Bear’s Day

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( a pool created by mountain waters flowing into El Rito Creek)

 

Crystal waters cascade

down craggy mountains

blessing desert scrub.

Cottonwood buds sing.

Bears dream renewal,

tangled under pulsing

roots of light.

 

Working Notes:

 

The Powers of Water and Light …

 

Last night I dreamed that I was on top of a craggy mountain, astonished and bewildered as I witnessed a clear mountain waterfall cascading down mossy crevices nourishing the desert below… Equal amounts of joy and disbelief awakened me probably because our desert is still struggling with drought.

 

Although we have had a winter reprieve with much needed snow falling in some Northern mountains we are still in need of adequate spring rains to nourish our desert scrub, wildflowers, and trees. At the very least I am hoping we experience a spring run off which will bless Red Willow River by raising her waters.

 

I continue to imagine the spring rains that will make the roots of every plant and tree sing as the days shrink the night…

 

This is a very special time of year because the waters do begin to rise in many parts of the world. This rising of the waters is traditionally also a time of purification for peoples who are preparing for spring renewal.

 

The intensifying light brings longer warmer days. Every cultural tradition notes this shift even in a distorted form. In the United States we remember February second as “groundhog day,” the day the groundhog emerges from his underground lair. If the groundhog doesn’t see his shadow spring will not come for another 6 weeks. The old story was obfuscated by Europeans when they came to this country.

 

Originally, the groundhog was a bear.

 

Wild Bears of all species do emerge from their dens for brief periods during early February to drink snow and to urinate. The females are also birthing their cubs

 

In Indigenous mythology throughout the U.S. all   (black, grizzly, polar) bears are seen as the animal that voluntarily enters the underworld, survives death, and returns to birth new life in the “first light” of the following spring.

 

Bear is the ultimate embodiment of renewal.

 

Until recently in some rural places in central Europe a chained Shrovetide Bear was led from house to house, often made to dance on hot coals to help the crops grow.

 

Here in New Mexico, the Tewa hold the Deer Dances at dawn. The power of Avanyu, Serpent of the Rivers and flowing Waters is acknowledged as a sacred Life Force. Another Tewa dance honors his coming…

 

Some ancient Goddess traditions celebrate Brigid (also aspected as a bear), as goddess of poetry and mistress of the forge. Each year on February 2nd I light a crown of candles to celebrate the Bear’s Return, the power of Brigid’s Fire and Light. I also pour river water on the Earth as a blessing singing a little song for Her renewal.

 

Blessings to all on Bear’s Day.

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Winter Rain

Sheets of slippery silver

slide over the roof’s edge;

torrential curtains eat snow.

 

In January a gift of rain

brings bare trees to life,

blushing maple buds swell.

 

Birds flit through

lichened branches

tattooed the palest green.

 

Rushing streams seek oceans not yet dreamt of,

stones hurtling one upon another

to the sea.

 

A tangle of thrashing trees

greets the intrepid traveler, sodden

deer bow heads in sleep.

 

Battered wind chimes clatter and roar.

Birches bend low;

humble but steadfast they know…

 

Mist, thickened by rising steam

obscures an Earth fissure,

She is splitting herself in two.

 

Ascending, burnished in copper and gold –

Our Lady of the Beasts

Raises her paws to purify all waters…

She is the Promise of Spring.

1/11/16

Working Notes:

I was writing a paper about the Bear Goddess when this poem emerged out of the “break in time” as rain fell…

The Bear Goddess comes to us through the Veil – epochs pass- She can be recalled through Neanderthal peoples who cashed her bones. Paleolithic and Neolithic peoples honored her through ceremony leaving carefully placed skulls deep within caverns to protect them from desecration. Until the advent of patriarchy She still reigned throughout the northern hemisphere as a powerful solar Goddess first as a Bear and then as a Bear Woman. Her latest incarnation in human form is the Greek Artemis, goddess of the wilderness, a protector of women she presides over birthing. Some say Mary is called “She of the Bear.” Today she is totally absent as a theriomorphic figure, this once Wild Mother Goddess of all.

I bring the Bear Goddess to life again through my imagination, the field I inhabit, and my writing. She emerged for me this winter as Brigid, (whose root meanings include the words “bear” and “brightness”) the Celtic Fire/Light Goddess who in her human form is patroness of poetry, a healer, and mistress of the forge. She transforms through fire…

At the Winter Solstice we celebrate her as a Fire Goddess. Her human daughters once wore evergreen wreaths lit with candles to honor her. At Imbolc we celebrate her as the goddess who brings First Light to the people and the promise that spring will come. In the old Celtic ways the Winter Solstice and Imbolc were both her festivals…At Imbolc she comes to us as First Light but also as Lady of the Waters. At this festival we begin to celebrate the rising of the waters that will eventually overflow their banks, melt the snow and nourish the earth so seeds may grow… thus this festival is also a time of purification in preparation for the Vernal Equinox and the coming of spring.

It is fitting that I write a poem about her watery aspect in January when her second festival is only three weeks away.

It is also fitting that my first poem in six months would emerge out of my work with Brigid, Bear Goddess, who in her human form was a patroness of poets.

Blessed Be

Notes: The prehistoric cave bear image comes from Chauvet cave in France.