Womb Altar Cards- the Back Story

Three days before Christmas, 2016, I was diagnosed with andeno-carcinoma in situ (ACIS). I didn’t know anything about this disease- but I knew the word carcinoma and I was scared. My GP referred me to a specialist- whom she had already spoken to and made an appointment for me as it was, she said, urgent that I saw him.  This idea of urgency continued when I did see the specialist- he performed a colposcopy to determine if I had cervical cancer or ACIS only. ACIS is considered a “premalignant glandular condition” in the lining of the cervix- and is the precursor to cervical andenocarcinoma- in other words, cervical cancer. So regardless of the outcome of the biopsy he recommended that the safest and best option was to have a hysterectomy immediately.

A hysterectomy is removal of the womb and would mark the end of my menstruating years. I wanted more information before I went down that route. I wanted to know what the likelihood of getting cancer was, what other alternatives were, and I wanted to share with him my belief that the womb was sacred. I told him that although I was passed my child bearing years I wanted to keep this part of me.  Throughout this journey I was told by the medical profession that as I no longer wanted to birth more children then my womb was unnecessary.  The idea that menstruation might have an important function and meaning for me, really was not considered and the idea that my womb was the birthplace of creativity was also not acknowledged.  Though I did point this out whenever I could.

This diagnosis was the start of an ongoing healing journey. And I mean ongoing, I am still deep in process.   While I waited to find out if I had Cancer or not- I spent two weeks in Croagingalong National Park, Gurnai/Kurnai country. A truly beautiful spot on the east coast of Victoria- and it is full of birds. I spent a lot of time listening to and looking out for birds. I spent much time drawing on the energy of this place, to create as much calm and nourishment as I could.  Nature has long provided me with a sense of connection and belonging. And though I hadn’t been to Wingen Inlet before I felt welcomed to this land, and a deep sense of peace here.

Upon return to Melbourne I learnt I didn’t have Cancer- yet. That was the framing though, that this disease will likely lead to cancer.  I decided to have surgery -but not a hysterectomy. I had a cone biopsy which involves a cutting a wedge out of the cervix and testing for the disease.  This was supposed to be minor surgery- but was a huge and challenging journey for me.  Mainly because I caught an infection- which impaired me for 6 weeks.  This recuperation was however, a deeply transformative time as I travelled on the portals of illness to new understandings about myself, my body and life.

As I wrote in an earlier blog post, illness is a gateway into another way of being.  Time shifts and morphs. The hours do not tick by, for those clocks hold no sway. You are in another realm. In this realm ordinary things become extraordinary, drinking water, sensing sunshine on your body, the rush of the wind in the leaves. All these little moments are magnified and intensified. This is the realm of magic and wonder. This is the realm of the Shaman. And here I roamed for three weeks, in and out of time, of sleep, of dreams, of earth. She of whom we are all made.

And around this time I began to explore my relationship with my cervix.  I realised my understanding of my cervix was limited and at times, simply wrong.  I had always pictured my cervix as a flat circular muscle which opened during birth.  It is in fact more like the throat, a tubular organ linking the vagina to the womb.  It has two openings, the internal and external OS. And it is the external OS that opens when giving birth.  For much of my life all that I knew of my cervix was limited to the information given around birth, that it was the opening to the womb and during birth was able to open to 10 cm to allow the baby through. And for a long time that was all I knew.  Then during my Four Seasons Journey with the School of Shamanic Womancraft and later my MoonSong Apprenticeship I learnt more. I learnt that the cervix produces much of the changing mucus that we experience during our cycles, and that the cervix also changes position during our cycles, opening to blood, to sperm, and closing also. And yet there was still much I didn’t know.  But all that was about to change.

So, began a journey of getting to know my cervix.  I re-read two of the books essential to teaching MoonSong Workshops, Becoming A Woman by Jane Hardwicke Collings, and A Blessing Not a Curse (Jane Bennett)– it’s amazing what you pick up when your focus has shifted.  I really digested the information on the cervix, especially around her opening and closing in time with the cycle, and the softening and hardening of her entrances.  I began looking at pictures too…though there were not many I found the most amazing photographs from My Beautiful Cervix project which, when I looked in 2017, was just one woman’s account of her cervix throughout one cycle.  The site has grown since then and now has photographs from several different women’s cervixes throughout their cycle- and importantly has images of a cone biopsy and radical hysterectomy! I wish that had been there earlier!

Using these images, the information I had, and the feelings within my own body I began to draw my cervix, and her changes. Initially I drew her as a donut, a fleshy deep pink organ with a hole in the centre. And yet I wanted to draw my cervix in relationship to the whole of the yoni- connecting her to my vulva, vagina, and womb…. To show her as the throat, or neck like structure that she is.  I also wanted to show how I now saw the cervix – as a sacred gateway, a portal to the temple of our womb- our creative centre. I began to draw the changing  dynamics within the whole yoni region of the body. And so, began my drawings for my Womb Altar Cards

As a teacher of MoonSong I regularly used the Altar Cards produced by Jane Hardwicke Collings as a teaching aide. These cards include a set of the moon phases, the earth seasons- depicted both within the context of a rose, and through the seasonal celebrations in the pagan wheel of life, and the life cycle of woman, (drawings by Lucy Pierce and photographs of JHC and her family ).  We didn’t have cards specifically for the menstrual cycle.  So I used all these cards as inspiration- drawing on the wisdom contained within each set and the correspondences between them to create my Womb Altar Cards. For we cycle- that is our nature during our menstrual years, and these cycles correlate to and with the moon and her phases, and the earth and her seasons.

