank was sensuous. Almost she could feel the personality of the Mountain…. Sometimes from down on the beach it looked female to her. Its silhouette curvaceous like a fulsome woman on her back. But right now the energy was a presence that felt definitely masculine. Its bones and flesh visible in a curve that reached deep into her being. In fact…yum… yum…. she could feel it vibrate up her legs into…. into…. gasp… her cunt. She stood transfixed while the rainbow waves of an orgasm poured through her, swirling in her pelvis, vibrating her sacrum.

“Whooeee!” she shouted as it ended. “Did what I think just happened really happen? It came and was gone so quickly.” She sat down on the rock, her legs now like jelly, her breath still short.

“Makes me realize that Charlie and I have some reconnecting to do. Too much busyness of late!”

The Mountain just chuckled.

Charley on the Ocean

Charley sat on his longboard out past this evening’s small break at the end of the Mountain. There was a gentle swell but not much action. Which was fine by him since he’d come out to center and calm from the hectic details of his day.

Sometimes a good workout and tumble in the waves was just what he needed – all his concentration could go into coordinating board, wave, feet, and balance in order to get to the exhilaration of the ride. Not to mention climbing down the rocks and paddling out. The whole process was very effective in shutting out worldly concerns.

DSC04585It used to be harder getting down to the water – sneaking past the windows of vacation homes whose owners (for some reason) tended to think of the surfers as trespassers. However, a few years ago the house closest to the best path was bought by an older couple who’d been surfing here for years. So all were welcome now as long as they cared for the path and each other, local or not. The path was artfully lined with bits of old rope and colorful floats, driftwood and bull kelp, bent crab pots, and even bits of surfboards in an ever changing array they all contributed to.

Today he was content to sit there bobbing blissfully like the cormorants around him. Alternating between facing out to sea to watch for a promising set of waves and swinging eastward to take in the view of the Mountain as it rose tall and green above the breakers rolling continuously in to the rocks at its base. There were stories about the male mountain and the female sea making love. There were also stories about the female Mountain and the ferocious male ocean teasing each other. It was all one to Charley who considered himself less inclined to anthropomorphize and more apt to take things at face value. The Mountain and the ocean both had their gentle and terrible moments as did the wind and the rain. Fire not so much in the present though occasionally someone’s abandoned driftwood cookout went nuts in a summer wind and reminded them all of the tenuousness of the dance here at the edge.

Ancient times had known big fire. If the geologists’ current theory was correct, this had been the former mouth of what the whites came to call the Columbia River. It was dammed up by a lava flow and then pushed up by tectonic cataclysm to form the chain of mountains of which their Mountain was the outermost bump. The native people seem to have had some intimation of this for the translation of their name for the Mountain was considered to have been something like “Fire Mountain” or “Home of the Fire God.”

Whatever they called it, they had sure taken care of the place better than the white folks did. Charley could see the larger flotsam along the shore. A crab pot, several tires, plastic bags and bleach bottles and a length of blue rope, along with a telephone pole and a large unidentifiable piece of metal. Not visible from this distance were the thousands of tiny bits of broken down plastic becoming part of the sand and rocks. It could break your heart if you let it. The surfers and beach walkers hauled up what they could, leaving some for the on-going path decorating, but it was a good thing the concerted effort of the Annual Fall clean up was happening soon. And glad he was that he didn’t have to organize it or even take part in it, figuring he did his share on-goingly the rest of the year.

As Charley sat rocking, feeling blue about the condition of the ocean and shore, a cheery head popped up next to him. Large eyes looked into his. “Welcome, fellow swimmer,” Charley said to the seal. “Have you come to surf along with me? Must be a set coming in. Thanks for the tip…. And for the company,” he added as the head disappeared again.

It wasn’t unusual for seals to surf the waves alongside the humans, but it was always a thrill for Charley. In his hooded black neoprene, it was easy for him to identify with the seal. In fact, a group of surfers lounging on the beach half in and half out of wetsuits resembled the gathering of the seal and sea lion clans on deserted beaches the world over. It was also one theory why surfers were occasionally shark-bait. “No point in worrying about that right now,” he grinned to himself philosophically, knowing full well that it was but one of the risks of being out here.

Drifting next into his mind were legends related to the sea and the seals – the Northwest Native American story of the mermaid deity Sedna overlapped with the Celtic selkies of his own Scotch-Irish heritage. Always the stories were so sad. Selkies were seals who fell in love with a human of the coastal villages. In this day and age it might easily be a surfer. They shed their sealskins to become human but walked painfully as if on knives and were so homesick for the sea that they eventually returned to it, often after a child had been born. Thus the land-bound lover and child mourned along the shore while the selkie called poignantly from the waves.

In the Northwest Native tale a young woman and her father were chased in their hunting canoe by a flock of birds avenging the death of their leader. To save his own skin Sedna’s father pushed her from the canoe and then chopped off her fingers when she tipped the canoe trying to save herself. In some stories it was because she was kidnapped by (or fell in love with) Raven (or Thunderbird) and her father had helped her escape when the marriage proved an unhappy one. In all the stories Sedna sinks to the bottom and her fingers become the seals, salmon, walrus and whales hunted by the coastal tribesmen. She herself morphs into a sea goddess with the head and torso of a woman, but the tail of a fish. Some say she is malevolent and some say it’s just a crankiness that needs to be appeased now and then. Thus if the hunters do not catch anything for a long time or if the sea has been raging in storms, a shaman would transform him or herself into a fish and swim down to the bottom of the ocean to comb the tangles out of Sedna’s hair and plait it into braids. Made happy again she would allow her animals to be available to the hunters. For a while.

As a child, Charley had been horrified by these stories, and now as a father and husband, he found them even more poignant. Often he wished there were a way for happier endings. Ursula had been talking lately about changing the old stories – perhaps together they could do that – though he couldn’t imagine how.

Thinking of Sedna’s father’s act made him miss the two of his own kids who loved to surf as much as he did, Marina and Salal. Marina was certainly aptly named. His heart always lifted thinking of her work with water in different eco-systems up and down the West Coast. Salal had fun surfing all over the world. Charley appreciated the surfing adventures of Salal’s life, of course, but not the travel hassle. He was a stay at home sort of guy. Seemed like with such an earthy name of the berries of this place, Salal ought to be too…. “Down, Papa,” he told himself firmly.

How to change those sad old stories? Maybe it was just about seeing that Sedna had somehow chosen to delve into the mysteries of the sea when fate pushed her there – as the selkies chose to go back and forth between the two worlds. Was his chosen “tribe” as humans now learning to do that as well?

This made him squirm uncomfortably with the notion that came up in the Medicine Circles occasionally – that he was suited to have Seal as a totem. Seal is about inner journeying including lucid dreaming…. Heck, he couldn’t even remember his dreams. He could relate to the part that since seals swim both above and below the water, they deal with the inner and outer worlds and the deeper mysteries of nature. Their lack of external ears contributed to this idea – they were tuned to hear with their inner voice. But his prosaic nature kept him from diving too deeply into the mystical. Some would say that was due to his birthday just past – on the cusp of detail driven Virgo and Libra with its sense of balance. Even though his passion for the sea implied a Neptunian connection with the deep watery worlds that Pia said showed up somewhere important in his chart along with Pisces – he never could remember where. Raven always teased him that it was “all pretty fishy.”

Suddenly an instinct prompted him to turn back towards the sun now very low on the horizon. “All right!” he whooped. No time to think about any of that now. The set promised by the seal was upon him and it was time to stop musing and catch the best wave.