Tree of Life

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Full Seed Moon 3/9/20

 

I see a beautiful fruit tree that is in full bloom with delicate pink blossoms and a man comes and attacks it violently – Oh, all the blossoms fall away, drifting tears cover the ground. Before this the little tree had bloomed “forever,” but man brought death to the blossoming tree and to the tree of life itself.

 

Little interpretation is necessary to understand this dream on a collective level. The Tree Holocaust is upon us. The Anthropocene is destroying more forests every second. Billions of trees. The lungs of the earth. The Beings that gift us with rain. We have less than three percent of intact forest left on this planet.

 

“Man” represents the age of the Anthropocene – each one of us – male or female. Every human being on this earth is complicit in tree obliteration and the terrifying violence associated with this slaughter. It’s important to note that the tree is weeping. My sense is that the tree isn’t just weeping for being murdered but that s/he is weeping for those who would annihilate her/him.

 

The most chilling part of this dream from my point of view is that once the little tree bloomed “forever.’ Forever suggests timelessness – mythology routinely breaks through the artificial walls that separate diverse peoples from one another, and the way humans experience time with stories that include this word that transcends time. Past, present, future, merge simultaneously into the eternal Now – or did, but in the dream this reality has broken down irrevocably.

 

Mythologically, the image/story/pattern of the Tree of Life is found in every culture. This is surely no accident. Indigenous peoples across the globe have been in a loving, respectful reciprocal relationship with trees since the dawn of humankind; each group has its own sacred tree and all trees are considered holy beings. Intuitively, and through reciprocal relationship these humans have known for millennia that we depend upon these beings for life.

 

The Tree of Life as a pattern also indicates wholeness and inclusiveness. Note that many images of the tree of life like the one that I am using here – my Huichol string painting – also includes animals, birds and insects.

 

Postscript

 

Today it is no longer easy to dismiss trees as the background furniture of our lives or sneer at various mythologies because of their primitive ideas because we have learned that without trees humans will eventually cease to exist… Two other dreams have reiterated to me recently, “we are in too deep, and love is not enough.”

 

One hopeful personal note:

 

All winter the cottonwood trees have been “talking” to me in the Bosque, through my senses/and through the air by means of telepathy – a kind of instant communication without words. They tell me how thirsty they are, how much they love being seen and loved. They repeat that they accept their dying, and that new trees of another kind will replace them at some point in the future, although it won’t be soon. A healing balm flows through me as I listen with my heart to their plight. Because of them, acceptance flows through me like the river that parallels the Bosque, although sadness lingers because I love them and all their relatives so much.

 

Sometimes in the Bosque I also see dead grasses pulsing pin-points of light – like fireflies under my feet – they keep me focused on the ground – inner sight – insight?

 

Lately though the trees have fallen silent and the grasses no longer glow.

 

Now my dreams repeat what I see as well as the messages I have receive in the Bosque – that protective bark is falling away from dying trees, leaves are yellowing/dropping because of drought, and that death is on the horizon for most trees through the Southwest as desertification intensifies. In contrast in another dream I learn that elsewhere pockets of dark tree greening can still be found; I interpret this as hope that some trees may live on regardless of human stupidity. If we could save the trees; we could save ourselves. The reverse is equally true. If we save ourselves (and it’s humans that are in desperate need of healing the split between themselves and the rest of nature), the trees will survive.

The Dark Side of the Moon

 

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moonseed

 

 

I am cocooned

by the dark of the moon

lulled to sleep by breathing trees

sheltered under a velvet night.

The Great Bear is sleeping

behind Black Mountain

imagining new beginnings.

Overhead a bowl of cracked stars

coalesces into patterned forms.

Ancient images appear…

The Little Bear and Gemini Twin

envision Bigger Dreams.

 

When the moon is full

the sky is lit all night

for days…

disrupting Dawn’s

midnight turning.

Smudged by opaque glaze

Moon annihilates the stars –

A solitary sightless eye

cracks cottonwood branches

into dying fragments,

Trickster Rabbit,

constellates Human Shadow.

Too much light

floods even protected spaces.

