It is late autumn, 2009. I am 30 years old and pregnant with my third baby. He dies during the early part of my second trimester and I give birth to him in my bathroom, on my own with only my husband as witness. The blood comes, welling up over my fingers and spilling from my body in clots the size of grapefruits. I feel myself losing consciousness and am unable to distinguish whether I am fainting or dying. As my mom drives me to the emergency room, I lie on the back seat, humming: “Woman am I. spirit am I. I am the infinite within my soul. I have no beginning and I have no end. All this I am,” so that my husband and mother will know I am still alive.
I do not die.
This crisis in my life and the complicated and dark walk through grief is a spiritual catalyst for me. A turning point in my understanding of myself, my purpose, my identity, and my spirituality.
It is my 31st birthday. May 3rd. My baby’s due date. I go to the labyrinth in my front yard alone and walk through my labor with him, remembering, releasing, letting go of the stored up body memory of his pregnancy. I am not pregnant with him anymore. I have given birth. This pregnancy is over. I walk the labyrinth singing and when I emerge, I make a formal pledge, a dedication of service and commitment to the Goddess. I do not yet identify myself verbally as a priestess, but this is where the vow of my heart begins.
I do not know at the time, but less than two weeks later, I discover I am in fact pregnant with my daughter, my precious treasure of a rainbow baby girl who is born into my own hands on my living room floor the next winter. As I greet her, I cry, “you’re alive! You’re alive! There’s nothing wrong with me!” and feel a wild, sweet relief and painful joy like I have never experienced before.
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To move, live and follow the cycles and rhythms of the Spiral Path, the path of the Divine Feminine, is one of the most familiar and eased ways of being in this world. This is the natural essence of humanity and is how we journeyed through life prior to the rise of the Patriarchy.
Since the rise of the Patriarchy, society has been overtaken by a linear way of being. We have been taught to have concise goals, to walk forward despite obstacles, to never give up, to get out there and to get it done. Time to be, to grieve, play, and rest has become regimented and wildly undervalued.
Still, the Goddess has been re~awakening in the consciousness of Woman, Child and Man for some time now, and with Her re~emergence the Spiral Path has been resurrected. The mysterious, elusive and hidden path of the Spiral is returning to our society as a viable way of being and living.
Right now it’s the summer holidays, and in many places, the young people are home from school, and families are off doing the holiday thing. Or trying not to kill each other. It’s worth noting however that the origin of the summer holidays has nothing to do with having a good time, and everything to do with needing the young people to help get the harvests in. The norms of our school systems pre-date the combine harvester and other such devices.
You don’t have to be much of an etymologist to spot that ‘holiday’ comes from ‘holy day’ and for many of our Christian ancestors, the holy days were the only days off, if you were lucky. Servants tended to have to work on Sundays and over Christmas etc, but religious celebration has provided our ancestors with much needed opportunities to down tools and socialise. The pilgrimage is the ancestor of the tourist industry, and holy journeys and holidays have a great deal to do with holidays....
The image of the Goddess as Maiden, Mother, Crone is widespread in contemporary Goddess Spirituality. The Triple Goddess honors three ages of women, in contrast to the wider culture that: affirms young women as sex objects while shaming them as sluts; celebrates mothers on Mother’s Day, while providing few legal and economic protections for mothers; and ignores older women.
Though Goddess feminists have created rituals for menstruation and birth, I suspect that a greater number of rituals have celebrated “croning.” The reasons for this are twofold. One is that women have time and space to reflect on the meaning of life in middle age. The other is that aging women are not honored and respected in the wider culture–creating a need for rituals that do just that. Many women I know have spoken of the empowerment they felt in their croning rituals.
What will you give up to the Goddess's sickle?
This has been the question running through my head as we approach Lammas, the First Harvest. Though most of my Pagan friends celebrate Lammas on August 1, I have always celebrated it on August 5, for reasons I can't really articulate. So this week, as my Lammas celebrations -- both private and with my circle -- approach, I've thought a great deal about what First Fruits I'll be gathering, and what I am willing to give up to the Goddess's sickle....
I love the current memes that combine a photo of a gorgeous white-haired woman with text celebrating older women. These memes convey an important message.
But there's a serious problem: with rare exceptions, every photo is obviously someone who was blonde and fair skinned when she was younger. This gives the hurtful and disempowering message that only blondes can be wise, empowered, gorgeous elders.
We're all beautiful, inside and out. We're each a goddess with wisdom and power.
The grain harvest is being collected in the fields around my home. The usually still and silent evening air is filled with the sound of combine harvesters, accentuated every now and then with the hoot of a tawny owl. Lammas is upon us.
Standing on a footpath that divides two large fields, one side filled with barley just reaped, the other with wheat standing pale golden in the sun, I raise my hands to the blue sky and give my thanks for all that nourishes us. I walk a ways into the cut field, the harsh stubs of barley amid the dry, sandy earth and place my hands upon the soil. Thank you for your blessing, may the land be nourished even as it nourishes us. Hail and thanks be to the goddess. I then move to stand on the edge of the wheat field, allowing its song of potential to flow through me. I brush the bent heads filled with seed and say another prayer of thanks.
This is a wonderful time of year, when the songs of the ancestors flow through the rural heartlands of Britain. Though the way we harvest is different, still there is that cycle of growth, of planting and harvesting. After the long hot days of midsummer, the lengthening evenings are welcome, bringing cooler air. Though the dog days may still lie ahead of us, there is something different in the air at this time of year. The scents have changed, the leaves are dark green and heavy, the foliage beginning to choke out and fall back.