Ursula’s Burning Times

“Talking with Thea got my brain going on my own Burning Times stuff,” thought Ursula as she fixed herself a cup of tulsi and lavender tea after Thea and Owen left the store. “Do I really want to think about all that again? Yet, I have such a strong feeling that many of us in this community experienced being burned, hung or drowned in past lives….” She shuddered. “And that we have come here to get over it together. We are learning to live in a small town and not only survive, but thrive.”

She thought back to when it had all really come to the fore in a Healing Group session way back in the late 90’s. It had been her turn to be in the center of the circle with Pia, Molly, Cindy, Chloe, Stella and Owen. It wasn’t that she had any particular aches or ills but rather that they were practicing hands-on healing with each other. Usually at Ursula’s house. It was a stormy day, the rain beating on the south facing windows making the cozy fire in the stove all the more welcome.

Ursula lay on her belly on cushions covered by a light wool blanket. The others sat around her, first breathing together quietly to center and then softly toning in a blend of voices that incorporated Owen’s deep bass and the women’s altos and sopranos. Some molded their mouths to create the eerie melodic overtones that seemed to come from another realm than their own throats. After a few minutes without any discernable signal, the toning quieted and someone started a simple chant they knew well. “Oh, purify and heal us, heal us and free us.” The chant repeated for many rounds, sometimes softly, occasionally almost shouted. A few tentative harmonies came and went. A rattle sounded and Pia’s frame drum began a steady heartbeat. Ursula lay still, feeling the energy swirl around her, trying to empty her mind of her fears. “I am safe,” she reminded herself. “Loved. These are special friends all on a journey together.” She knew about their wounds…. It was time to open again to her own….

As the rattle crescendoed and then abruptly stopped, Ursula took a deeper breath and felt the others respond in kind. Then hands settled gently on her upper and lower back while others touched her feet and arms, and gently cupped the crown of her head. It was impossible to tell whose hands were whose and in fact it seemed like way more hands than the number of people she knew were there. “Stop trying to figure it out,” she told herself firmly.

Flashback, 1996

Presently Stella’s voice spoke quietly, almost dreamily. “I am getting a picture of Ursula in the woods, in a long dress with a basket of herbs on her arm in the early 1700’s somewhere in Europe. A blue dress. Her hair is much blonder than it is in this life. Oh, Ursula! I am getting the feeling that you were running, afraid for your life. You have been carrying pain here on your back for a long time.”

As Stella spoke Ursula felt waves of nausea and began to twitch. They had uncovered some past lives on Ursula’s body before that were important revelations about her relationships with her “growing up” family and with Charley but this one struck at her core in a new way.

“Breathe into your panic,” Chloe instructed.

“Breathe into her panic,” Owen ammended.

Soon Stella was describing seeing Ursula in a past life as a healer witch woman being chased after leaving the home of a patient.

Looking back now, Ursula remembered being of two minds about this revelation. One part of her was saying, “Of course! It makes perfect sense. Now I know why I’ve been drawn to all this stuff for so long.” Yet, she knew she was about to be incredibly sad and that it was going to be hard to bear.

They had begun to talk about what they were each receiving. Ursula would have a questioning thought, “I wonder what that would feel like?” and then impressions would come into her mind. Not like a screen she was watching. More like her imagination being very fertile and emotive. When she thought of it like that she would immediately become suspicious of herself, “I’m making it all up.” Yet she felt impelled to relax and go with it. Certainly there was no denying the increasingly strong feelings besieging her, all aspects of her body/mind now fully engaged.

“I have the impression it is my own village folk chasing me, not an organized inquisition group. A hectic, angry mob that knows me and wants me to be a scapegoat for something…. They’re very scared…. crop failures, famine…. they need someone to blame….” She could empathize with their fright and anger, yet their pain only magnified her own…. and…. betrayed, betrayed by people she loved and was helping…. Ursula thought of the hysteria in The Crucible.

As if in confirmation, Stella spoke her own impressions aloud, “I see betrayal here…. and torture.”


Back in the present for a moment, the store quiet around her, Ursula took a sip of her comforting tea and picked up a small statue of the ancient Mother Goddess. Fat and round, a clay model of the Venus of Willendorf, it fit into her hand providing tangible comfort. Soon her mind’s eye slipped back to the Healing Circle remembering how she had propped herself up on her elbows weeping, weeping hard – snuffling and wiping her nose on a tissue Cindy handed her…. Another awful feeling arose…. She almost knew who the betrayer was…. Could sense a presence…. Was he or she in the room with her here?

“Were you burned?” At first Ursula had thought Stella was referring to the marks on her arm from the previous day’s brush clearing around her house. Then she’d immediately had a strong image of herself tied to a stake. In fact, she’d had that image several times in the previous minutes but hadn’t mentioned it.

“Yes,” she whispered turning over and sitting up. “And my children and grandparents were watching. Don’t know if I even had a husband. I left my body quickly – I knew how to do that. But they didn’t realize I was no longer in my body…. Their pain was worse than the fire. I get the sense I was a loner for many lifetimes after that….” Tears were running down everyone’s faces. Owen’s strong arms held her from behind as she shook and shivered – her body wracked with reaction. It was hard to breathe into her agony yogically with her nose plugged up with tears.

“We all feel it, Ursula,” whispered Owen. “We’ve been there too.”

“Betrayer and betrayed,” wailed Pia.

“Atlantis, Crete, the Russian steppes. Over and over,” intoned Stella fiercely.

“We have much to heal.”

“And much to atone for….”

The chant came again. “Oh, purify and heal us, heal us and free us.”