I wanted to capture these relationships in my cards. I wanted to show how dynamic and alive our cervix and yoni is. How our bodily changes reflect inner and outer changes within us too. All the while being mindful that everybody is different. As we say in the MoonSong workshops this is the map, your body is the territory. These cards are a guide for you to get to know your own body, your emotions, your feelings and how you change within your own cycling ways. And my learning went deeper too.

Susan Weed writes of the cervix, “take you’re your power. Claim your cervix and your genitals as your own. Possess your cervix, your uterus, your vagina. Look at your cervix, accept it, love it, cherish it. When we reject a part of ourselves, we can find ourselves “losing” that part to surgery!”  So, I took to looking at my own cervix, the My Beautiful Cervix project has kits you can buy to help you do this too. You just need a scapula and mirror! Though they provide some guidance too.  I was also drumming to journey to meet my cervix- my womb, my inner Goddess, and to listen to the inner wisdom and words of my body and guides. This was a time of deepening connection and love. Love for the parts of myself that still held shame, and fear, and pain.

And someone I knew pointed my in the direction of the online Self Cervix course, which is “A journey of pleasure and awakening.” For the cervix is also an integral part of our sexual anatomy and expression.  But it is often blocked and armoured, and a lot of the course was focused on de-armouring our cervixes. For it is only when they and we feel safe enough that we can really access the eroticism and pleasure that is our birthright. And I really came to know this through the course. But this information is not widely known, and when I told one of my specialists- a Gyny- oncologist Doctor, he dismissed this idea, and, when I told him that I knew from my own experience that my cervix was and is part of my pleasure zone, he wanted medical proof!!!!  How far we have to go.

I wanted to share the sexiness and juiciness of our yoni’s and the ways this shifts during our cycle too. Clearly ovulation is the peak of our overtly aroused state and yet our menstrual time has its own juicy magic. And of course, all of this is entirely personal. When you feel most alive and aroused etc is not necessarily when I do, and it’s not necessarily when you are most fertile. Arousal and pleasure are very personal and individual, and yet there are biological times when our bodies are “ripe” and ready for possible fertilization of the egg. And of course, many of us do not have male partners, and yet our bodies continue with the magical cycle of preparing for, releasing and letting go of the egg…. with all that this entails- and it’s a lot!  I must skip over so much information- but have a look at the cards, much of it is in them!

And of course, the creativity that is arising at the time of ovulation is more often than not about creative projects, ideas, thoughts and ways of being, rather than the creation of new life.…. During my ovulatory period, I used to feel a lot of love for everyone. I was also more talkative, and full of ideas…. A few days later on, a sense of perspective would arise, and it was time to let go of the many stimulating ideas.  And now I find this second half of the cycle, a time of quiet creative energy. I am more inwardly focused and so I am often writing stories, poetry and editing during this phase.

And as someone who no longer has a womb I still love to use my cards, and I hope these cards can be of use to other women who don’t have a womb- for whatever reason.  The cards are illustrative of the energy of the moon phase I am flowing with, and of the seasons.  I like to look at my day 21 card as the Maga card, this is the stage I have entered, and there is lots I can gather from meditating on the image here.

So, having produced a set of cards that I was pretty happy with I put them out to my School of Shamanic Womancraft community to gauge responses and feedback and I am pleased to say that the response was really positive.  I then set about producing more cards and releasing them to the wider community. I also produced a brief guide for using them, which you get when you purchase the cards, but they are your cards and how, where and when you use them is up to you. I hope you enjoy playing with them.

And despite all that I did to heal myself, I did get andeno carcinoma. I found out after my second cone biopsy- many months later. I kept my womb for a year longer than was originally proposed and I am so grateful for the gifts of this journey.  Which I can some up as love and trust instead of fear, and embodiment. I have connected to my body in ways I had not. Ironic that illness and disease have been portals to a greater aliveness in my body.  Before sacrificing my womb, I had a womb loss circle with dear friends- several actually, to share my grief and love of my womb, and to celebrate wombs everywhere…My husband and I also had a gentle and intimate goodbye ceremony. These ceremonies were all very healing, not only for my womb, but for the collective understanding of our cervixes and wombs- which still suffer from ignorance, shame, and fear.  This journey to love our cervixes, and our wombs is a profoundly healing process- for ourselves, all our relations, and for the womb of the earth.

In February 2018 I had a radical hysterectomy, the removal of my womb, my ovaries, some lymph nodes and extra tissue. The surgery was huge, and the recovery long and slow. But my womb, and my cervix live on in these Womb Altar Cards, and in the energy within me, a loving space where the creative energy of these cards came from. That energy remains. I bow to the womb energy within you too, whether or not you have a womb.

love and blessings

Sarah xx

What lies beneath?

What lies beneath?

This is a question I have been feeling into for many moons now. What lies beneath? What lies beneath oubluelaker feet, beneath our paved roads and footpaths, and beneath the layers of protection, scaffolding, and armour that we wear around ourselves? And while feeling into this question, I heard a tale of a beautiful lost lake that once crowned parts of west Melbourne. It triggered in me a sense of deep loss, and an affirmation to continue searching for the places of forgotten beauty, and of those places not considered beautiful; the watery wastelands of our psyche and our landscapes.