Disturbed and restless, I awaken.

My dreaming body

has lost her Memory.

Stories disappear.

 

Postscript:

 

There is something about living in a land that celebrates an empty deep blue-sky bowl and a harsh white sun as being ‘wondrous’ that I find disturbing. There is a kind of monotony associated with these endless blue wind rainless days that leaves me enervated and wired at the same time. They attempt to keep me dis-embodied – “de –pressed” psychically, and hovering outside my body.

 

(I compensate by spending as much time as I can writing because this art form keeps me firmly anchored in my body.

 

And I walk embodied, especially during the pre-dawn hours, when the trees and scrub “talk.” This morning I apologized for not paying close enough attention to what the plants had to say when words rose unbidden from inside and out raising the hair on my arms. “You know now,” they commented tersely).

 

It has taken me a long time to recognize that I am suffering from a deluge of light not just during the day, but also at night living here. For most of the month the sky is lit by some kind of moon – glow… and star -fire is absent or greatly dimmed.

 

Walking under an open sky full of stars is a gift, one that I have never taken for granted. Star gazing, especially during the frigid winter months in the Northeast has been my passion for as long as I can remember… (In Maine I keep my northeastern field open just for that purpose). Here, my favorite constellation is mostly hidden by a barren reptilian mountain…

 

I used to honor the passage of each full moon but these days it is the dark of the moon I acknowledge and celebrate. I look forward to the dark of the moon because during this time it is much easier to stay in my body, to sleep deep and well, and to star gaze…

 

Personally, this reversal mirrors other radical reversals I have experienced within the last two months…

 

Indigenous peoples have honored the dark of the moon as a powerful passage (root vegetables are still planted around or at the time of the dark of the moon), but until I came to New Mexico I never thought about what really happens at the dark of the moon. A birthing occurs following a night of total darkness. A moonseed comes to life as an invisible sliver, and a new Earth cycle begins…

 

It is February 1st and tomorrow, or somewhere in this general period, Indigenous peoples across the globe celebrate “First Light” the precursor to spring.

 

In this country some still celebrate groundhog day…When the groundhog emerges if he sees his shadow spring is still six weeks away (here this story has no meaning for obvious reasons). But the point I want to make is that the groundhog was first a bear, and throughout central Europe chained bears were forced to walk over scalding coals throughout the countryside to make the crops grow. How the bear became a groundhog is a mystery.

 

I too acknowledge this turning, though for me it is tempered by knowing that soon the days of fierce white light will stretch into what seems like “forever” and I will have to work harder than ever to stay embodied.

 

Although here in New Mexico the Great Bear constellation mostly remains hidden, the Big Bear Moon will be full next week…

 

One problem with the full moon is that it promotes a dulling of the mind and senses – actions without awareness/accurate reflection are a normal part of this monthly turning.

 

The Indigenous (throughout the world) myth of the rabbit living with his grandmother embraces this idea – the rabbit as trickster aspect dulls the grandmother’s wits and muddles her senses – if only temporarily.

Daughter of the Cranes

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When I see them

I enter the Dreaming.

In the background

a jagged coat of barren

reptilian mountains

frames bountiful bodies

standing on stilts as

undulating necks,

crimson crowns

beaded eyes

dive below the surface

in search of last year’s grain.

Each deliberate step is taken

in syncopated rhythm

with those of nearby neighbors

Each three toed talon

pierces still waters.

 

Ruffling six foot wings

clasped close to form,

serpentine ropes dip and sway.

Cranes leap into thin air

when encountering old friends.

Parachute back down.

Relaxing into the calm mirror –

each one casts a silvery shadow

trilling, rattling, rolling, whirring,

brurrring with excitement

when greeting relatives.

Circling around before

making their descent,

cranes bounce off the field

as they land!

 

Always in communion

the echo makers converse

with others in nearby ponds

in the hushed chamber

of the lowlands-

a Bosque of Cottonwoods, lakes,

and reeds –

Cranes are always listening.

 

No wonder one can trust them.

