“Open the door”, said the wise woman
“Come in and sit down.
For it is she of great worth
Who wears the King’s crown”.
I looked at the wizened face
For answers that long I had sought
Deep pools of star-filled eyes returned my gaze
And told of mysteries carefully taught.
Her countenance was hypnotic
And fingers deftly moved to and fro
Her body moving in rhythm
As the web from the spinning did grow.
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“Open the door”, said the wise woman
Hildegard von Bingen wrote: “The soul is not in the body; the body is in the soul.” (Vol XXII, No. 5). This is a concept that I’ve been thinking about all week, and how we have tried to place unnatural limitations upon the body and soul based on our dualistic way of thinking. I suppose a true Zen answer would be the body is the soul and the soul is the body, but right now I’m enjoying thinking that the soul contains the body. Next week I’ll probably veer off into a more Zennist approach.
For this to happen, the soul must accept the body, not the other way around. As I’m not entirely certain that there is even such as thing as an individual soul, it’s an interesting concept. What if the “life force” on this little ball of rock hurtling through space is all soul, all an expression of soul? What if everything is an expression of the Earth’s soul, or the soul of the universe?
I just got off the phone after talking with my spiritual mentor. We discussed the importance of creativity, but mostly other very heavy topics. It was challenging, though she's kind and gentle.
What made it terrifying was that, after facing some ways I defeat myself, I phoned her to discuss them with her. Though they're nothing shocking, it can be scary to disclose one's faults, no matter how humdrum and unremarkable the faults or how nice the person to whom one is speaking.
I moved to Ireland at autumn equinox in 2001. Autumn Equinox is inextricably wedded to migration as I remember the fourteen hour journey - three trains, a ferry and a car ride -that was the emigrant trail for me and our Household Goddess Sophie, our beloved and ancient tortoiseshell cat. At dusk on September 21st Tony's brother drove down the last road to our rental property. I was arriving sight unseen, since Tony had brought the dogs over the previous week. The sphinx like profile of the Playbank hove into view and I was completely enchanted. That mountain has never let me go.
The equinoxes have been marked across the British Isles since the earliest times as agricultural markers, revealing the times of seed sowing and crop reaping as well as honouring the patterns of growth and decrease in our lives. In Ireland the Neolithic burial complex at Loughcrew known as Sliabh na Callighe of 'the hills of the veiled one' contains many astronomical alignments, and the interior of one of its structures, known as Cairn T is illuminated by the equinox sunrise, revealing spectacular designs carved into the rock over five thousand of years ago. Archaeology reveals that Loughcrew has been a place of ritual and ceremony at the equinoxes for much of that time, a tradition that has been revived enthusiastically in the modern era, the footsteps of the pilgrims today walking the same paths as the ancestors thousands of years ago.
Another lesser known ancient place aligned to the equinoxes is West Kennet Longbarrow, part of the Avebury sacred complex, now a UNESCO world heritage site. I've spent many a night here, in communion with the ancestors, and to me this is a place where the barrow forms a recumbent goddess, receiving the spirits of the dead to return their spirits to life in the spring....
- Items from nature for a collaborative nature mandala: leaves, stones, acorns, seeds, twigs, feathers, and other items from nature (mindfully collected and ideally found on ground). If a group ritual, ask each person to bring a quantity of something to add to the mandala. If it is a family ritual, go out together before moonrise to collect your items. Note: Depending on size, composition, energy, and patience of the group, you may wish to create the mandala together first before beginning the rest of the ritual and then gather around it for the rest of the ritual itself.
- Paper leaves (can be simply cut out ovals using scrap paper) or dry, fallen leaves + markers to write on them.
- Optional: drums, rattles, or bells
- Optional: a candles for each participant (place around outer edge of nature mandala)
Before the ritual: ask each person to respond to the prompt: “my bounty is” and collate the responses into a collaborative bounty poem. If you are working alone, respond to this prompt on your own and form a poem for yourself (example poem)