In response to this tale and song, I created a painting in two parts. The first is an image of the blue lake that once covered parts of west Melbourne. It was said to be, “a real lake, blue, nearly oval and full of the clearest salt water…Fringed gaily all round with the purple mesembryantheum (pigface) in full bloom, it seemed in the broad sunshine to be girdled by a belt of magenta fire.”   But this beautiful lake, although clearly appreciated by some, was undervalued by those with power. And by the 1860’s it was completely lost as it was covered over with bitumen and tar. The second part of the picture depicts the built world, whatliesbeneathand it is entitled What lies Beneath, or Only the Sky Remembers.  The lake is there but hidden underneath. Upon hearing The Orbweavers sing of this lake, I was moved to reflect again on this question of what lies beneath all of us, and how can we reclaim those parts of ourselves and of the earth that need to be reclaimed. I link these two questions as part of the same one as I feel  that whatever we do to her, we do to us, and whatever we do to us, we do to her.

So I am finding my way home to myself, and to the land I live on. I am finding my way home to a wholeness that connects us all by looking at what lies above and what lies beneath. But the journey is not easy nor the path defined. But my questions guide me, as Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen said to a teacher of mine, Your questions are your quest. And I am questing this year to reconnect myself to land, to country and to myself as healed and whole. Part of this involves learning the art of Dadirri, or Molla Wariga, of deep listening. This requires the giving of time and attention, of pausing, and reflecting. I feel the blue lake is a symbol of all this because water gifts us these ways of being. We pause at a lake, we listen to the birdsong, to the flow of water and we see our reflection. We trust in the flow of water, in her way of being. The Blue Lake was a salt lake and was linked to the tides, to the moon, to the cycles, the seasons. And this is another clue, to remember our own cycles as part of the larger whole. This is another part of the journey.

redtent3Although questing is often seen as a solo journey and part of it is done alone, we are also guided with signposts, and messages. We find timely reminders that we are not alone. We are gifted with others who will walk with us at least some of the way.  For me, women’s circles and Red Tents help us to remember our deep connection to each other, to the land and to the spirits. It is part of my journeying home, and may be part of yours too.

And today I watched a beautiful video Dissonant Bundles and the Power of the Circle by Bec Funk,  and Jacqui Grace of Beautiful Wasteland, and even that name conjures up so much of  what I am trying to express….what is a wasteland? What is beauty? What aspects of our own beauty have we denied, repressed, estranged, paved over because it was not valued by ourselves or others?  They explore these questions too. And while watching the video I am reminded of the story, Skeleton Woman by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. This story is worth exploring, for it also dwells with the need to accept and love the not beautiful aspects of self.  Again this requires time, attending, and a willingness to really look beneath the surface and to allow others to do this too. Part of this is to risk showing ourselves to ourselves and to others. We are often surprised by what we find, for beauty is so much more than that visual aspect that we place so much importance on in this culture. Life in all her curiosity, wonder, wildness is beautiful.

The skeleton woman story may come to visit you, or maybe another is calling you. I believe the stories come to us when we are ready, and sometimes even when we are not. Another story that has been working its magic on me, is the tale of Persephone, and her descent into the underworld. I am dreaming up a workshop in which we use this tale as the starting point for exploring our own descent into what lies beneath. The descent is a necessary part of our journey, it is the heroines own healing. So this story presents a highpmythicpowerful reminder of the tools and resources we have at hand to be our own heroine, to journey down, and to descend into our power.   The workshop will look at the tools can we use in order that we can be with, what it is that we find. And then having reclaimed these aspects of self, we will be guided in ways to ascend again while staying on the path of renewal.

Renewal requires a death and a letting go. Let us spend some time in renewal, regeneration and remembering. Let us see what happens if we walk the country of our inner landscape and the outer landscape. Let us see what happens if we dig below the surface to reclaim those places that we thought were not beautiful, that we through were wasteland, and see if we can be surprised by what we find…

As that beautiful poet ee cummins once wrote

For what ever we lose, (Like a you and a me)
It’s always ourselves we find in the sea.

Blessings on the descent, on this day before the dark moon.

Sarah  xxx

Words for deep listening:
Dadirri is from the Daly River language group
Molla Wariga is from the Gurnai Language group

For more information on the blue lake, go to
http://www.robynannear.com/docs/mrs-bradleys-melbourne.pdf
and scroll to blue lake. The quote is from George, Gordon McCrae…taken from this site.

Moonsong- Listening to the Feminine

So blessed to sit in circle today with 20 women at RAW Gardens, to celebrate International Red Tent Day. Such gratitude to feel the magic of the circle, the healing that comes with showing up, with sharing and with listening with the ears of our heart to our sisters speak… It is time to find our voices, our truths, and to listen willingly and openly…it is time for our families, communities and the world to hear the voices of women, to let the feminine speak in her myriad voices of her truth. Not the truth of a world/cultures which denigrates women, the body, the earth, life/death/life but the truth that comes from deep within, a truth that is rooted in the earth, in her and our bodies. Our lived experience.

The redtent3time is now, so find your way to love yourself enough, to honour yourself enough to reach out to support other women, and to hear their stories, their songs, their poems, their tongues, their carvings, engravings, weaving….find women, listen and be listened too. Such healing arises when we feel we can be really heard. When we listen to ourselves, and give ourselves the space to acknowledge, to heal, to be.