 

As twilight deepens,

they fall soundly asleep,

thin billed domes

nestled deep in warm flesh,

scaly feet sunk under oozing mud.

 

They dream an ancient language

tapping into fields

of primal patterning

Indigenous knowledge

Earth’s current keening.

Cranes know that

only by attending will they survive.

During the night,

One bird stands sentry…

 

Next month

they will begin

the great migration

a bi -annual flight made

year after year for millennium.

Cranes return to the same locations

thousands of miles traversed when

‘North Country’ calls them home.

 

Upon arrival, the birds

paint their plumage brown

blending into last year’s

wetlands to escape detection.

Mothers hover over two eggs

sinking onto nests

braided out of reeds.

A most attentive Protector

scans horizon and sky.

Nearby.

 

One chick might

survive to make the return journey…

 

But for now

these sentient Beings

celebrate community

by the thousands,

feeding in harmony…

 

The tranquil ponds echo

with a symphony of sound so

compelling, so enchanting

that I am swept

into the Heart of Creation,

folded into feathery down,

cupped by Primeval Wings

fringed ashen cloaks –

immersed in Natural Grace.

 

Working Notes:

 

The Sandhill cranes are called the “Echo Makers” by the Anishinaabe who are culturally related Indigenous peoples that live in Canada and the United States. The tribes include the Odawa, Chippewa, Ojibwe Potawatomi, Cree, and Algonquin peoples.

 

There are seven primary clans of the Anishinaabe people; loon, crane, fish, bird, bear, marten, and deer. Note that birds as a whole are included separately. Traditionally, the Loon and Crane Clans worked together as leaders and eloquent storytellers respectively.

 

These tribes have a wonderful tale about a girl who is standing alone in a mountain meadow when the Sandhill cranes are passing overhead on their journey south. They circle around the young woman and gather her up in their great gray wings and fly away with her. She becomes a ‘Daughter of the Cranes’… and this is why before arriving at their northern location each spring the cranes circle around before they land. They do this in memory of the girl.

 

When I first read this story I recognized myself. I too am a Daughter of the Cranes.

 

Many Indigenous peoples believe that humans were once cranes and will be so again…

 

Postscripts:

Cranes are receivers; they are always listening. Most westerners lack an ability to receive or to listen because most do not inhabit their bodies with any degree of awareness, if at all (this includes folks who spend time outdoors using the land instead of listening to her). The price for this inability is a split between body and mind, one that privileges mind, while dismissing body as irrelevant except as a machine. This makes humans very difficult to trust. It should be mentioned that because our feelings are carried in our bodies when we lose access to them we lose ourselves as well as being unable to be emotionally present for others in a meaningful way.

 

Being with Sandhill cranes allows me to enter their world in some non-ordinary way. I experience this oneness the moment I enter their field of influence; and the haunting crane calls – whirs, brring, trills, trumpeting – contribute to, and intensify this oneness. Whenever I am with them I am fully in the present moment. Nothing else matters. Although they are birds of the air I experience Cranes as being able to bridge the false western dichotomy that splits earth from sky to embrace/embody the Spirit/ Soul/Body of all there is.

 

Cranes are also prehistoric birds, 60 million years strong. It seems to me that they have access to truths on a level we can’t even imagine. It doesn’t surprise me that it is believed that they foretell the future or act as guides between worlds… They have for me.

 

Field notes of one of my crane experiences appear below:

Notes from Bosque:

