The Healing Power of Ritual

DSCN0144.jpg

 

The few that read this blog know that I have been writing and celebrating ritual for half of my life. The equinoxes and solstices and the cross quarter days (May 1, August 1, All Hallows, and February 2) comprise the eight spokes of the year. What I have learned from my research is that virtually every Indigenous culture follows this calendar in a general way – What I have gleaned from personal experience is that during these ritual periods my body is opened to the Powers of Nature in very specific ways that can be positive or/and negative. Often I experience uncomfortable physical symptoms – feel an intense buzz, am struck by severe headaches, the feeling that I am walking on air without solid ground; I have unusual experiences with animals or plants; I am blind sided by radical insights in day life or through dreaming. I have come to expect that usually there will be some kind of sign and if there isn’t one my body/mind isn’t in tune ritually and something is amiss – either my intentions, or the letting go (death) of some aspect of myself. The older I become the more I attempt to move through these periods with increased awareness that I am a receiver and need to be paying even closer attention…

 

My rituals have become so fluid and usually write themselves through dreaming, my experiences in Nature, my animals and bird, and/or sometimes – less so now – by being triggered in a particular way by some mythological theme. Not this year.

 

The Spring Equinox is historically a difficult time for me; this year is no exception. I normally suffer from debilitating depression at this turning. But I don’t ever recall “celebrating” a spring equinox that had so much fear attached to it. The C/virus struck this month. I am not only facing the virus with emphysema, but also must travel home to Maine, first for my health, (I literally cannot breathe in New Mexico’s intolerable summer heat) and I must also return to begin the foundation work on my log cabin… I am in my mid seventies in the highest risk category.

 

My dreaming life has been most distressing reflecting day fears in graphic detail. One dream urged me to get going; another suggested reassessing motels in “Everytown.” I am also suffering from difficulty sleeping, a problem that I have every spring which has been exacerbated…With PTSD and a general anxiety disorder pressing me on, my ritual intentions were reduced to their lowest denominator. How to deal most effectively with fear. Death fears.

 

This Turning is the second and last of the two Water Festivals, and this year it rained the night before. Unusual, especially in this dry desert year and to me the rain seemed significant. I note that sometimes the element that is honored seems to cooperate in a peculiar way at a Turning that acknowledges its importance. And Water is about purifying, letting go, and flow… I was able to collect precious rain that the trees and cloud people brought to use for our Body Blessings (Lily b, Hope, Lucy and me – only one of us is human). Very special, that.

 

I lit a Balsam Fir Candle to honor the trees who are helping me to breathe easier.

 

When I called in the Four Directions I began with East asking my Spirit bird, the Sandhill Crane, to be present… The last of the cranes migrated north almost a month ago. When Lily b my dove picked up my words in a song that he repeated over and over I felt as if I had really been heard (he is normally asleep by dusk) – my beloved Cranes and Dove were with me…Lizard came next… When I got to the West and called in Bear I had a sudden clear image of wearing a warm coat of black bear fur. Since the bear is the most important Spirit Animal for me this spontaneous image was surprising and very comforting – East and West had both responded in a visceral way and I will be traveling from West to East…(this is the Good Red Road of the Indigenous Way but in reverse) Reverse in this case this probably benign.

 

When I finished with the North whose spirit animal is the deer I lit one candle to acknowledge my intention to deal with my fear, and a second to turn my face to spring, towards my difficulties not away from them…

 

Next I took the bowl of water and blessed my body and those of the two dogs. I sprayed a sleeping Lily b on his roost, briefly awakening him.

 

Just as I completed our body blessings for health and safety, it began to rain lightly. How strange; no wind. Rain without any wind in the desert is a priceless gift. I immediately opened the door, walked outside and stood in the rain asking for a second body blessing, breathing in my deepest gratitude.

 

Once back in the house the rain stopped immediately. Incredible timing. When something happens twice at one time it usually manifests on a physical plane… Certainly our water blessings had been acknowledged.

 

Finally, I offered up my prayers, thanked my Guardians, the Four Directions and opened the circle…leaving it unbroken.

 

Peace.

 

Postscript:

That night I dreamed that trees had hearts and the heart of the tree was what mattered. (I had just written an article on the fact that trees had a pulse – I believe trees have a heart that stretches throughout the tree’s body). I love all trees in a way that I cannot explain – Kinship.

The following day two doves exactly like mine fluttered together, mating on the garden wall. This coming together of male and female doves seemed hopeful.

There were negative happenings too. The day before in the pre-dawn hours I heard the calls of the great horned owl. For me this particular owl’s call was always a warning. Before my mother died the owl called 13 times… before and after I returned to the desert in 2017 g/h owls surrounded my house in Maine warning me that all would not be well. In Mexico people believe the g/h owl is an omen of death; I would have to agree. One animal sighting highlighted the Void. Dark dreams returned…

To conclude, I cannot read what’s ahead for me or the rest of the frightened species on this planet at this time, but acknowledging this turning helped me to articulate my fears and to find comfort in the palpable interconnection between Nature and myself and the dark green religion of hope.

Ritual keeps this door between us open.

I am profoundly grateful.

Spring on the Wing

 

images-3.jpg
Northern Flicker

 

Three long- necked Sand -hill cranes fly over the house.

V shaped flocks of geese sound a collective cry.

Woodpeckers drum.

 

Magical flying dragons are stirring….

 

All who listen hear that that the skies are shifting, avian travelers are underway.

Juncos, cactus wrens, sparrows, doves, towhees, peep and scratch

in a tangle of vines, rosy willows, and old papery leaves that tumble around under bare –leafed trees.

 

Magpie replies to inquiries made about his health,

a study in black and white, he mimics Katchinas

who have been biding their time in volcanic hills and calderas, conversing with deer…

 

I leap out of bed to glimpse an orange globe rising

Lily, my house dove, Lily rings in the hour.

 

Delicate sea green rosettes appear, mandalas spiraling on the desert floor.

Tufts of fury gray blue sage emerge – still wrinkled from sleep.

 

Red Willow River sings her love song of life bringing water

to the fierce white heat of a morning sun.

 

3/4/17

 

Working notes:

I wrote this prose after seeing the Sand –hill cranes flying over sand colored earth and the blue – green river while I fed my birds yesterday morning. Birds always usher in spring before anyone else seems to notice with their songs and also because many of our bird species migrate. This year I just learned that the northern flicker that migrates from here in the Mountains of Northern Mexico is not the same one that comes to Maine! Northern flickers that fly east have bright yellow underwings, while those that go west are painted a brilliant orange.

After too many long Maine winters I am delighted to be experiencing spring –like temperatures in early March. Here in New Mexico the first buds are swelling and desert perennials (some with spikes!) are greening up from red, buff, or sand colored earth. As an earth person, by which I mean a woman whose body/mind is exquisitely tuned to the nuances of each season, I am particularly grateful to be experiencing a warming sun, buds swelling, a river flowing, and birds singing during this “Month of the Mothers” without a thick white crusty blanket of snow covering the ground.

March is the month when the waters begin to rise… In ancient times The first Mother’s Day was celebrated March 25th, just after the spring equinox when longer days and increasingly intense light awakens plants and animals from their winter sleep.

 

Below: Artist Iren Schio’s partial rendering of a dragon… his long body is hidden from sight.

IMG_1108.JPG