As they began to tune into clock time and thus to wind down, Chloe and Molly each massaged one of Ursula’s feet gently, while others continued to talk about letting go of the pain. “Now that this is in your consciousness, you don’t have to carry it in your body anymore.”

“We can only be free to move forward when we have healed these ancient past life wounds.” Stella went on to warn Ursula to take good care of herself in the coming days.

“Take a bath filled with flowers,” Chloe counseled.

“Be sure to journal this,” Owen reminded her as they stood then in a circle with arms wrapped around each other, noting each other’s swollen eyes and puffy noses. Feeling so blessed to have uncovered another of the stories they had been holding inside them. For each knew they had their own version of the tale. Uncovering one wound helped them all.


Ursula remembered going home and blurting out her tale to Charley where he was weeding in the garden, before even getting into the house. His long hug had been a healing balm down to her very center. For several days she had been aching, battered and sore – wild jolts coming whenever Charley put any pressure on her scapula or held her close. He had sweetly held her close a lot. She’d had moments of sobbing again as well.

During the night she cried about that village wondering how they managed when the next woman went into labor after she was gone…. or the next child got sick and needed a special herb that only she knew where to find. What did they do then? But the image of her children of that life was the most haunting one. It made her heart hurt and sent her into sobs a number of times. No wonder she had this thing about wanting her present children close by. Some additional images came of other lifetimes, other horrific purges, but they felt more speculative on her own. She also had some flashes about people in her present life who might have been in some of those, but not knowing what to do with these thoughts she tucked them into the back of her mind where they still lay.

Mostly she had walked around feeling like she was in two worlds at once. The normal everyday one where dinner must be fixed and they watched a funny movie and she brushed her teeth. And then the numinous one – a momentous new sense of herself stretching back through the ages. A parallel universe that was very real and affecting her physically. Was it only the gorgeous sunny spring weather and the bursting wild flowers on the Mountain that made everything so crystalline and poignant? Her back was spewing images, vibrating, shimmering. Achingly alive with a mind of its own.

One of the most vivid after-impressions was that there had been a promise from the Goddess as Ursula called out for help during the chase. The promise seemed to be that the ancient ways would return and that she would have a hand in remembering them and live to see them active in another life…. This life…. She had held on to that assurance in the ensuing years since the uncovering of that past life in the Healing Circle and others on Stella’s and Chloe’s tables.

It was partly on this experience that she now based her assurance to Thea and others that they were recovering the old skills with the additional curriculum of learning how to live in small groups in harmony and understanding. “We are remembering our connections to the earth itself and to all beings, two-legged, six-legged, stone, tree, and star,” she said aloud to the things in the store now glowing with the intensity of her vision of the past and of the future. “I have a part to play and I will not have lived this pain or died these deaths (and how many more) in vain. Blessed Be.”


It was only a little later as Ursula was unpacking boxes that the bell on the door at Bear Essentials tinkled and Ursula looked up to see one of the young women come into the store. “Hullo, Rhea. What can I do for you?”

“I’ve been thinking about the grounding you did at Illahee School the other day. It helped a lot of the kids. In fact, it helped me. I’ve heard about grounding but I never really knew what it meant beyond some sort of connection with the earth…. Umm…. I’m wondering if you would be willing to teach a class for grownups about this stuff.”

“Funny you should ask. I’ve had a couple of requests for just such a thing and have decided to do a combined psychic skills and ritual class. Thea is interested. Do you know her? She’s the painter who moved into town this summer.”

“I’ve seen her around. I know that Janna and Mariposa would be interested. Were you thinking monthly?”

“I was thinking weekly so we can build consistent energy. I have Thursday evenings free after yoga ends at 5:45. Would 7 pm on Thursdays work for you?”

“It would be perfect. Can we start it immediately? For some reason I’m feeling some urgency about this.”

“I don’t see why not. You seem to be my final nudge. The less time I have to worry about it the better. I’ll put a message out on the AOK list and we’ll see who else is interested and how it wants to evolve. I’m thinking we might even take on some of the seasonal rituals. I know the old hands would love to have some relief from that responsibility.”

Rhea looked excited. “Oh and I wanted to tell you a story that came out of that grounding you taught at school. First of all we decided as a group – both kids and teachers – that we no longer give “time outs” but ask each other to take some time to “get grounded.” So the other day, one of the younger boys, an intriguingly spacey sort, was unable to settle to anything. Celeste sent him off to get grounded. He went up into the loft and didn’t return for a long time. Didn’t come back and didn’t come back. When he finally reappeared in a very calm state, he whispered into Celeste’s ear, ‘It really takes a long time to get to the center of the earth.’ What do you suppose he was seeing?”

“That is truly lovely. Thank you so much for telling me. Perhaps someday we’ll hear the details of his journey from him.”

After Rhea left, Ursula shook her head in disbelief. “Okay, Spirit, Bear, Whoever. You’re kicking my butt good now. I guess there is no more time to dally about getting all this stuff out.” She sat down at her computer before she could second guess herself, typed for a minute and then firmly clicked “Send.”

From: aok@ nekelew.net

To: Undisclosed Recipients

Subject: Greenwitch Magic 101

Reply to: Ursula@nekelew.net

I am starting a class on Magical Basics to be held Thursday evenings from 7-9 pm at my house on Mountain Lane. I’m thinking for starters we’ll cover techniques of grounding, calling circles, using your healing hands, clearing space, smudging, creating altars, doing ritual and setting intention. You’ll have a chance to help at the seasonal community rituals and will also gain skills to help with your personal journey.

Suggested payment is $10 per class but the Begging Bowl will accept any amount. More will help cover costs for those who can pay little or nothing. Trades are also a possibility.