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Earth-centered, herb-infused, real-life steps on the Wheel of the Year. The Wheel finds me with plants, and silly kids, and a sense of gratitude for walking this spiral path over and over—yet never ending up in the same place twice.

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Remembering the Goddess even in the Dark Seasons


I like to think that I have embraced the image of The Great Mother as the epitome of dualities. It’s a mature image: she is both light and dark, strength and weakness, savior and destructor. This helps people relate to her, as humans embody all these differing and conflicting traits and we’re not static, one or the other. The Great Mother is everything, combines everything, reflects everything.

But I have to admit that I find myself calling to Her and enjoying my relationship with her when things are going well, and not necessarily when things are rough. When life is good I’m grateful! I thank Her! Colors are green and blue and yellow and lights are bright. It’s easy.

When life gets harder, though, especially health-wise, I find it harder to keep the Great Mother foremost in my mind, and I tend to let my connection with her and the spiritual realm slip. Recently I experienced a week of intense pain, an injury that surprised me out of the blue. I lay in bed for days on end and allowed myself to wallow in self-misery. It’s hard to concentrate on anything, much less an invisible numinous idea of the Divine, when you’re not feeling well. I tried clumsily to put together the right herbal formulas to ease the symptoms but, as most caregivers know, you are never your own best caregiver. I couldn’t think straight and my head felt foggy.

And in the midst of all this need for solace, this perfect time for connecting with something larger than myself, did I call on the Great Mother? Did I escape from my misery enough to look beyond myself and see the larger picture, the Universe around me? Did I pray? Well…. No. I didn’t. Not at all, I’m sorry to admit. At about day three, it actually occurred to me that I hadn’t connected with anything but self-pity at all, that it had been days since I’d even thought about tapping into a deeper spiritual connection. I realized I’d been living on one very specific plane—that of the body, the physical—and never once had I stepped back to consider other parts of my being, such as the emotional or the spiritual. As soon as I realized this I cringed, then I laughed, and then I finally prayed. Just saying the words that are familiar to me made me feel better, a liturgy of sorts that offers comfort and connection.

Since I always start with gratitude, I began my prayer, but probably a little too cynically. “Well,” I said, “thank you for the pain. And the injury.” I went through the list of annoying symptoms and I finally--finally!-- let go of the cynical “poor me” attitude and got around to saying thank you for the important things that really matter, things that I had forgotten about in my misery: “Thank you for my children, for my warm house, thank you for the dinner my husband made last night, for my comfortable bed,…” Ahh, it amazed me how much better I felt after I voiced these thoughts of true thankfulness. How could I have forgotten? First lesson learned: I need that feeling of connection ALL the time. Second lesson learned: it’s already there, even in the dark of injury or pain or on the Wheel at Winter Solstice…it’s there all along, bright and waiting.

We are connected, we just have to awaken to it. To recognize it. To voice it.

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Award-winning herbalist and author Holly Bellebuono directs Vineyard Herbs Teas & Apothecary on Martha’s Vineyard, as well as The Bellebuono School of Herbal Medicine, a creative and welcoming program for those interested in pursuing the study of herbal formulary. Holly lectures internationally about natural health and women’s empowerment and has published three books: The Essential Herbal for Natural Health, The Authentic Herbal Healer, and Women Healers of the World: The Traditions, History & Geography of Herbal Medicine (foreword by Rosemary Gladstar). Holly lives on the island of Martha’s Vineyard with her family on their mini-homestead raising chickens, rabbits, firing up the blacksmith forge, and hiking wild island trails in search of magic.


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