I am blessed to have such a group of dear women around me, my family, my friends, my mermaid sisters, my teachers…and all those who came today, and who come to the call of the feminine….If you feel a desire to go deeper in this work, then i encourage you to find a red tent near you. There is a revolution and they are springing up everywhere..You might also consider a year long dive into the feminine mysteries with the School of Shamanic Womancraft.This was and still is such a profound journey or healing for me, and those who i have journeyed with. It is MAGIC!!! And if you want a taster of this work, I am also hosting a day, to explore the treasure map of our blood mysteries, our feminine mysteries, with Moonsong.

In this workshop you will:

logo

  • learn about the wisdom of the cycles and our life seasons
    • the influence of the lunar cycle and the earth’s seasons
    • the spiritual practice of menstruation and the transformative power of our rites of passage
    • understand why you feel the way you do!
    Sunday 17 January 2016
    9.00- 5.00

    • Carnegie, Victoria  (address provided on booking)
      Morning and afternoon tea provided…$80
    • bookings essential

Many thanks again to all those who showed up today. Gratitude for the feminine flow!

Blessings sarah zxx

 

Remembering Hera

Most of you will know Hera, as the jealous manipulative wife of Zeus. For this is how she is portrayed in the written accounts of the Greek Empire. But Hera is older than the Olympian Myths of Zeus. She comes from the time before, and the times before that. Hera was and is, a powerful Goddess of women and fecundity. She is associated with the tripple phase aspect of the moon, and of woman. She is the life, death, life cycle. She is worth remembering. Here is a story of Her.

800px-Charles_François_Jalabert_-_Nymphs_Listening_to_the_Songs_of_Orpheus_-_Walters_3737At dawn, on the first day after the dark of the moon, the women of Argos would leave their homes, and walk down the stony paths out of town. All the women who had come of age would walk together. They would move towards the rising sun, stopping when they reached the banks of the Freeing Waters stream. Here they would bathe, submerging themselves in Her cleansing waters.  After bathing, the women would dry themselves, robe again and then collect branches of the Lygos tree*, which grew in generosity all around the stream.

These would be placed on Her sacred ground in circle. Often times the circle remained from the previous gathering, and the women would add only what they needed. And then they themselves would gather in circle, sitting with their mothers’ clan, to honour and bless the cycles of life, the regenerative power of their blood, and of their Goddess, Hera. Their blood which would begin to flow freely now, was a gifting back to Her for all that she gave them. It was their ritual acknowledgement of the cycles living and alive in their bodies.

During this gathering the women would fast, and remain in circle, talking, sharing, laughing and crying. Tales of their children, their loves, their loss, and their harvest would be shared. Each woman had an opportunity to speak, and to listen many times over.  At twilight when the veils between the worlds are thinnest, the Elders, the Wise Ones whose blood now recirculated within their own body, would share of the mysteries, leading the women in sacred song and chants. They would praise and call Her name.

waningcresAnd when the first silver image of Hera appeared as the new moon rising in the night sky,  they would light a fire in Her honour. They would call her name, Hera, Hera, Hera.  Her songs would ring out in the night sky rising in tempo and volume.  The women would clap and shimmy and flow with Her precious blood, singing the praises of the renewed fertility of each woman whose blood flowed in Her name. and this celebration would continue well into the dark night, it would continue until it was time to depart. And then the women of Argo, could be seen with torches aflame, returning down the stony paths, towards their homes, renewed and reinvigorated.

This is a retelling I have created based upon the Hera myth found in Charlene Spretnak’s Lost Goddesses of Early Greece. She tells us that “Hera was venerated at many sites in Greece, particularly on Crete and on Samos, but the chief centre of her worship was at Argos….On Samos, the sanctuary built for Hera was never exceeded in size by any temple in Greece.”

Temple_of_Hera_-_Agrigento_-_Italy_2015Spretnak, and Harrison** reminds us that the images and stories we have of Hera, are from the later periods of the colonizers who no longer worshiped a Great Goddess but introduced a patriarchal mythology, which diminished the powers of the Goddess…At the same time, we can understand these more modern stories of Hera, reflect Her as “the turbulent native princess, coerced but never really subdued by an alien conqueror” .

I will be telling this tale at the International Red Tent Day event hosted by the School of Shamanic Womancraft at RAW Gardens in Brighton. You are welcome to attend.

Blessings Sarah

* lygos tree, is commonly known as the Chaste Tree.

**Harrison, Jane Ellen, Mythology, New York, Harcourt and Bruce.

The image is actually Orpheus with his music nymphs reclining on the bank of a stream by Charles Jalabert…even our images of Hera are limited…

But the temple is a temple to Hera at Agrigento in Italy.

More on Hera to come.

Many Blessings Sarah xx

 

 

Connecting with the inner child

whimThe maiden is here. Spring really is on her way. We can see her rising with the green leaves and shoots. Buds are forming on my peach, plum, nectarine and quince trees, as the energy rises. In the Temple of She! and the women’s mysteries this energy of spring is associated with the maiden.  She who rises with the sun, who dances with the breeze, and the element of air.  The maiden is wild and free, She is untamed and deeply connected to nature, to creativity and to play.