“We found the cranes nearby and we left once and returned this time staying until sunset glorying in “the Echo Makers” – cranes coming in from all directions, one family at a time, and oh the sound was hypnotic – the air was still – the water like glass and the cranes were walking about feeding, brrring, trumpeting, rumbling, parachuting down with cupped wings onto the glassy water and leaping into the air calling to each other, welcoming mates and family. There were 3 areas – the first just to the front of us – one to the far left, and one far behind the larger pond all reflecting silvery light like a mirror -and with groups flying in for about two hours, some circling and dropping in front of us, some going to the left, and all in conversation – brrring, bugling, whirring – the sound was amazing and the birds in front picked their way through the shallows with heads sunk into mud, some in pairs and some isolated but all so peaceful – how did those flying in decide where to land? Great circular descents with those feathery fringed wings spread and legs dropping below them toes spread – they cushion landings by hopping back in the air – one was with a group that kept on flying towards the cranes gathering on the far left, but after a loud brrr from the ground, this one turned around in mid air and landed squawking. Another smaller crane immediately joined him and then another – do some fly separately during the day to different feeding places and then land on their return when they hear their mates/ family?…And all the time this intoxicating sound is resonating through my body. I am One with the experience of Crane, totally embodied, my mind recalling lore and mystery – “I love you,” I cried out at last to the darkening sky when we left. I loved it that the cranes were separate from the geese because I could hear “the Echo Makers” so clearly, each group’s conversation merged into a collective symphony and it wasn’t my imagination that the music came from every direction including the sky. We started out with about two dozen cranes and by the end of the day there were hundreds- maybe thousands, and oh yes, so many stayed out of the water huddled up on the far side of the marshes…. by nightfall my impression was that I was experiencing a world composed of these ancient birds, still waters, and sky and nothing else. Oh, those gray robed monks who stand in such stately grace – and when we left even more were flying in – it’s so open that even deep twilight is kind to the cranes. They must “see” through silver mirrors…..the sky reflects above and below – when the cranes move through shallow water they use a precise high stepping walk that seems so deliberate that one has the impression that it is has a syncopated rhythm especially when two or more cranes “high step” together. When in flight both head/neck and tail seem somehow equal in length and my impression is that in flight they appear white underneath…”

I haven’t heard the one group of 14 cranes that have stayed in Abiquiu for the winter for a few days. But whenever I write about them they come. As soon as I stopped this writing I heard them brrrring in unison -They reinforce the (heretical) truth that we are all interconnected and have the ability to communicate telepathically.

Frau Holle – Becoming Scrub

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In the precious hour before dawn I walk down to a river that no longer empties into the sea – the circle of life has been broken – the earth’s veins and arteries are hopelessly clogged by human interference (stupidity) – the birds and animals that used to be able to rely on the river waters for food and resting places can no longer do so because dams control the water flow and westerners “own” the water. This morning black stone sculptures appeared overnight because the water level has been dropped another foot. And yet, acknowledging the flowing waters in their death throws seems like an important thing to do. For now, at least, the river turns crimson, reflecting the raging beauty of a pre dawn sky, and I am soothed by water rippling quietly over round stone.

 

I open the rusty gate to enter the Bosque, a place of refuge, for the cottonwoods and for me. Now I am surrounded by frost covered scrub and graceful matriarchs arc over my head. As I traverse the well – trodden path I enter a meditative state without effort. Soon I am walking in circle after circle passing through the same trees and desert scrub hearing voices.

 

During the winter months the trees barely whisper. Yet, as I focus on my steps, I have also opened my body to receiving without realizing it. And soon I sense quiet winter conversation occurring under my feet. Sugar, water and minerals are still being exchanged by Beings 400 million years old. Stronger healthier trees assist the young, dying trees offer the gift of their bodies to new life.

 

The understory that I call desert “scrub” is composed of Mexican privet, Chinese elms, Russian Olive trees, squawberry, wild roses, red willows, junipers, cattails, chamisa clumps, spikey rosettes, some wild grasses and a few perilous Cholla and Rabbit ear cacti. All these plants communicate through complex root systems and are actively engaged in relationship – and all these miracles are happening under my feet.

 

As I walk these circles I feel this underground presence keenly, and am comforted and enlivened by ancient plant, fungal, and animal existence. Although this Bosque has been pruned back and opened to the harsh white light of the summer sun, sacrificing precious moisture that the desert is deeply in need of due to increasingly severe drought, it still supports trees and scrub. And unlike so many other places there are young cottonwood trees growing here that will see another generation.

 

For now I am content to simply be part of what is.

