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Years to Burn: My Dance with the Dragon and Serpent

2012 - Chinese Year of the Dragon… If one wishes to know the face of upheaval, the Dragon is there, ready to breathe the caustic truth into the lives of those who are ready or, if not willing, need to be. The Dragon conspired to throw a fiery eruption of change my way. I know I am not alone in this. Many of my friends and colleagues found themselves in near-miss turbulence, losing homes, finances, lovers, jobs and perhaps even a bit of sanity. From within my own small story, I have experienced complete disarray and dismantling and the raw, naked pain that comes with such loss. My pride was taken. My wonderful ego, bruised. I felt – all at once – the effects of any good, symbolic Irish funeral – the end and the party to bid the end goodbye.

The details of this period of inner and outer turmoil matter less than what these changes manifested in me, the ripple of conversation and impact of shared stories, brief interactions and multiple facets of letting go. My spirit was broken – sherds of hope cut my hands where I held on, unwilling to accept hope’s limitations. Hope is always there to grasp, but also there to distract us from true choice.

My losses have led me to a place of re-discovery. 2013 – the Year of the Snake… Snake symbolism speaks of transformation. Snake allows change in a continuum of cycles – in the life/death/rebirth circle. Snake promises its victim will be devoured, but also radically changed into something more… I reached for my new skin. I slid into the painful end of love and painted my world with the colors of the setting sun. I let myself be warmed and made new.

These few years have led me to accept my blissful ignorance of who I am and what matters to me. These potent friends – Snake and Dragon – have brought me back to Spirit.

Frankly, I am your atypical spiritual woman. I don’t fit the categories of strict pagan or goddess worshipper. I am neither a witch nor Christian, and as hard as I tried, I was never the Buddhist I aspired to be. I am a mutt, a spiritual mutt. I am a cur wandering through various spiritual alleys looking for wisdom.

I spent the past decade without ritual and spiritual expression. I believed myself abandoned totally; the cosmic love that might have kept me from walking down a very dangerous and damaging path was elusive. I was lost to my own spiritually amorphous state, starving myself from the light because I wanted so desperately to have the one answer, the one descriptor that applied to me. I longed for the traditions, the archetypes that seemed to provide the relief everyone else needs. I wanted those beautiful altars so carefully composed, with the exquisite detail that only a truly knowledgably student could offer up.

But this has not been my experience.

I was to walk through a metamorphosis that would scare Kafka. To be sure, hell exists – for me it exists in the state of mind where only the mind operates. I struggled in a stymied state of singular focus, where the droll of living in pain, without truth, real understanding and connection, became normal. Believing that there MUST be something else, I held on. In desperation, I tried everything. I studied both Eastern and Western philosophy. I stayed up praying to stars. I listened to coyotes’ mad call into the lunatic heat of the desert Southwest. I tried Oshun’s love and lust. I wore the veil of Mary and counted her beads in prayer. Still, no answers came. I was starting to believe I would be resigned to wander space and time alone, to be one of the existential writers who succumb to their own hand, time or some form of decay.

It was at this point in May, I had my final meeting with the Dragon/Snake turmoil. I looked the fire-breather down and took the poison. I welcomed defeat, finally. I could not keep walking. There, I surrendered.

It’s difficult to explain what took place or how it happened or to whom I owe quite possibly the biggest gift of my life. The details of such an occurrence matter less than what elapsed, the actual act of surrender and what channels opened for me to come face to face with Spirit.

Immediately, I set to work connecting to this greater force guiding me, like a joy I have never known. I was Her student. I saw Her face reflected in the canyons, the mesas, the words I was afraid to say and the love I thought I lost. Hers was the turning wheel of the tides, the pull of my body so rested against the mountain.

What I came to learn was that the face of the Spirit, whether it is Brigid, Jesus, Allah, Diana, Green Man or any other deity, is the realization of what we need in that moment or this lifetime. I choose to see Spirit as feminine, the Great Mother, because I long for female guidance and love, and I want to know how to be a spiritually connected, grounded woman. For me, to be true to my expression of self is a reflection of the divine. This realization has created a sense of peace and acceptance with my lack of complete understanding. I simply acquire the spiritual experiences I need in any given moment and do not bother myself with adherence to someone else’s rules.


Today, I wander the dry creek beds and washes through my desert home. Early mornings bring birds to serenade – smoke-scented creosote line the sandy bajadas, waiting for the promise of monsoon rain. Here She is in my spine-dream of heat and desire. Here she is Snake, coiled into herself, waiting to be made again and again. Here she is Dragon – disaster with purpose. I listen and hear movement farther up the wash, then see five coyotes scramble down from their dens, looking for food.

I am uncertain what – among these still moments – constitutes the occurrence of an omen or magical experience, but I am sure there are truths here that I can accept or deny. I dust my jeans off and squint in the sun. I choose to walk into acceptance and meet the days ahead.

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Aleah Sato is a woodswoman, a poet and a desert wanderer who practices Gaia love every day. An eclectic pagan of no particular path, she seeks to find meaning in the sacred earth and its wild creatures. A lover of symbolism, oracles and omens, she aspires to find answers in the small and deep meaning in the ordinary. Her totem is the elusive yet ever-curious fox.


  • Jennifer Mills
    Jennifer Mills Sunday, 21 July 2013

    OH! Aleah...your words sing into my soul! I am SO glad you address Dragon and Snake...they too have been close allies for me for years. Oh, yes! This can be a precarious path to undertake, but what they show us creates miracles in a multitude of forms! I and three of my shaman-sisters are just coming out of a year (Summer Solstice '12 to Summer Solstice '13) of collectively sitting deeply within these energies and oh, how they do sing. My blog out here on SageWoman is dedicated to that power of creation so stop on over and share a cup of tea with me sometime. Blessings to you, for the courage you have, and the wisdom you share. What a gift you are!

  • Aleah Sato
    Aleah Sato Sunday, 21 July 2013

    Hello Jennifer! Thank you for the beautiful and insightful feedback. I will happily and gratefully join you on this journey of deep soul transformation. Blessings, Aleah

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Thursday, 25 July 2013

    It is such a painful and amazing process that stripping down to surrender - and then the joy of what comes out of it. Blessings to you in this as you encounter Spirit there in the desert!

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