Many of us lose this connection and we forget to honour our creativity. We shun that power that rises through us, forgetting how to play, to laugh, to imagine possibilities. But of all us have her within us. All of us can reconnect with our inner child, that maiden energy full of potential and power. So how do we reconnect with this beautiful aspect of our being? There are many ways but essentially it is about being open, and allowing her to express herself. For this we need to let go of the critic, the adult, the responsible one (and often actually irresponsible one, for it is not responsible to deny her).  We invite her in, and wait. For me dance is a beautiful opening to Her. When we tune into the impulses of the body, and simply allow the body to move, to play…without judgement, we are learning to express her.  And we will dance Her tonight in the Temple of She! We will dance her peeping out of her cave, in and out in and out with the breath, allowing her to show herself to us. So that we can call her and move more freely, more nimbly, more spontaneously. And in so doing, She will dance us.

dancedrawing3As i mentioned in my last post, drawing is another beautiful way to reconnect with your inner child.  Lucia Cappicone offers us her inner child work. She offers a full process worth investigating but quite simply we use the left hand (or the non-dominant one) to draw and dialogue with her. This is a wonderful process for developing a relationship with your inner child.  Mindfulness and meditation can help too. Starhawk offers us this meditation. It can be helpful to sit with this, to allow it to penetrate into your being, and then be open to the responses that arise in you.

“Visualize a silver crescent moon, curving to the right. She is the beginning of power, of growth , of generation. She is wild and untamed, like ideas and plans before they are tewaning cresentmpered with reality. She is the blank page, the unplowed field. Fell your own hidden possibilities and latent potential, your power begins to grow. See her as a silver haired girl running freely through the forest under the slim moon. She is Virgin, eternally unpenetrated, belonging to one one but herself. Call her name, Nimue and feel her power within you.”

Starhawk reminds us that we are not only calling ourselves, but calling the Goddess into our lives. We are calling on that divine energy, that aspect of Her as The Maiden, that blossoms in us, as our own unique aspect of Her.

artemis corregioArtemis was my first Goddess. She was the one I felt such a deep connection to. She who lived in the forests and the Sacred Groves, she who dwelt with nymphs, and the spirits of the trees and the animals. She who was fiercely independent and belonging to no one was my way into the world of the Goddess. I did my honours thesis at university on images of her in the court at Fontainbleu, and i have been searching for her for ever. She is with me now, in my dance, in my kinder work, in my life. Here is an image of her by Caravaggio. She is powerful, riding her chariot across the open space, the crescent moon adorning her.

tall book of make beliveYou can find images of the maiden Goddesses, find one that appeals and follow the journey. Follow that small girl you, rolling down sand dunes, climbing up trees, making daisy chains, splashing in the waves, searching for kissy things ( a soft sea urchin) and starfish in the rock pools, spinning and spinning with the joy of your body. You never know where you will end up.

Blessings

Sarah xxx

 

spring is coming-Imbolc

seedsrputSitting in the garden and I see the first signs of spring. I know it’s still winter, but the first daffodils have emerged and Imbolc is almost upon us. Imbolc is the first of the seasonal spring celebrations in the Wheel of the Year. The earth will begin tracing her way towards the sun, really leaning into the sun, for the first time since the summer solstice. We will feel some warmth, even as the cold winds continue to blow. The baby lambs will be born (the name “imbolc” or ewes milk reflects this as the birthing season).  We will celebrate all that we are birthing and we will tend to that. We will nourish and nurture that which has emerged out of the depths of winter…

You might want to take the time to feel into what is emerging in you…what wants to be born, and nurtured this coming spring? Look into the garden of your life, and see what is arising. Draw, dance, play with your inner child and see what is revealed to you. I am revisiting some inner child work at the moment thanks to the work of Early Childhood Educator, carol liknaitsky and her referencing of Lucia Capacchione’s work on the inner child. I highly recommend the work of both these women.

My inner child definitely wants to play, to move, to laugh and to create. What about yours? This birthing season of imbolc, is a perfect time to get in touch with the inner girl child in you…or perhaps there is a little boy in there too that wants to play. Go seek, and then celebrate this aspect of your being, celebrate and give thanks for the connection to this tending to the inner flamebeautiful innocent, open, creative aspect of you.  As Glenys Livingstone says, Imbolc ceremony “is  essentially about affirming the Original Flame of Being in you – this Native, wild self … this is the Flame that Great Goddess Brigid of early Celtic peoples traditionally tends.” Your inner child is part of the light in you, is that wild untamed beautiful soul who will show your way. This is an image of myself finding my way in the dark, feeling the light within, carrying the flame  to and for myself.

A beautiful ritual to include at this time, is the making of candles in honour of this flame, this unique light within you. And another name for this season is candlemas, the time when we make candles, knowing that although the light has come, and the births have begun there is still more darkness and cold to experience. Here’s some basic instructions on candle making.

Candle Making- A Ritual to Tend the Inner Flame

And with the children I will make candles, a reminder that the inner flame needs to be tended. It is so easy to make candles and i share how with you here.

candlesWhat you’ll need
residual beeswax or other wax
candle holders – I use a variety of tins, glass jars, even plastic tubs work!
wicks, with or without tabs (tabs are easier to work with esp for tealights)
you may want a wick bar too for support or a skewer

What to do
Place your beeswax in an empty tin can with a clean rock or something to weigh it down.
I use beeswax candles a lot in my work, and always save the wax which has not burnt, but you may have bought some.
Place the filled can in a small saucepan of water and bring to the boil, then simmer and wait till it melts. (Also watch it carefully as wax can ignite)

Ensure your containers are all ready with wicks and tabs in place.
If you have a wick without a tab, you will need to cut it to an appropriate length- about 2.5 cm above the top of the tin/jar, which you insert into the wicking bar..If you don’t have a bar you can use a skewer which you thread into the wick and lay across the top of your tin.