 

The cold finally penetrates my senses breaking my meditative state. My feet are numb, my nose is running, my hands are frozen! I hurry to the creaking gate, closing it behind me, make a brief foray out onto the beach and climb the hill. The riot of pre-dawn crimson, pink, and gold has faded into a clouded sunrise, totally unremarkable. Only the river’s serpentine curves capture my attention because more riverbed has been exposed. I hope the fish are managing. It’s still too early to see the white –capped rocky mountains in the distance but no birds are present or stirring. This kind of cold keeps birds grounded with heads tucked underwing…

 

As I climb the last rise I laugh because in less than an hour I have become one with the desert scrub and Frau Holle, an old mythological Scandinavian goddess, one who controls the weather, especially during the winter. Like the silvery scrub I have been transformed by frost and like Frau Holle, I too have frozen white hair!

 

Postscript:

 

In some Scandinavian traditions, Frau Holle is known as the female spirit of the woods and plants. She is an old woman, sometimes called Old Mother Frost. Frau Holle controls the weather, and is also a seer – one who can read the future…

She was honored as the sacred embodiment of the earth in al her diversity. Interestingly Frau Holle’s birthday is December 25th.

The Pomegranate

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It is mid November and shiny crimson Pomegranates catch the discerning eye in food markets; even Walmart carries them!

 

Why do these beautiful and very ancient fruits appear during this dark time of the year?

 

One answer to this question is that in the northern hemisphere the fruit of this deciduous shrub ripens anywhere from September to February. The reverse is true in the southern hemisphere when the fruits ripen during March, April and May. It is important to remember that in the southern hemisphere the seasons are reversed, so in both northern and southern parts of the globe these fruits appear in the fall, during the darkest months of the year.

 

Pomegranates are native from Iran to northern India and have been cultivated throughout the Middle East, Asia and the Mediterranean region for millennia. (Today they are also grown in California and Arizona, so they no longer need to be imported). The shrub was domesticated as early as the 5th millennium BC. Pomegranates were the first trees to be domesticated in the Mediterranean.

 

Because I have a background in mythology I am very familiar with the myth of the Greek Persephone who was abducted/raped by Hades and swallowed up by the Underworld in the autumn for a number of winter months. The myth varies but in most renditions while living in the darkness Persephone was seduced by Hades to eat the seeds of the Pomegranate; she ate a few without the foreknowledge that partaking of this forbidden fruit would insure her cyclical return to the Netherworld each fall.

 

The popular explanation for this story is that Persephone’s descent mirrors what happens in the fall during the agricultural cycle after the fruits of the harvest ripen, all plants and trees lose their leaves and winter spreads her wings over the earth.

 

Curiously, I have my own story about the Pomegranate and later some notes on being a Persephone Woman. My dad was Italian and didn’t come to this country until he was twelve years old. He worked for an international company in New York as an aeronautical engineer and sometimes brought home unusual gifts for his children. One night he arrived with a most beautiful fruit that he apparently procured in an Italian market in the city. (In retrospect I think he was deeply attached to his Italian roots, though he embraced the so – called “American Dream” and became a very successful businessman).

 

When he held out the Pomegranate (I was between age three and four) I had the following visionary experience:

 

I was transfixed by the color, shape, the smooth coat of the “apple,” as the Pomegranate is sometimes called turning it over and over in my small hands with awe and wonder becoming one with the fruit. When my father took a knife and sliced open the pomegranate iridescent crimson beads bled and stained the wooden cutting board bright red, I initially shrieked in horror at the sight of my own blood, but soon calmed by my father’s voice encouraging his daughter to try the seeds, I trustingly complied, loving the tart sweetness almost as much as I loved the deep crimson color.

 

That was it. I have no other recollection attached to this visceral/ visionary experience. At the time, of course, I had no idea what had happened; it was only later that I could name the visioning. I had been transported into a mythical dimension, re – experiencing an ancient storyline…

 

When I first learned about the myth of Persephone in my late 30’s I was studying to become a Jungian analyst. I was stunned when I re-lived this ‘lost’ memory I didn’t know I had. What did this experience mean for me I wondered uneasily.

