“Let’s line up in two rows facing each other,” said Pia, shifting into the process phase of the ritual. “Daughters on one side, mothers on the other. Each can call out fears and joys about separations past and future, as well as about the losses of the season.”
Celeste took a place as one of the daughters and Ursula went to the mothers’ side. June situated herself at the North end of the “reel,” feeling somehow like neither mother nor daughter.
Rhea spoke first. “I hate to think of the fall coming on with winter not far behind. We’ll still have a good few weeks, but I dread the rain. Each year I say I’m going back South for the winter, but somehow I never do.”
The mother of a teen spoke next, “I’m afraid for what my daughter will encounter in the big wide world. Her growing up has gone so quickly. Will she get lost in the Underworld?”
A heart-wrenching moan rose from Ursula’s lips, immediately taken up by everyone.
“I so desperately needed to get away from my mother,” called out Cindy from the daughter side. “With my excellent education, she expected me to be successful in a way most in her generation of Japanese immigrants were not able to be. I was sorry to disappoint her but….” Her voice trailed off.
All moaned again. The energy was building. Celeste spoke next, “I am so not what my mother wanted. Coming out as a Lesbian, especially when I did so, was a kind of underworld to my mother. And June, despite her summery name, seemed to her to be a dark sort of lover.”
“Sweethearts, I know you had to leave home,” said a woman whose daughters were far afield, “to break away from the hearth into the wider world. I’m proud of what you’re doing, but the nest feels so empty with you gone.”
Ursula felt it was time to speak her feelings, “I keep getting that we are meant to be together in tribe, to carry on the traditions we’ve developed over thirty plus years. We need the generation we have borne to help bring in the new world here in our own community. To put to use the training we gave them. I too am proud of what they do elsewhere but I want them around me. Though not in my house anymore, mind you.” Everyone laughed.
June spoke up from her position as a neutral sage, “I heard an expression once, ‘There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is Roots, the other Wings.’”
“I have that quote up on my wall,” said Ursula. “But it isn’t any help when I let go into this visceral place of longing….” Her voice trailed off.
Molly, still brimming with feelings from the drive up, knew she needed to speak them out loud into the circle. “I have no daughter. I am the last of my matriarchal line. Belly button to belly button down through the ages, and none now to bear another.” Tears trickled down her face soon matched by most in the group. A tissue box was passed around and there was a little time of silence punctuated by sniffles. Everyone’s sadness and loss was potent sitting there in the center as if in a cauldron, acknowledged and wept for by the circle of women.
Soon Pia, tuned into the slow down of people speaking, took up her flute, thinking to pipe the daughters off. But before she could play a note, one of the mothers jumped suddenly to the Daughter side. “I am a daughter too. I know I hurt my Mom and my Dad choosing to live so far away. But this garden is where I’ve needed to grow. I just wish we lived in England so we could be on opposite coasts and not be so far apart.”
Cali changed position as well to the Mother side next to Ursula, taking her hand. “I dread Menolly moving on – or losing her in some way…. I have had to learn to relax about the future, thanks to my wise mother’s counsel.” She smiled at Ursula.
“I gave up a daughter for adoption many years ago,” whispered Cindy. “She is gone and I don’t know where. I need to mourn that daughter I will probably never see. She didn’t go of her own accord. But I was not able to care for her at the time…. My mother never knew…. I miss her.”
With that, the sluice gates opened and a flood of tears and wailing ensued. There are no words to adequately describe that ancient, primordial keening. Moaning, shrieking even, the sounds of desolation rose and fell. Each set the others off, their personal grief cycling empathetically around and through the circle, binding them into the grief of the ages.
When in the midst of such feeling and sound, it seems like it will never end, and certainly time stands still for a bit. Yet eventually, wails turn to moans and moans to sniffles. Soon deep breaths and a cleaned out sort of calmness.
June spoke into that peaceful, purged place, suggesting they join hands in circle, mothers and daughters all. “In some ancient versions the two women are referred to simply as the Demeters or even just the Goddesses. We have the universal Mother to rely on and come back to wherever we are, near to or far from our own birth mothers or adoptive ones.”
Pia took up the bowl of pomegranate seeds and after holding it aloft, passed it around. “Take these that they may lead you in and out of the dark places as you will. Pomegranates symbolize rebirth.” Some popped the seeds in their mouths and some smeared them on their foreheads, while Pia improvised a light air on the flute. Soon with giggles, they were all smeared with the bright red juice of the Goddess, bound both to the dark and the light aspects of the worlds.
Suddenly inspired as the sweet silliness and release settled down Ursula leapt up and put on a CD. Over and over, a chant flowed into them, “Returning…. returning, returning, returning to the Mother of us all….” The group of women sank another degree deeper into a trance state with their feelings stirring deeply inside until Ursula rose again, saying to the group, “This is Jennifer Berezan’s Returning. It is too long to play all of right now, but I often use it to meditate to, sometimes to dance quietly or do yoga by myself.”
As Ursula came back into the circle Molly said, “Let us all take the Mother deep into our hearts and use this season to explore the shadow side – the back side of the moon and the richness of composting leaves, the dark lover, in whatever form he or she presents himself or herself.”
“May we always remember that there are different sides to every story and many ways to tell a tale, including new ones that we can foster.”
“Ho!” said several people in unison and soon, standing to face each direction in turn, different voices called, “Thank you to the East for bringing us such powerful inspiration in the form of our elders. Thank you to the South for the passion of our feelings. Thank you to the west for our tears and strong intuitions. Thank you to the North for those stories that still ring with truths after so many years.”
Pia brought things to a close, “The Circle is open but unbroken,” and they all joined in. “Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again!”
“Hoh!” The multi-voiced cry went winging its way into the night.
“Hoh!” echoed the trees and rocks and ocean around them.
“Hoh!” croaked Raven, ancient keeper of ceremonial magic. “I’ll do what I can to make sure this healing sticks and grows in these women.”
“Do they hear us at all?” asked a passing elk cow of the surrounding trees.
“They can’t hear our voices yet but they know in their hearts that we are present and that we thank them,” answered the Mountain in her feminine voice.
“And a few of them heard whispers in their minds,” added Sitka.