When the wax is melted simply pour it into your tins, almost to the rim.
pour it slowly and gently.
As it begins to cool the wax can retract, so you can pour more melted wax in to top it up.
Leave to cool for a few hours
Voila your own candles.

An Imbolc Ceremony
women'scirclecandlesNow that you have made some candles you can do your own ceremony honouring this special time of the year. With my children I generally keep it simple. We will have a meal together-at a table decorated with the first signs of spring and eat springtime foods- the first peas, and cress, and plenty of seeds and eggs too. We each light a candle we have made and give thanks for the unique gifts that each of us bring to the world, and maybe also for something new in our lives. …..

With this ceremony it is important to remind oursevles that now is the time to tend that which has be born in us, to look at what is growing and nurture it. We might also want to look at what is growing and decide that our energy is best directed elsewhere. This is the spring cleaning aspect of this season, the de-cluttering, the getting rid of that which you don’t want, so that you have the proper time and attention to tend to that which you do want. We don’t want our energy to be frazzled, to be too extended. We want to focus on the areas of life that will bring more life into our lives, that will make our inner child sing and dance with joy.

Dancing-FeetPersonally i will hold ritual for that which has emerged out of this period of deep rest and nourishment. I will give thanks and light a candle and dance outside, barefoot on the grass, reminding myself that “I step upon her body with her feet.*” Reflect and personalize your own ritual. You may want to give great thanks to Brigid, the ancient Celtic Goddess of the Eternal Flame. You may want to give thanks for this life, this connection to earth. Ask yourself what is the flame in you, what is the life force that ignites and burns within, and how can you show gratitude for this? (image Betty Sederquist)

And on the subjects of births, check out the events page to see some upcoming activities that you may want to be involved with.  I wanted to share some upcoming events and let you know that soon I will also birth my first Moondance, and Moonsong events. Stay tuned for more details.

If you are interested in further readings and ritual ideas for imbolc,  you might want to look to PaGaian Cosmology. I am also always inspired by the ideas and rituals of Jane Hardewick Collings my beautiful Shamanic  Teacher .

By the way Imbolc is traditionally held on August 2nd here in the Southern Hemisphere, but astrologically it is on August 8th minutes before 6.00pm. Perfect for a dinner ritual!

Many Blessings

Sarah xxxxxxxx

* this is a line from a daily prayer i make, The Laws of Nature by Francesca De Grandis 

my whole body is alive

Yes my whole body is alive, and yours is too. But how much attention do you give to your body? How much attention do you give to the different aspects of your body? Do you take the time to explore your body? Do you pay attention to the messages, the moods, the feelings of your body? Do you feel into its dimensions, its energy, its awareness? Your body is ALIVE. Listen to it, tune into it. It is you, it is a loving tactile, feeling, sensing, knowing part of you. Without it, there is no you.

IMG_5531In every moment your body is evolving, revolving, moving in the deep grooves of rhythmic patterns.   in every moment it offers you the power to transform. Yes, because tuning into your body is transformational. In this world of mind as separate from body, in this world of mindlessness, we forget ourselves, we forget to look within, and forge the relationships with our selves, our bodies and through this with each other. But we can at any time tune into the mindfulness of our body. And when we do we open ourselves to our inherent creativity. Yes your body is alive with creativity.

And creativity is embodied in the body’s myriad cycles of  birth, growth, flourishing, and releasing, dying, death and spiraling into birth again. Your body is replenishing itself continuously, gifting you with its remarkable and resplendent gifts of  movement, of taste, of touch, of hearing, of loving, of feeling, of sensing, of voicing, of sounding, of birthing, of dying, of BECOMING and BEING.   leaf

Your body is alive. Replenish yourself by taking a moment to ground and centre, and focus your attention on your body. Choose a part of your body, your skin, your breath, your bones, your heart. It doesn’t matter where you go, just go, go within and sense the inherent life force manifesting in a myriad of ways…

Remember tuning into your body is a revolutionary act. And we need a revolution.

thanks to alice cummins for a weekends delight with Body Mind Centering.

Experiencing Ovulation

How do you experience the period of ovulation? How does it feel to live this aspect of your cycle ? Yesterday, day on 13 of my menstrual cycle and one day before the full moon in ovul_1Capricorn, I asked myself this question. And my response is here. I would love for you to reflect on your own experience of ovulation. Do my words resonate? What are the synergies and the differences? What arises for you when you ovulate?

Wow, well today i feel juicy! Literally. I awoke tired and groggy from a fitful night of waking and sleeping on the couch- but the first thing i noticed was how wet I was!

Ovulation for me is a feeling of being able to meet the world fully. I feel able to dance and participate in this great cosmic dance of life/death/life.  My energy is flowing, my ideas are flowing and I am active in their manifestation. Like this “innerview.” I was inspired earlier in the month by a wonderful innerview with Kristen Lee Read and Kerri Alenka Merral, and while out walking yesterday i thought of videoing myself at some point. But today came and i was impatient and excited and decided that even without a recorder I could innerview myself. And so on this day of ovulation I birthed this innerview.