 

Gradually, other excruciating and repressed memories surfaced. My father’s seemingly senseless violent outbursts that terrorized me, his road rage, attempted rape by cousins, boyfriends, enduring unspeakable violence at the hands of my children’s father, and then my repeating the pattern with future men always against my will until I chose celibacy as a way through – or out.

 

Reluctantly, oh so reluctantly I owned that I was a Persephone who had unconsciously entered into a relationship with Hades, or Poseidon, a mythical pact I had little control over. I knew by then that archetypes are empty patterns of energy/information that must be lived through by humans who are pulled into their fields for good or ill.

 

It was only then that I forgave myself for my earlier transgressions, which I now understood were also orchestrated by forces that would always be more powerful than I could ever hope to be. This is where we see the limits of free will, so dear to the American psyche.

 

Initially, I thought that by developing awareness around this destructive pattern I might be able to transform it, but this was not to be. Instead, periodically I still continue to live out this storyline.

 

The trigger this week involved a betrayal by unknown women. These women were digging for dirt and pulled words/phrases/individual writings out of context to pass along to someone who then passed harsh judgment on me. This double hit threw me into a state of shock for days because these women had never met me, distorted what I had written and used parts of my work to attack my character, my honesty, politics, my belief system, twisting information to suit their personal agendas and god knows what else. My friend’s harsh judgment based on what others said devastated me.

 

At first my grief over this violation mushroomed, and all I wanted to do was hide. (by the way the Latin Volare is the root of violation which means to be treated violently).

 

But I am familiar with my own process; first holding myself accountable for my mistakes, then grieving, feeling my anger, and finally resolution as I let go and decide how to move on. It is a constant source of irritation to me that this kind of experience comes out of the “blue” and strikes from behind while I am diligently trying to work through “the problem” whatever it is. I am never prepared.

 

For the first time I am questioning my “naiveté.” Am I really that naïve or is something else going on? I am an honest person. I am not devious, and I have spent most of my life serving others ( human and non human) in one capacity or another as an educator/professor, counselor, writer, and advocate. Perhaps my lifetime focus on others has left me vulnerable to those whose intent is to harm? I don’t know.

 

This morning I awakened with firm resolve, no longer feeling like a victim (this violation could not have occurred if I had not written so honestly– my 50 percent).

 

I went food shopping and when I saw the shimmering scarlet Pomegranate I bought it, understanding that by doing so I was acknowledging that once again I am choosing to align myself with Persephone, and by extension, my own Fate.

 

I can’t change what happened but I can REFUSE to accept these harsh judgments made by others just as I make the choice to move on. This is where I see the power of being a “Persephone Woman” emerging out of the depths of my unconscious and Deep Time.

The Bones of November

Yesterday I was talking to someone who had never heard of the three day Festival of the Dead that occurs in almost every culture in one form or the other at this time of year from October 31 through November 2nd. How is this possible I wondered until I realized that I have been a student of world mythology for almost forty years and have studied these cross cultural traditions extensively noting their startling similarities as part of my academic background.

For example, the pagan, pre – christian Celtic tradition of Samhain means Summer’s End marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the winter cycle and “darker portion” of the year. It is believed that the veil between the living and the dead lifts during this liminal time and the dead walk amongst us so that communication occurs easily if one is sensitized, open to such thinking/sensing/feeling. This is a time to honor all the ancestors, to pay respect, and to commune with them…

In western culture we generally scoff at such ideas making a joke or creating macabre distortions out of All Hallows, All Soul’s Day, the Feast of the Dead, perhaps to deal with our personal and collective discomfort with death. It is a fact the only days allotted by Americans to honor the dead occur on Memorial and Veterans Day when we honor soldiers who died “ in service to their country” – but then we are a violent patriarchal culture that acknowledges/celebrates death only as heroic, and in the context of war. It is up to the rest of us to honor those who have gone before alone, if we do so at all.

