Thea walked along the beach a week or so after her Soul Retrieval. The clouds were hanging low and the wind a bit brisk, but it probably wouldn’t rain ‘til evening. As she walked she imagined Little Girl Thea beside her, one mittened hand in hers. Mittens? No, that’s what a mother would put on her. Or a responsible big sister. Thea realized the hand in hers was now bare and, in fact, the little girl only wore a petticoat like Thea had loved at that age. As she became aware of this, the hand tugged. “I want to go play in the waves.”
“Anything?” the little sprite asked.
“Anything! You can’t get cold and you can’t drown either!”
The little girl spun away from her across the sand to the waves with her cougar bounding Tigger-like beside her. A rush of joy made Thea giddy. It was as if she herself had just breathed in a freedom that brought with it a whole new set of possibilities.
In the next moment a gull swooped down into Thea’s peripheral vision, bringing her to a standstill. Stunned, she realized it was as if she was actually inside a painting done last year before moving down here. A scene that had come through her paintbrush was happening now.
She remembered struggling to settle down to the assignment from her group to paint her True Self. A preliminary Tarot spread told her to let go of her head, her ego, her rational side. “Not an unusual message for me that year. Or still,“ she thought with chagrin. She had smudged, lit candles, and prayed to the Goddess as was her practice to help with that letting go process before picking up a brush.
She started in with a red swoosh which became part of a multi-colored stormy spiral. Then into her mind had come the image from a photo she’d had on her wall since college: reaching ecstatically towards the sky, a little girl twirled almost out of control, ocean waves behind her. A gull had gone into her painting high above the child.
“I realized how Gull was my uplifting omen bird most of my childhood,” Thea thought now, purposely capitalizing the ‘G’ in her mind’s eye. “As Hawk was for my city years and Owl is these days. And I remember suddenly knowing with utter clarity that a crone needed to go in on the right – a crone in all her magnificent glory. My beloved white grandmother, yet also the me I am becoming – part of the identity I am reaching for.”
Thea remembered wanting to give her a paintbrush. But knowing this powerful figure was so much more than her artist self, she had instead painted in an orange cloak with purple swirls on it. “Whenever I look at it now I feel like the crone is guiding the girl toward the adventures of the huge spiral tunnel that looms, though she could also be welcoming her back into a loving, safe embrace. Occasionally in my most fearful moments I worry that she is warning her away…. from being a witch.”
Thea brought herself back into the present with a shiver, the hair standing up on the back of her neck. Here she was with the not-quite-real little girl who was her lost soul self dancing towards the waves with the gull swooping and herself waving the child on, saying, “go for it!” Indeed this was just the way the painting had given her permission to move forward at the time it was done. Wow!
She wasn’t wearing her orange ruana today though she really did have one. It wouldn’t have been warm enough on this windy beach. But she knew she was in the proverbial cloak of power that shimmered around her more and more these days.
“I’ve got to tell Ursula,” she thought pulling out her cell phone. I’m close to town and she might be at the store.”
Ursula grinned at Owen as Thea burst in the door of Bear Essentials about twenty minutes after her excited phone call.
“The paintings are coming alive!” She described what just happened.
“Sounds like the soul retrieval is working some magic,” said Owen. “Good job staying in touch with your little child.”
“I’ve seen that painting on your website,” Ursula said. “It’s very beautiful.”
“At the time I recognized it as powerful and important, but it was frightening as well. The spiraling tunnel seemed scary – like I was going into my fallopian tubes (which there is a painting about as well.) I knew that was the journey to learn what I needed to absorb. Plus the figures insisted on being white! Like my Mom’s ancestors coming through me. But more frightening still was the idea of a spiritual “coming out” to my family and community. It was not okay with them for me to be into all this weird stuff. Whatever intuition…. ummm…. sensitivity I was allowed in my growing up was carefully guarded. I had to keep secret even from myself my belief in fairies, my belief in goodness, my belief in God. I can look back now and see the signs, the footprints, but it was not safe to acknowledge them in the 1950’s. I shielded myself well….”
“Yes,” said Ursula. “I think we all locked that away in a cocoon unless we were in the rare home like June’s where her mother taught her about seeing auras, setting intentions and shielding, among other things. She’s way ahead of us on that score.”
“So now my shields are coming down,” Thea continued. “The layers of protective skin are peeling back. There’s the snake again,” she smiled at Owen and he grinned back acknowledging another connection to her Soul Retrieval. “The process is sometimes joyful and sometimes painful…. That painting sure set off reverberations. I’ve been reeling ever since with the implications. My painting group at the time could only sort of get it.”
Owen and Ursula exchanged a glance. “You’re doin’ the work.” And “We’ve all been telling you that we can see your power shining through.”
“But nobody seems to realize the effort it takes or the lack of safety I feel…. or how hard it was to get myself to this new life.”
“Don’t you think we’ve been there?” Owen said as he lovingly handled a particularly beautiful rose quartz that he’d always admired.
“Or had similar fears?” added Ursula. “This is a tiny community. It was very, very scary to begin to realize where our explorations were heading. We practically had code words to see who else understood.”
“But you have this shop and everything.”
“And it was terrifying to take that step. The first yoga teacher got hate calls back in the 70’s. Remember, Owen, our first pagan green float in the 4th of July parade that got booed? There are still people who look at me kind of sideways in the hardware store.”
“Now you’re acting as a gateway for a lot of people, Ursula,” observed Owen. “I’ve noticed that both tourists and newcomers like Thea get connected up through the portal of this store.”
“Yes, Ursula, it was partly this store that made me choose Mahonia to move to,” said Thea. She flashed on the voice she’d heard as she finished the Mountain painting, but decided to hold her tongue for now about that.
Ursula was speaking, “Christiane Northrup talks in Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom about our visceral inherited fear of the Burning Times. I believe her. I remember. Years ago some friends poo-pooed this notion but I had such a strong feeling that it was more important than any but weirdoes like Shirley MacLaine professed. And since then I’ve had a bunch of past life memories come through during body work, as well as dreams that have confirmed it to my mind at least.”
“Is that the limb I’m out on? It would certainly explain the demons and scary images that keep appearing in my paintings and my dreams,” said Thea.
“You betcha. A lot of people definitely think we’re weird.” said Owen.
“Did you know that ‘weird’ means ‘witchy’?“ interjected Ursula.
“Oh. My. Gosh. Really?”
“Have you ever seen the videos done by the Canadian Broadcasting System about the Burning Times? I have them and often show them this time of year with a sharing session afterwards. It’s a good way to connect back into that history and the haunting reasons for our fears. Some people just cry and cry when they see them.”
“I think maybe I’d rather watch them by myself,” said Thea.
“That works too. But keep this in mind: when I was wrastling with my own version of those shadows, I was assured by Spirit that we are not going to be killed this time. We are here in this life and in this place to cleanse those old fears and write new stories. We’ve come together to re-member the old skills and magicks.”
There was a silence for a beat or two.
“That was spoken pretty powerfully, Ms. Bear. You sounded like an oracle,” said Owen handing her some cash for the crystal he couldn’t seem to put down.
“Owen, you old greenwitch you, when are you going to bring me some more of the flower and crystal essences you promised? I think Thea could use a little of Comfrey’s synthesizing, re-membering energy. I’ll trade you for that hunk of heart energy you’ve got there.”