So i am also grateful for my walk yesterday. Walking is part of my daily practice. Walking is a great facilitator. The creative energy flows more easily when we walk. Which makes sense really, for when we are moving, our energy is moving and flowing, and our ideas, our creativity are part of this energy, this chi, this shakti.

slfSo when we move, the ideas move with us. Added to this is the power of nature, of being out in the world. When we are outside, walking in the park for instance, we open ourselves to the world, to that creative flow of all life. And if we are open to it, then this energy rushes in. The whole world can come in, if we let it. And if this makes sense to you, read David Whyte, or Mary Oliver, or better yet go out and greet the world.

heartsWhere was I, ah ovulation. Yes ovulation is a time of expansion, and so sometimes that expansion can be a bit unfocused? I might find myself off topic, dreaming all the possibilities, all the potential of this beautiful season and finding ways to birth them. Now! While ovulating i feel my desire for life, for union with all things,- so you see i wasn’t really off topic when talking of walking, and being in the world. For this desire for union with the world (yes and with my darling husband!) is an essential part of my ovulatory experience. This is the biological imperative after all, isn’t it, to create, to procreate?

I wonder if my desire for union with the world also reflects my personal bent. I am a Libran after all, and we seek union. We seek to bring things together in the most beautiful ways, to co-opt, to cooperate. We  bring together that which is seemingly disparate. We see connection and go for it. And we are guided by Venus. So beauty is everywhere. Sometimes it is ferocious, and sometimes soft. But this whole world is Beauty full, and seeking connection, integration and harmony.

top of mountainIt all sounds magnificent doesn’t it? Yes but, ah there is always a but (those scales might just tip back the other way) and i have noticed that just before ovulation, just before full moon, i can panic. I was having a lovely time yesterday listening to Caroline Casey- an awesome astrologer, and i was seeing connection, and everything was making sense. I felt like i was at the top of the mountain with this great overview (OK I do have Capricorn Ascendant, so i kind of like the mountain metaphor!) and then i looked back behind me, and went woah….how did i get here? what am i doing? what was i thinking? I’m stuck…..help.

Yep it was one of those moments. I totally lost faith in myself. And this can happen at this point in my cycle. I have noticed that just before the massive high of ovulation, there is a slight dip! I think maybe its my loyal soldier, still guarding those past wounds. Even though i have assigned him another job, he still pops up from time to time, to remind me that I can’t. I can’t possibly do this ,or that, or anything much for that matter. What did i do then? What do you do when those old stories/fears/patterns/triggers arise?

I invited him in..Hello, here you are again. Come in and sit down, but don’t make yourself too comfortable because i don’t expect you to be here too long. And i think this helps- firstly the recognition that the story is back, and is OK. But secondly that the story is a guest for a short time. I have been round and round these cycles long enough to know, as Jane Hardewicke Collings says, “this too will pass.” So instead of getting bogged down in these thoughts, I watched a romantic movie with my daughter on the couch, cooked some dinner and then sat with my feelings, and then what do you know I wake up today saying I can, and more than that, I am!radiantlight

So here I am back on top of the mountain, looking at my births this cycle, which are deepening of births that have been arising since last spring really….Story telling, saying yes in the moment, which sometimes requires saying No to others, and flowing with creative potential, manifest today in my felted balls!

journalingSo this is my story of ovulation. What’s yours?  You might find it useful to ask yourself this questions and journal your own responses, or you may want to video/voice record yourself, or dance. Feel whatever is right for you, and engage with the experiences of your cycle and your body. There is much out there to guide you, follow your hunches and see where they lead!

Blessings on this Full Moon in Capricorn.

Sarah xxx

(sunlight picture above by Megan Forbes!)

Illuminations

The question is not what I want to be, it’s how I want to be. How do I want to live my life on a daily basis? What are the small interactions I want to invest in? Sometimes I get so caught up in what I should be doing in the world, that I forget I am always being in the world. Is my way of being, congruent with my vision for the world? Am I so caught up with stuff going on out there, that I miss what is happening right in front of and within me?

every moment is sacredSo my questions for myself are how can I live my life daily, moment by moment in support of the my vision for a healed and whole earth/self? Where do I want to place my attention? To what and with whom do I want to experience this world? And what do I need to do to support this? What is my daily practise? What are the triggers, reactions, stories that come up from my woundings to remind me of the work I still need to do? These will need review and reflection of course!

And so firstly to stories.  I think a lot about stories, remembering as a child how important they were and still are to me. I have been crafting my own stories for children, encouraged by the Nourishing Childhood course I am studying. These stories reflect my love of nature, and the neeChildhood-Craft-300x187d to be more intimate with her.  I am  lucky to have children and families at playgroup and kindergarten to interact with my stories, to reflect on them, shape them. Stories are how we shape ourselves in this world, so we need to be enthralled in stories that enliven us, that inspire us and that place ourselves within the cosmos.

We live in a storied world. Everything is a story, everything we create is based on a belief, a view and idea or story of the world and our place in it. (Thanks Frank Fisher!) So we need to think carefully about our stories, and in particular the stories of our culture. The dominant paradigm (really just another word(s) for the big story ) is the thinking that underpins all that we do. Unfortunately our story is one of disconnection. It is a linear story…that sets itself and all of us, above and separate from the earth and the cosmos. And it is therefore doomed. For we are the earth. We are animals living out very strange and estranged lives. We are estranged from her! And while the lucky ones may have exquisitely beautiful lives, and opportunity, many of us are leading horrifying lives. Truly horrifying. And we are all in this together. We are animals of this earth. And the earth in all her majesty is telling us her story, right now. She is inviting us to find new ways to live, ways that will not upset her delicate balance, but will instead restore(y) our active participation in her life/death/life cycles.