I have adopted the Celtic (eight spokes) Wheel of the Year because it follows the natural cycles that I see occurring all around me in Nature. For example, I can look out my window and watch the golden cottonwood leaves fluttering to the ground to become compost, even as a hole opens under the fallen canopy in the east allowing the rising sun to enter the house at dawn. Snow covered mountains and fall rain brings life to the high desert even as she prepares for winter’s sleep. Indoors, I gaze at the mountains I think of as Grandmothers as I recall that in most cultures the Old Woman, Hag, or Crone reigns during the dark half of the year – She who presides over death and creates new life. I light the first fires to keep us warm and my beloved dogs and I bring in the night leaning into the comfort and warmth of early darkness. I think this is a time to reflect upon the passing away of people and cycles because like the Celts and many Indigenous folk I believe the year comes to an end as the bears go Earth to sleep…

I feel that I am an integral part of an ancient cross – cultural tradition, even as I set intentions for the coming year. In many of these traditions there is a break between the end of one year and the beginning of another and this liminal period extends until winter solstice. I note that All Hallows/The Feast of the Dead creates the space for new insights to occur so I acknowledge the “space in between” as part of my own practice.

I also take time to give thanks for every gift given over the past year, the winding river and streams, the cedar outside my door, my beloved animals, this house that offers me a window into Nature three seasons out of four (in summer I have to keep the shades down to keep the fierce white heat of the sun at bay). I honor my dead, and give thanks for the people who enrich my life through friendship. And most of all I give thanks for the Unconditional Love I receive from the Earth through any of her manifestations. S/he is my mother, my father, my lover, my sister, my brother, my child and grandchild, without whose constant presence I would be bereft.

Paying Homage to Hestia

(one of author’s dogs, “Hope,” gravitates instantly to the heat of the wood stove)

This morning I was kneeling in front of my new wood stove kindling a fire from hot coals when I felt the presence of the Greek Goddess Hestia, Lady of the Hearth moving through the house. The goddess manifests as a crackling wood fire, and when I kneel before my wood stove to coax coals into flames I feel as if I am paying homage to her.

I have spent two winters without a wood stove, and have missed this ritual fall lighting of the fire, and the knowing that I am participating in ancient practice that extends back far beyond the Patriarchal Greeks to the dawn of humankind.

Today I felt her presence in a visceral way as I looked out the window at the first flakes of white snow disappearing into wet ground, and felt the hearth warming beneath my feet.

Hestia symbolizes the importance of creating sacred space within one’s home by honoring the fire that turns wood to ashes and re –kindles itself, resurrecting what was dead. This is also a time to give thanks for every tree that sacrifices itself to keep us warm…

Hestia’s name means “hearth” or “fireplace,” and her status shows how important the hearth was in the social and religious life of Ancient Greeks. Making and preserving fire was essential for early cultures, which made the household fire a sacred element at a very early stage of “her – story.” In later days, Hestia became its embodiment.

Hestia received the first offering at every meal in the household with families pouring sweet wine in her name and dedicating the richest portion of food to her.

The hearth fire in the household was not allowed to go out by any family unless it was ritually distinguished.

In the Greek myth, Hestia was one of three “virgin” goddesses; the other two were Athena and Artemis. I interpret this virgin aspect as being “one unto herself, indicating wholeness which has nothing to do with chastity. Athena was a goddess of war and got lots of attention, Artemis was Mistress of Wild Animals and also a great huntress. Hestia was acknowledged as Mistress of the Fire, and cultivator of the home place. Of the three goddesses she got the least attention, probably because the Greeks were a Patriarchal warring culture that valued men over women, and thrived on conquest, rape, and killing (power over). Honoring any peaceful nurturing goddess of the household was less important.

There is an interesting story about a potential rape of Hestia by a drunken god while she was sleeping. The braying of a distressed donkey awakened Hestia in time to ward off this atrocity and thereafter, on Hestia’s feast day a donkey that wore a garland was included in Hestia’s festivities. This intervention by a loving animal may carry a significance that is easily missed. Animals can represent women who are living in a state of wholeness because they have married instincts to awareness. To become en – souled is a holy undertaking that connects a woman to All That Is.

This autumn I welcome Hestia as Keeper of the Fires into this house asking for her blessing, honoring WOMAN who tends the potentially transforming element of contained fire in her own home or realm.