So we need to listen anew, with the ears of our heart open wide, to the stories of the earth and all her creatures. The dynamics of life run in all of the earth, in mountain, in river, in raindrop, in bull ant, in the wing of a grasshopper. The whole world is singing to us, storying to us…and we need to become earth literate. We are lucky here in Australia, we have the generosity of the oldest living culture on earth, showing us how to listen. We need to learn what Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann  and her people call, Dadirri. “Dadirri is inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. Dadirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us. We call on it and it calls to us. This is the gift that Australia is thirsting for.”

wordsAnd so while the big stories are being played out, there are also the smaller stories which are no less riveting and powerful. I have watched myself in recent months get caught up in someone else’s story. I have watched how this woman has allowed her personal wounding to create such a powerful and ultimately destructive story. I have watched as many of us have become hooked into it. Without noticing I was in the whirlwind of her story, caught like a bug in spider’s web. Because that’s the power of the story, if you don’t stand back and watch where you are going, you find yourself stuck in it. After all we are woven into the same fabric.

So for me, it’s the daily awareness of watching what is on the surface and what lies below. This story has been a gift- a reminder that we can only  choose whether or not to participate in the particular story, if we recognise it as a story, and recognise then if not this one, then another. For stories are who we are. With the feminine so wounded it is easy to get triggered, to get hooked in and find oneself back in the shadow story, in the story of resentment, and revenge. But I remind myself of the work I have done. I remind myself I am not a victim, I am a storyteller, whose own wounding have been the treasures and the gifts for living my life in the fullest way. Like Lilith we all need to reclaim the exiled parts of ourselves, feel it, know it, and then reintegrate this shadow aspect of ourselves into a story of transformation and healing. And this beautiful full moon energy offers us the illumination we need to see in the dark.

So I am grateful for all the stories, the ones of beauty and of terror, for all are aspects of the cosmos, all are invitations to participate fully in this world. And I am grateful to the whole world for inviting us into the story, so that we can be active in the listening and the telling. For every story needs to be told and needs to be heard.  A storyteller is someone who listens, someone who hears the story so we can then be free of it, if we so choose, or recreates it, if it’s worth retelling again and again and again. What stories are you participating in?

Blessings sarah

Samhain- gratitude for the harvest

Dear hearts

It is Samahin (sow en) eve…the final harvest festival when we gather in all that has fruited in our gardens and in our lives to nourish us  through the coming winter…

IMG_0914Autumn is traditionally a busy time in the garden preserving all that goodness…for me it has been a time of preserving plums, quinces and tomatoes. Thankfully my mum planted many pumpkins so these are also stored on my shelves too..  And i give great thanks for her apples, and pears and nashi’s..

My garden is quieter now, although the correas flower in this gentle autumn light and my Tamirillo still bears her pendulous fruits….to me they are like “the jewels upon an Ethiops ear” so beautiful and so feminine like  gorgeous drops of blood..

So with Samhain we are given the opportunity to reflect on all that has been harvested in our own lives….A few weeks back   I wrote a Autumn Harvest letter of Gratitude.  Thanks to Bec Funk, for the reminder!)…and as I look at it now, I see that I have harvested family time and leisure time, although not as much as I would like. I give great thanks for learning to say no to the world and the demands out there, which in turns allows me to say yes to being with my family, to camping trips in the Van, to crafting with garden art…IMG_0719

This is an ongoing lesson, as I still am someone who does too much, who takes on the responsibility for changing the world instead of changing myself! Ha, I am sure many of you can relate to this. If i want the world to be a slower place, then I need to slow down. If i want the world to honour the descent, the dark, the yin, then i must allow ample time for reflection, for contemplation too. Being busy, and over committed is not the way to go…  and so we pause, we reflect, we dive down into the mystery….allowing allowing allowing. We do not soldier on, instead we go with the flow, and for now (and actually always) the flow is downward…Water flows down, and we too honour the downward pull, the descent….

Another beautiful reflection that arose in writing…was the place of rhythm in my life… I see rhythm as the weaving board for my threads. Dance, drumming, story telling, raising a family, cycling with my blood, working in a steiner kinder & playgroup, being with the seasons and the cycles….all of it is rhythm, and this is the heart of my work, following my rhythm, and the wider rhythms of this beautiful world….Joyous heh!

So let us all use this Samhain time as a rhythmic pause, as the space between the beats to reflect on what has arisen within us, and what we want to carry forward. And importantly let us use it to dive into the space between the beats…..  I am so grateful to Jane Elworthy for bringing this concept alive in me, for showing me a way to open up to the spaciousness/timelessness of the spaces in between.

highpmythicAnd Samhain is also a time to honour the dead. It is a time when the veils between the worlds are thinnest, and so we light a candle in their honour, and spend a moment in quiet contemplation of our departed loved ones, and maybe the ones we didnt know, but whose lives are still in ours….

Here is a small ritual for you….

light a candle and place one symbol of nature on your altar….
Set your intention to honour Samhain (and/or the descent phase more generally)
Sit in quiet contemplation with one or all of these questions….

what do you feel about the descent phase?
how does the word crone/hag make you feel?
what have you harvested?
what are you letting go of?

watch what arises within you….Allow your self to be moved by your responses, to let yourself embody the feelings, qualities, expressions that arise…be in the moment…and if you feel to record/journal your responses.

And here is a link to Jane Hardewick Collings latest Moonsong Newsletter with some more nourishing words on the Samhain festival. Enjoy

Blessings
Sarah xxxx